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Scores of Stories on Tap for Three Rivers Storytelling Festival

From tales about an elderly woman who decides to go to medical school, to fairy tales and historical accounts told by local students, the 14th annual Three Rivers Storytelling Festival held this Friday and Saturday at Winchester Thurston’s North Campus will be chock full of interesting yarns.

15-year old Shaler Area High School student Sara Walker says her favorite part of storytelling is connecting with listeners and seeing them captivated by her tales.

“Whenever I’m telling a story, I look out at the audience, and I like to see how they’re reacting to it,” Walker said. “If I’m telling a suspenseful part, are they reacting appropriately? And if they are, that really is a good feeling.”

This year, eight young storytellers will take the stage for their own concert. In the past they have been used as more of an opening act.

The festival will also include performances from adult local and national storytellers, workshops, and ghost stories.

“When you hear an oral narrative, it stimulates every part of your brain, and you become really involved and connected with that storyteller,” Joanna Demarest, the producer of the event, said. “So it’s a type of entertainment that’s just not out there very much, and we present an entire weekend of it.”

Andy Offutt Irwin, an award winning storyteller from Georgia, is one of the three featured raconteurs performing both nights.

Irwin’s specialty is playing an elderly woman who is tired of her bridge and gardening clubs and wants to do something more with her life – a character whose voice is inspired by his grandmother.

“My perspective is from Margerite Van Camp who’s an 85-year old widow, who just graduated from medical school,” Irwin said. “My stories surround Margerite and her adventures of aging and ongoing technologies and social changes that she has to deal with.”

He said he is interested in truth but not interested in pure fact – his stories are a mix of fiction and nonfiction.

The other featured performers include Charlotte Blake Alston, who will share African and African American stories, and Megan Hicks, who incorporates art into her fairytales.

All three featured tellers will take part in workshops during the weekend that teach visitors how to create their own stories.

The festival will also feature its second Liar’s Contest.

“Local and regional tellers will be telling stories that you can’t just quite believe, and they start out, you think you got it, and then at the end they go into some wild stratosphere,” Demarest said. “They’re incredibly hilarious, and there’s a contest and there’s a prize at the end.”

The festival is free, but there is a fee to take part in the workshops.

The schedule of events is available on the festival’s website.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.