Talk Story Festival (TSF) celebrated its 25th Season last year, which is a milestone that is to be applauded. Running TSF is Jeff Gere who participated at our first Fringe Bites in 2011. Right now he is madly getting all the storytellers together for the 26th season of TSF – Friday October 17 & Saturday October 18, 2014. Creating a festival with a focus on storytelling is a perfect match for Hawai’i as this place is rich with tales; some born here and some introduced by storytellers from afar who mix it up with Hawai’i storytellers, all for the love of telling a good yarn. At Fringe, we love a good story, so we asked Jeff to tell us about Talk Story Festival.
Rumour has it that you tell stories – what type of stories do you tell?
Well, I tell any story that sticks to me…which is only partially a joke. I tell lots of true supernatural tales that people tell to me, I tell a ton of folktales, funny kid tales, shadow puppet tales, and now I’m totally focused on my section of the Hi’iaka epic (at TSF October 18).
Has your storytelling style changed over the years?
Because I do some 75 shows in Summer Fun each year for 30 years now, I am a product of kids – I use lots of voices, lots of facial morphing, I am physical. I love telling to kids – incredibly responsive, alive! Oh, I pinch myself driving away sometimes: ‘did 200 of us just have THAT MUCH FUN?!!?? That’s my style, it works for me, it is what holds the kids, and the way I tell it to them is the same way I tell it to adults. Changes? I pace myself better, I choose when to really work out, do a demanding physical tale…and I think I fit tale to audiences better than I used to (and I have more stories too).
This is your 26th season – congratulations on turning twenty-five. What has been the most rewarding moment for you as the guy behind Talk Story Festival?
It is very gratifying to bring together such talented storytellers each year, I am always ecstatic when the room is full, and it is so inspiring to have 600 people listening so hard to the story that you can hear a baby gurgle in the back. To be the means by which the best of Hawai’i’s tellers speak in the best listening environment to the people who’ve come to hear them…very gratifying, very humbling, richly fulfilling. This event and the people who come they give me a deep rich experience of community.
Bringing in storytellers from other cultures to collaborate with local tellers is fantastic. What was the reason behind this when you could’ve easily selected only local tellers?
Well, we are rare in the USA because we feature locals mainly, instead of importing national talents for a healthy fee, with locals sprinkled around the side. No. I don’t have that kind of budget. I don’t have that interest. I believe our tellers are as good, especially here in Hawai’i, and you know what? The national stars (the fun ones, my friends) come anyway because they hear tellers and tales that they don’t get to hear anywhere else…and they get to come to Hawai’i. Over the years, the UH Outreach College has helped bring the guests into the public libraries across the state too, which has added a bit of money to the pockets of the guest storytellers and given them a working vacation too.
In watching previous TSF, one cannot be helped but be drawn in to the stories. You certainly do use top-notch storytellers and have seen some return to Hawai’i. Is there magic involved or what entices them to return?
Everyone wants to come to Hawai’i and the ones who come, want to come back. I cannot tell you how selective I must be! Yes, the beauty and friendly vibe, but all the performers comment on the quality of the audiences, they’re attentive and active listeners. Maybe we are all under the hypnotism of TV, but these major talents tell me that there is a wonderful quality to the audiences here. They can hear the people at the Talk Story LISTEN!
Great storytellers also need great audiences. Tell us about a moment at TSFwhere you knew that the audience really got it and focused on the tellers?
This is common. The folks on the stage are there because they can hold an audience; throw a spell. They got the mojo, know their voice, make magic. Still, you can hear it when people REALLY connect.
Tell us about this year’s festival?
Friday’s Spookies will be spooky – it’s not a kid’s show. For some reason, just the toss of the dice, every other session is Japanese! It includes Pat Maters – true stories of ghosts told to her by Buddhist monks in Japan, several Obake tales, and FINALLY Daniel Martinez (Arizona Memorial, History Channel) will talk of Ghost Herders of the Little Big Horn…and our two mainland guests. Saturday, eight of us are passing the epic tale of Pele & Hi’iaka like a relay race – never been done as far as I know, in English with some hula and Hawaiian, of course. Wow! Look it all up at www.honoluluparks.com (talk story)…wonderful evenings full of content. COME!
You have been doing this for a long time. What is it like to be a storyteller and communicate wonderful stories to an audience?
I have friends everywhere I go. It is common for me to be greeted by folks I do not know who know me, “Eh, story man!” How wonderful. I cannot imagine another better way for me to spend this precious gift of life. As a friend said, “you’re a funny little peg who has found a funny little hole to fit into.” I am an aerobics instructor for the imagination!