PORT ANGELES — Since the Forest Storytelling Festival first materialized here, we’ve seen some changes in the way humans tell each other tales. Smartphones, Skype, Netflix, Kindles, YouTube, PlayStations, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, Google — all that has arrived in the past quarter century.
At the same time, the story fest, featuring in-the-flesh humans, is still here. As proclaimed by the Port Angeles City Council, this is officially storytelling week in the festival’s home city.
So onto the stage the tellers will step, taking listeners to Appalachia, Africa and Alaska — and that’s just the start.
Today through Sunday at Peninsula College, the 25th annual festival brings eight storyteller performances, six workshops and a story slam, an event where participants show up, sign up and tell tales personal and true.
The Sunday finale, as always, is entirely free: the Inspirational Tales concert with all of the performers.
“This is a soul-filling weekend,” said Ingrid Nixon, the festival artistic director who grew up here and now lives near Glacier Bay, Alaska.
As a featured teller on the performance schedule, she joins Ray Christian, a winner of the National Story Slam in Jonesborough, Tenn.; Kevin Kling, an entertainer known for his comic essays broadcast on public radio; Dolores Hydock of Birmingham, Ala., an actor and specialist in stories of hope and kindness; and Heather McNeil of Bend, Ore., a collector of stories in places varied as Kenya and Scotland.
Christian, who comes from North Carolina, tells his true stories on radio shows such as “The Moth,” and produces a podcast, “What’s Ray Saying?”
He fits right into Clallam County’s vigorous story-slam scene, in which true-tale competitions happen periodically at venues such as Studio Bob in Port Angeles and Olympic Theatre Arts in Sequim.
The nonprofit Story People of Clallam County, presenters of the Forest Storytelling festival, invited Christian not only to perform but also teach a Saturday morning workshop called “The Quick Story Process.”
“Those who want to learn from a master how to create compelling, true personal stories should attend,” Nixon said, adding that Christian will then give an hourlong solo performance Saturday afternoon. He’s also part of the all-hands concerts Friday and Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
“This year we have a special focus on slam-type stories,” added Erran Sharpe, president of the Story People and a longtime festival organizer.
“After lunch Saturday, we will have a slam on the theme ‘A Force of Nature,’” in the Little Theater. Interpret that any way you like and lay out your true personal experience in five minutes or less — just for the adventure, as this festival slam isn’t a contest.
“Participants will put their names into a hat before the telling starts at 12:30 p.m., and if they’re drawn, they step up to tell. Called slam ‘light,’ the judging-free event aims to fit as many participants as possible into the 45-minute time slot.”
Also at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, the fest has its traditional story swap in room J-47, with all kinds of stories welcome. The time limit for those is eight minutes.
As for the workshops, they cover the gamut from Kling’s “Stories of Healing: Chicken Soup for the Chicken,” Hydock’s “Acting Secrets” and McNeil’s “Let’s Begin: How to Find, Learn and Tell Stories.”
A third-generation storyteller who’s traveled the globe, McNeil sees this art form offering people a kind of reprieve from the techno-onslaught.
“They tend to be so captivated with the human interaction. It’s not a movie, it’s not an audiobook, although those are wonderful. But to see a human with this story inside them,” she said, inspires us like nothing else.
“I do believe,” McNeil said, “with storytelling, people take a breath.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.