PORT ANGELES — Limbs flail. Eyes widen. Eyebrows leap. Lips gape.
When a character possesses a person, there’s no telling to what theatrics the teller might go.
Nationally and internationally renowned tellers have arrived on the North Olympic Peninsula, ready to take the stage in character for the Story People of Clallam County’s 23rd annual Forest Storytelling Festival, starting today.
This year’s featured tellers include Southern “grand dame” Elizabeth Ellis, Brazilian teller and mime Antonio Rocha, Hawaiian and Asian folk teller Alton Chung, blues guitarist and Detroit native the Rev. Robert Jones and family storyteller Jennifer Ferris.
“It’s kind of a who’s who of the best storytellers,” said Erran Sharpe, president of the Story People of Clallam County. “So many come here — and want to come here. Our festival is one of the most famous in the country. It’s small — some festivals have dozens of tellers — but the intricacy makes it really rewarding to the tellers.”
All festival events take place in the Pirate Union Building of Peninsula College’s Port Angeles campus, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd.
The five featured tellers take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. It costs $20 to attend the program, typically the most at-risk of selling out. Again at 10 a.m. Sunday, all five will share — this time, inspirational stories, free to attend and less likely to lack seats.
Individually, too, the tellers will animate the Little Theater at Peninsula College today through Sunday.
The stories, condensed into 10- to 20-minute bites, range from touching to pointed, humorous to gritty, grim to uplifting. But all, in some way, illuminate the human condition, Sharpe said.
Reactions also span the full emotional spectrum.
When Sharpe first attended the festival in 2000, he found something in each story.
“I was hooked,” he said. “I just felt completely enchanted by the stories. Stories of all different topics really resonated with my heart.”
Aside from the featured stories, other festival events include workshops aimed to enhance the storytelling craft and opportunities for the audience to engage in free story slams and open mics.
It’s often the case that listeners feel compelled to take the stage after observing the guest tellers, Sharpe said.
“Some people are just born with a naturally captivating way of speaking,” he said.
“You get inspired and want to join in the action.”
The schedule follows, with main performances in the Little Theater:
• 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. — Pre-festival workshop with Ellis, “Build a Better Mousetrap”; $50; advance sign-up required; Room J-47 at Peninsula College.
• 6 p.m. — Little Theater doors open; ticket sales available for individual events and for a full festival pass of $85.
• 7 p.m. — Opening concert with Ellis, Alton Takiyama-Chung, Jones, Ferris and Rocha; $15.
• 8:30 a.m. — Doors open.
• 9 a.m. — Choice of three workshops, $20 each. Workshops are “Crossing Cultural Borders: Collecting and Telling Stories from Another Culture” with Takiyama-Chung, Little Theater; “Transitions in Eloquence” with Rocha, Maier Hall at Peninsula College; and “Make Friends with Your Microphone and Sound System” with Sharpe, Room J-47.
• 10:30 a.m. — Choice of three workshops, $20 each. Workshops are “Prepare to Scare” with Ellis, Little Theater; “Taking the Mystery Out of Improv Storytelling” with Ferris, Maier Hall; and “Telling Your Family Story” with Jones, Room J-47.
• 12:30 p.m. — Story swap and open mic; Room J-47; free.
• 1:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. — Three storytelling concerts, $15. They are Randi Moe opening for Rocha at 1:30 p.m., Lee Porteous opening for Ferris at 2:45 p.m. and Mary Diessen opening for Jones at 3:34 p.m.
• 7:30 p.m. — All five featured tellers in concert; $20.
• 10 a.m. — “Concert of Inspirational Stories” with five featured tellers and opener Pam Maben; free.
• 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. — Final storytelling concert with two featured tellers, $10. They are Ingrid Nixon opening for Ellis and the Baltuck-Gerrard family opening for Takiyama-Chung.
Reporter Sarah Sharp can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at ssharp@peninsula dailynews.com.