Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX – Part 5 of 5…the Final Verdict

This is Part 5 of 5 with Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX.  Find Part 1 by clicking here.  Find Part 2 by clicking here.  Find Part 3 by clicking hereFind Part 4 by clicking here.

For the ultimate verdict of Timpanogos Storytelling Festival versus FanX, I pondered on what messages they each taught me by attending.  Yes, I had to split myself during the weekend of September 5-7, 2019, though it was enough to see clear themes emerging. Obviously, this whole series is subjective and what I hear are not what everyone else would hear.

Message I Heard from Timpanogos Storytelling:  Discover the Extraordinary from the Ordinary

When an emcee introduces the professional storytellers onto the stage, we learn some fascinating details or at least feel excited to listen to some stories.  With the applause summoning the storytellers, we hear their voices either for the first time or as a beloved voice from past Timpanogos festivals.  No matter the garb the storyteller wears, we can picture ourselves in their stories and personally connect regardless of if the story is a folktale, tall tale, personal tale, or any other kind.  The story starts normal and then builds upon itself to something extraordinary.  Even a contemporary tale transports the listener to another place and new people or characters to meet.  In that moment, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Antonio Rocha took an ordinary Virtual Reality set and covered his eyes with it.  This was extraordinary already as an unspoken rule of storytelling is keeping eye contact.  Antonio completely took that away.  Yet, his story was of a simple moment of someone open to imagination and confusing with reality.  He had the chance to fly and did not feel ready despite having a Virtual Reality set on.  It was a pure suspension of disbelief of the most adorable level.  He opted for a plank that was high in the sky.  He crawled across the carpet as if he would fall to his death.  Antonio merged his miming with the narrative.  He took a risk telling that story without the assistance of his eyes…but it worked.

Message I Heard from FanX:  Discover the Ordinary from the Extraordinary

When you are in the Grand Ballroom with rock music blaring and the emcee reminds you that the special guest can hear you from behind the curtains, many people stand and shout out and await that first glimpse of a celebrity.  Oftentimes, the celebrity comes out in casual clothing.  One celebrity twirls her hair almost throughout the interview.  Another celebrity needs to scratch to be comfortable.  Even another celebrity tells “Dad jokes” as the person next door would.  In that moment, the extraordinary becomes ordinary.

Susan Egan, known for being Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” for Disney’s first of many musicals, commented on two young women dressed as Belle from the animation.  Susan loved how there was not any judgement passed of “who more Belle better.”  One had the commoner garb with the white and blue dress while the other had the bright yellow ballgown.  She had watched as they approached each other before the panel began so that they could get a picture together.  Susan loved that comic conventions could bring people together and be so complimentary.  She opened up about how she was known as “Calamity Belle” with breaking or spraining ligaments during Broadway shows.  She laughed at her adventures and brought us closer to her.  She was like any one of us.  I had the privilege of being on the front row of this panel (you can see me in the blue hair and gray cap in the picture above).  Susan was asked questions about voicing Megara on the animated Disney “Hercules.”  Well, the actual question was, “Can you sing ‘I won’t say I’m in love’?”  She still enjoys singing it.  She wanted us to be the muses.  She filmed it with her phone as we all helped in the tune.  Anytime people sing together, there is unity and connection.  Singing is an ordinary thing to do as human beings.  Again, we felt like she “got us” because she was one of us.


So who wins?  Timpanogos Storytelling?  FanX?

Here’s a review of the scores:

Timpanogos Earned 4 Points:  1 point for the humor category, 1 point for the multi-generational category, 1 point for miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event), and 1 point for message/theme/take-away

FanX Earned 4 Points:  1 point for spine tingling category, 1 point for mingling possibilities, 1 point for miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event), and 1 point for message/theme/take-away

My oldest son would never let me end this with a tie.  The tie-breaker is in the level of fulfillment once I am driving home and reflecting.  This is different than the message/theme/take-away as this is more realizations in the moment versus the impact after the experience.

And the winner is……brummmm, brummmm, brummmm

TIMPANOGOS STORYTELLING!

There were a couple times during FanX that I thought, “I wonder what I could be catching while at Timpanogos?”  I knew The Apple Seed Storytelling Radio Show through BYU Radio was live-streaming one of the tents.   I was tempted to watch some while at FanX.  Then, I had the reassurance that it would still be available after the livestream.  Whew!  Because there is no Wifi at the Salt Palace (not free anyways) and my cell phone battery would scream at me.  Or really go kaput and die.

While driving home from FanX, my husband and I loved sharing moments together.  We laughed.  We discussed.  Though, by the next morning, I did not feel motivated to create more art from what I heard except being inspired to get a couple book proposals done.

While driving home from Timpanogos, my sons and I loved sharing moments together.  We laughed.  We discussed.  Then, the next morning, I was still reflecting on the many styles and types of storytelling.  I was motivated to organize my story room better, re-think some stories from decades ago, delve deeper into crafting and where I have strengths and what I am lazy at doing, and finally celebrating on the power of story and reiterating why I have continued this art–on stage and as a festival organizer–for 25 years and counting.  I am 40 years old.  More than half of my life has been storytelling.

Now…is that something extraordinary becoming ordinary or the ordinary becoming extraordinary?  Both.  And for this I am thankful.

Interested in Part 1?  That can be found here.  Interested in Part 2?  That can be found here.  Interested in Part 3?  That can be found hereInterested in Part 4?  That can be found here.

Until we tell again.

Photo credit:  Norm Berke – picture of Antonio Rocha with Virtual Reality set on

Photo credit:  FanX – picture of Panel Audience with Susan Egan (and with me in front row)

Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX – Part 4 of 5

This is Part 4 of 5 with Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX.  You can find Part 1 by clicking here.  You can find Part 2 by clicking here.  You can find Part 3 by clicking here.

I love the people of all types, reunions, and random adventures that can be had at both  the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and FanX…and tortured me for being on the same weekend of September 5-7, 2019.  How do they compare in multi-generational approach, the mingling possibilities, and the miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event)?

Multi-Generational Approach:

Timpanogos Storytelling draws an older crowd than any other Utah storytelling festival.  Though, it is still a young crowd compared to storytelling festivals on a national or worldwide level. There is an intense need to do things as families so most activities here already keep that in mind.  Any age you can think of (up to 104) is likely represented at this Festival.

From the beginning, Timpanogos Storytelling Festival has had the Alpine School District participate in having their students develop stories.  These are polished youngsters…sometimes too polished or “frozen” which is probably because parents have them memorize rather than let them flow with the story, though impressive none the less.  Meanwhile, the National Youth Storytelling program, known by many names and having jumped from state to state, came to Timpanogos Storytelling as a permanent home.  All receive the title of “National Youth Teller” for any youth tellers who make it on the stage whether from Alpine School District, youth winners from Timpanogos-sponsored contests, out-of-state (with Texas and New York being most popular). When students see people their age tell on stage, they are even more drawn to the art of storytelling.

The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival recommends people aged 8+ to attend, though no one is turned away.  The Timpanogos people still prepare for what will encourage imaginations.  The “Bedtime Stories” concert has stories geared for more the preschool to elementary ages.  It can be a ruckus time with that many littles in one area, though adults and youth cheer when it comes time for the Krispy Kreme donuts as that coveted bedtime treat.

Timpanogos reinstated their “Family Tent” that have stories geared for people aged 12 or younger this year.  Many of the sessions involved puppetry despite a separate puppetry tent on the Ashton Gardens grounds in Lehi, Utah.

FanX has a KidCon…way far away in the deepest, darkest dungeons–err area–of the Salt Palace.  When I decided to attend a performance by Daniel Bishop, the Storyteller, I was late despite leaving 20 minutes to get there in time.  If I was counting steps that day for that journey alone, I am sure it would have been past 5,000 easily.

Once I got to the KidCon portion, I was delighted by some of the hands-on activities.  I do wish that the KidCon was closer to the other panels and sessions, though probably every room had to be used.  Maybe nothing can be helped to have KidCon be closer.  I was also surprised that it was practically one really opened-up room without any dedicated rooms where you could close the door and focus better on the presentation.

Between the distance (not to be helpful to anyone with strollers) and the awkward placement of booths and activities, I certainly hope FanX improves this portion of their event.

For general sessions, many special guests mention, “Oh, there are children in the room!” This could be another factor to why the language is cleaner at FanX than any other comic conventions.  Though, as I shared in Part 2 focusing on humor, I have a feeling the special guests are more respectful in language due to direct or indirect guidance from FanX administration.

Mingling Possibilities:

Timpanogos Storytelling lets the Utah Storytelling Guild hold a “Meet n’ Mingle” each year.  People trickle in to this Meet n’ Mingle.  What starts as 15 people at least doubles 10 minutes later.  Most people are from Utah and share what chapter they come from while a few people from out-of-state like Ron Chick (California-though a dues-paying USG member) or Karla Huntsman (Nevada-used to live in Utah and still pays dues) or Rachel Ann Harding (Colorado-has Story Story podcast).  Lately, Richard Thurman, the Founding Executive Director of the Utah Renaissance Faire, attends to get to know the storytellers and see who is willing and able to tell such period pieces.  He was pleased with the story fortune telling provided through Story Crossroads.

As people roam from tent to tent and session to session, there are reunions filled with hugs and laughter.  I look forward to all the connections.  Some people I got to see were Beth Ohlsson–ETSU classmate with the Masters in Storytelling who also told on the Timp stage, Jay McLaughlin-friend from Texas who I used to see all the time through National Storytelling Conferences and the Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance (YES!), and Katie Ufford-Key person in organizing the Vernal Storytelling Festival.

However, despite all these happy reunions, there were not other Meet n’ Mingles set up except for the Utah Storytelling Guild.  Could there be some gatherings during the lunch hour for certain groups of people?  True, there are the Swappin’ Groups open mike for Adults and Youth.  I would love to see more than the listening.  What of discussions and conversations?

Then you have FanX with a long list of cosplay gatherings, Dungeons & Dragons gaming, and other panels that give the chance of having more lasting connections than a quick hug, shaking of hands, or a snap of the phone for a picture.

Here is an example of some of the gatherings or “worlds” or “fandoms” or “cosplay meet-ups,” as usually phrased:  Kick-Off for Cosplay (any kind); “Blast from the Past” Cosplay; The Boys of Summer, Sandlot; Fantasy, Fairies and LOTR (Lord of the Rings); Anne of Green Gables; Stars of the CW; Flash; RWBY; Kids of Cosplay; Families that Cosplay, etc.

Then you have the different types of Role Playing Groups where you can interact.  Here, too, there are so many themes depending on your mood.  The groups from this past FanX were: Battle of the Undead Monster; City’s Sewers Underhive; Evil Archmage’s Dungeon; Haunted Elvish Village; The Dragon’s Horde.

Evermore, an immersive role-playing theme park, had several actors in garb do a presentation.  Afterwards, many people stayed in the hallways to chat with these people in-character.  An impromptu sea shanty was sung by the Evermore pirate.  He taught us what we could sing.  More and more people gathered around.  Another person took a piece of luggage and transformed it into a drum.  It was a rousing and thrilling moment.

Miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event):

Timpanogos Storytelling celebrates many arts from pottery to puppetry to music.  Each of those arts has their own tent/area.

People have to arrive early at the pottery tent before all the slots are filled.  Anywhere from 3-7 potters assist mostly kids–and the occasional adult–on creating a goblet, bowl, a castle tower, or something experimental (as with my abstract tulip tower).  As I bring my sons to Timpanogos, this is one of their favorite activities.  There is also an area to simply work with clay and make as many clay snakes as you want…or something more complex.  You are only limited by your imagination.

The Puppetry Arts Guild of Utah have brought vintage and antique puppets behind glass cases as well as a huge ninja man.  Okay, so I don’t know the puppet’s name but that is what it reminds me of with all the kicks that kids make it do.  It is one large marionette encased by a wooden crate of some sort as the kids learn how to bring this ninja man to life. There has also been either a dragon or dinosaur head (dragons and dinosaurs are related, right?) that people can turn and move using super strong rods and pulleys.  Joe Flores, who heads the Puppetry Arts Guild, dedicates much time in sharing details when people listen.  Sometimes you can’t hear him.  That is when he does miming.  Though his stories speak volumes.

The music at Timpanogos ranges from the idyllic to the country and jazz to rousing tunes.  These are professional musicians who know how to tell a story through their instruments–whether that be vocal or otherwise.  Sometimes, we get to hear stories between sets.  Sam Payne was first a musician and then delved more into the world of storytelling due to Timpanogos.  Now he hosts The Apple Seed Storytelling Radio Show through BYU Radio.   With the 30th Anniversary of Timpanogos, almost all of Friday, September 6th was live-streamed.

Other opportunities are Swappin’ Grounds open mike for adults and youth, academic discussions on various storytelling topics, and exploring the 55-acres of Ashton Gardens.  There are 15 themed gardens with some being: a secret garden; an aromatic garden with plants that smell like chocolate, mint, and many kinds of fruit;  and “I Am the Light of the World” sculpture garden with many images of Christ’s life on earth.  My boys love walking behind the waterfall.  They laugh that the waterfall can be turned on and off though it is majestic despite knowing this detail.

FanX is massive as it takes over the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah The Vendor Hall alone feels as expansive as the 55-acres of Ashton Gardens.  At least that is what my feet told me after a day at FanX.  The artist alley is inspiring to see so many styles to put ink, chalk, pencil, pen, or any other media to paper, wood, metal, and on and on.

The people from Utah Pirate/R.E.A.C.H. Utah are always there with two massive pirate ships that kids can climb up, slide on, and holler out things like, “Ahoy there!” and “Ye landlubber must walk the plank!”

Many photo ops are available from a replica for Doctor Who’s Tardis to Golem to a life-sized Batman.  As most people are dressed up in some way, people like to stop each other.  One lady dressed as April from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  She said that she was on the look-out for anyone else dressed from that Fandom.  Then, he came upon a little boy dressed as one the Turtles.  The mother was so touched when “April” wanted a picture with her son.  Later on, the mother wanted to discover who the person was that made her son feel comfortable and excited for going to FanX.  Someone recognized “April” on Facebook, the mother shared her thanks, and now they can celebrate this moment.

The KidCon has many STEM activities including two inflatable planetariums that could each hold about 25-30 people while someone pointed out the stars.  Maybe in the future there would be constellation stories told in there.  Okay, now I am distracted thinking of star stories across cultures…I’m back.

The panels on film and books are expected at FanX.  As Timpanogos has academic discussions on storytelling, so does FanX have more serious talks for budding authors.  I attended a panel called, “Ask a New York Times Bestselling Author Anything (About Writing).” I even dared to ask a question about book proposals and what their editor told them or what they suspected their editors thought.  Jennifer Nielsen said that there are books that sell and there are books that make lists.  Your aim is for a book to make lists, create a buzz, and have word-of-mouth be your friend.

I could go on and on much like I could go on and on about all the fun to be had at both Timpanogos Storytelling and FanX.

So you curious as to my scores?  Who wins?

Multi-Generational Approach:  Timpanogos Storytelling wins by HUGE margin, no close call here

Mingling Possibilities:   FanX wins by HUGE margin, also no close call here

Miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event):Tie for Timpanogos Storytelling and FanX

These scores added to the previous categories are as follows:

Timpanogos Storytelling: 1 point for the humor category, 1 point for the multi-generational category, 1 point for miscellaneous

Total for Timpanogos Storytelling = 3 points

FanX: 1 point for the spine tingling category, 1 point for mingling possibilities, 1 point for miscellaneous

Total  for FanX = 3 points

Part 5 will explore the most prevalent theme of the event and the ultimate score also known as “My Final Verdict.”

Interested in Part 1?  That can be found here.  Interested in Part 2?  That can be found here.  Interested in Part 3?  That can be found here.  Want the final verdict with Part 5?  Come back tomorrow.

Until we tell again.

Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX – Part 3 of 5

 

This is Part 3 of 5 with Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX.  You can find Part 1 by clicking here.  You can find Part 2 by clicking here.

I have shivers of excitement when the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and FanX come around.  Then they killed some of my joy when they landed on the same weekend of September 5-7, 2019.  What about the spine tingling offerings found at each of these events? 

The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival has a “Shivers in the Night,” which is the late evening concert on Friday night.  This tradition has happened for quite a few years now.  Timpanogos usually warns people that these stories are best suited for those who are aged 12 and up.  That said, I have two boys and have brought them as soon as they turned 8.  So far, I have not experienced any storytelling that made me think, “Huh, I better leave my sons at home.”

I have had a ghoulish fun time for the “Shivers in the Night.”  The best sets were when Timpanogos was still located at the Mt. Timpanogos Park in Orem, Utah.  Why, dare you ask? This was when half of the storytelling was done by people out-of-state and half was done by local tellers who won with “The Hauntings” Contest put on by Timpanogos. The amazing April Johnson leads and guides that contest and was able to convince the Timpanogos Board to feature winners with the Festival. The stories were heard before the Shivers concert as the Hauntings contest is held every October.

Now, Timpanogos is in the Ashton Gardens/Electric Park in Lehi, Utah.  Ever since that move, it felt like something scary happened to “Shivers in the Night”…as in not enough scary for the audience.  Timpanogos stopped choosing a winner (or two or three) from “The Hauntings.” I usually go and get a rated G/PG with ghost stories and not a more PG/PG-13.  I am assuming that 2019 improved its fear factor due to Simon Brooks, Motoko, Antonio Rocha, and Tim Lowry being part of the line-up.  I would love to hear from anyone who attended (or told) at the 2019 Shivers to share your thoughts.  Or thoughts from anyone? Although I cannot attest to the storytelling at the “Shivers in the Night” for 2019 as I was at FanX, I do have years and years of this concert series and still feel qualified to touch on trends there…for good or ill.  So I will go on from past years and not of this year.

There was one year of “Shivers in the Night” when it felt like any other storytelling session.  Yes, the storytelling itself was wonderful and of high-quality and worth listening to, though I am concerned when it is advertised as “Shivers” and does not deliver on its promise.  During this particular year, there was a father and son sitting one row ahead of me.  After four stories told and not even a whisper or mention of ghosts or monsters or any such beasts, one of the storytellers shared a folktale that was a little darker.  The son turned to his dad, “We’re FINALLY getting something scary.”  The dad nodded his head, “Yes, finally.”  In my mind, I was nodding along.  I still enjoyed the concert.  Though relieved that we had something scary for our efforts of preparing our minds for something to haunt us on the drive home.

Many times, Timpanogos spotlights the out-of-state tellers rather than the local tellers.  This is not uncommon for many events.  There is excitement (and getting your money’s worth) of having those out-of-state tellers tell.  But, not all storytellers have scary repertoire.  Let me repeat that.  Not. All. Storytellers. Have Scary. Repertoire.

That is fine.  We need storytellers of many skill sets.  The storytellers need to tell what is their specialty.  Please, do not take a story and force it to be a scary story when it is not.  Be more mindful to your hosts/audiences and tell them the real reasons you were chosen to tell at the event.

Perhaps this is something many of our out-of-state storytellers do not realize.  Utah, being predominately members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LOVE ghost stories.  We believe in spirits–good and bad.  We also believe that Satan is real and that he leads a 1/3 of the host of heavens to tempt and try us.  The Bible talks about people possessed by demons.  We believe what the Bible says.  That also makes us intrigued by the forces of good and evil.  That is probably why there is a huge percentage of Church of Jesus Christ members (LDS) who love Star Wars with the light and dark sides…but I digress.

Basically, give us scary stories.  Not the gore.  Just the suspense and anticipation.  The beauty of a scary story is that after hearing a scary story, you feel like anything you come upon in life is possible to get through.  There are studies about the positive outcomes of hearing scary stories. We want to experience those benefits.

As for FanX, there has been ghost storytelling ever since its second event. 

Last spring, I headed to one of these ghost storytelling concerts performed by Daniel Bishop, the Storyteller.  I got there on time, but there was a line of 15 people because all the seats were filled.  We could only get in if someone walked out.  Well, 15 minutes passed and everyone was so engaged that no one walked out.  By this time, the rest of the line left so they could see if another panel or session was available.  I, being committed to story and having enjoyed Daniel’s performances in the past, waited.

One of the volunteers, who would peek out every so often, noticed that I was still around.  She offered her chair–reserved for her as a volunteer–to me.  I told her I couldn’t do that to her but would take the chance and see if another opening came about.  She insisted and said she had been sitting too much anyways.  I then took that gift of a chair and enjoyed the rest of the hour with Daniel Bishop.  The lights were down low and Daniel had a campfire, only it couldn’t be or it would have been a fire hazard.  I found out later that Daniel had created part of it and then had another friend assist in sewing some stones and such.  It gave the perfect ambiance for the chilling tales he told.

Daniel Bishop, the Storyteller, has a following at FanX.  It seems no matter what room they put him in, it gets filled.  Room for 100?  Full.  Room for 200?  Full.  Room for 300?  Full.  Although FanX has a KidCon (more about that in the upcoming Part 4), the FanX people never asked Daniel to tell for that part…until 2019.  Funny enough, he had about 30 people which is small compared to his usual adult crowds.  We had a good chuckle about it.  Who said storytelling is only for kids?  The adults clearly want to absorb any and all ghost stories.

After his adult ghost story sessions, people flocked around him like vultures.  The volunteers had to ask people to exit the room to allow time for the next session to get ready.  So here was a gathering of people still talking with Daniel in the hallways.  I stood back, letting my friend enjoy this moment.  I eventually got to talk to him–after at least waiting 20 minutes.

Here are Daniel’s reflections and experiences with FanX:

I joined a number of presenters from the paranormal community where talked on panels about cryptozoology and other similar thing. But it was my storytelling presentation panels that caught on the most. Every con since, I have told ghost stories. One of the most popular stories was my version of The Hanging Boyfriend which I call Urban Legend (that is also one of the stories I used to win the Timpanogos Hauntings Contest). This last FanX, I got a great reaction from telling some of my personal ghost stories and my tribute to the famous book, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. It feels good when I see lots of people who have followed me, and do their best to come to each and every one of my storytelling panels. I will say, sometimes it is interesting to tell ghost stories to folks who are dressed in cosplay that is scarier than the stories I’m telling. That just proves the passion my audience has for a good ghost story.
Imagine: a couple a hundred people gathered in a conference room, jittery with excitement and anticipation. An electric fire is burning on the floor and the lights are dimmed. Their energy and passion combine and give power to the words now flowing from the mouth of the storyteller before them. They have all come to get a scare, to get their hearts and minds racing. They leave with smiles and talk of stories of their own. It is a great time. FanX is a great place for storytelling.

For this round of spine-tingling offerings, the winner is FanX as it is more consistent in having actual “shiver” tales.  Timpanogos is a hit or miss on getting what it claims to have for its audience. 

I know this score would increase dramatically if they used local winners of “The Hauntings” contest in combination of perhaps 1-3 out-of-state tellers who truly have good with that kind of repertoire.

So the scores so far are as follows:

Timpanogos Storytelling: 1 point for the humor category

FanX: 1 point for the spine tingling category

Part 4 will delve into the multi-generational approach, the mingling possibilities, and the miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event). Each of those three categories is worth one point.

Interested in Part 1?  That can be found here.  Interested in Part 2?  That can be found here.  Want the next installments of 4, or 5 on Timpanogos vs. FanX?  My final verdict with Part 5?  Come back tomorrow. And the next day after that.

Until we tell again.

Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX – Part 2 of 5

This is Part 2 of 5 with Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX.  You can find Part 1 herePlease note that I am wearing a turquoise Timpanogos t-shirt at FanX.

I was in no mood to laugh when the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and FanX landed on the same weekend of September 5-7, 2019.  What about the humor itself found at each of these events? What do the professional storytellers versus the special guests decide to do to entertain their fellow humans and earn some giggles, chuckles, or guffaws.

The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival has a built-in comedy time called “Laughin’ Night,” which is the grand finale concert on Saturday night.  The most common use of humor at Timpanogos:  puns and wordplay.

Due to the “Laughin’ Night” concert, sometimes people have a hard time distinguishing between stand-up comedy and storytelling.  For stand-up comedy, the comedian is expecting a laugh about once every 10-15 seconds.  If that doesn’t happen, uh-oh!  For storytelling, the storyteller is not concerned how often that laughter happens….unless, perhaps, when in the line-up for “Laughin’ Night” at Timpanogos.

The Saturday night concert for Timpanogos draws in the biggest crowds, at least 6,000 people strong, so there is certainly pressure for the storyteller to deliver on that theme of “Laughin’ Night.”  No matter what the theme, International Storyteller Ed Stivender says he tells humorous stories to allow people a moment to laugh. At least during that story, the audience could take off their burdens of everyday life.  That alone is what Ed sees as successful when he performs before each crowd.

That said, I never liked the forced “you will be funny” theme of this concert.  I had plenty of times that I laughed during the daytime. Do I go to “Laughin’ Night”?  Sure.  If there was another option for that night with the storytelling festival, would I take it?  Yes.  Now Timpanogos does have two evening concerts happening simultaneously with the largest at the Ashton Gardens Ampitheater in Lehi, Utah while another large crowd gathers at the Electric Park underneath the Pavilion.  The storytellers are transported to both so that the first storytellers in one place are at the end at the other and vice versa.  Either place, it “has” to be funny.

Please know that I still extremely enjoy the “Laughin’ Night” concert.  

Puns are known as one of the easiest tools of comedy.  We had plenty of these through Anne Rutherford and how the Sandwich Shop turned into the Handwich Shop and all the hands, finger, thumbs idioms and phrases you can think of.  There must have been at least 20.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  My younger son, aged 9-almost-10, was groaning from the first pun.  I asked him how many puns were too much?  10?  I think he said 3.  Well, he got his quota for a few years then.  Anne Rutherford also told stories as Calamity Ryder who “appeared” on stage whenever Anne put on a fringe leather jacket.  That is more of a hoot-n-hollerin’ type of tall tale.  I enjoyed the twist of when she–I mean Calamity–saw Big Foot.

We had Don White with the craziest song about a wife putting up with her husband and dog now that the kids have grown up and moved out of the house.  The husband shared how much he and the dog are alike.  I enjoyed how both like to be rubbed on their bellies.  It was so weird…it was delightful.  As I said in Part 1 of the Series of 5 Blog Posts, he convinced 6,000+ people to howl.  Don did warn the English teachers in the audience that the song had a double negative and wanted the English teachers to feel like they were still in a “safe space.”

Storyteller Andy Hedges played his guitar and sung about Long Johns.  It was the most family-friendly one I can think of involving Long Johns.  When he got to the last verse, he needed to pause and remind us that this is STILL family-friendly–in case any of us were nervous.  The Timpanogos crowd did a bit of a nervous laughter while an older man to my left was crying tears of mirth…it was that funny to him.  I had more fun laughing and watching that person cry with delight than myself–and I had fun from the beginning.

Motoko had to warm up the crowd with her stories from Japan about a Miser and the Miser’s Apprentice.  She had the audience say “Money, Money, Money” in English and Japanese with gestures from both cultures.  As there were many bizarre money-saving moments, each episode meant the audience was cued to do these words and gestures.  Each time we did it as a group, it became funnier.  This audience participation let me reflect on the humor of each episode.

Bil Lepp rounded out the concert with his “Egg Babies” story where he was given a 5-pound bag of flour instead of an egg like his classmates.  Then his “baby” got stabbed.  Bil is a beloved storyteller of the Timpanogos crowd with his sessions filling to capacity and beyond as people anticipate his tall-tale-larger-than-life view of the world.  Often these adventures involve Bil and his friend, Skeeter.  Whenever Bil is the last in the line-up, he takes his story and merges it with words or phrases from all of the other storytellers.  So “long johns” and “handwich” made it in as well as references to English Teachers and grammar.

Tim Lowry won this year for the most intelligent humor at Timpanogos.  My quick standing ovation (as well as everyone else in that tent) was during his one-hour set featuring “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens.  Yes, Christmas in September.  That piece is full of drama, and I experienced so many emotions.  The jumping of emotions allowed me to delight in the humor that much more.  I had more of an “Ah ha!” when Tim told of the “organ of benevolence” and explained to us that it meant the mouth.  Even if you did not have any money to give to a charity, you could use your words to pronounce a blessing or good wishes.  Tim had a feigned tirade about the 16 items found upon the table to feast upon.  We laughed that he could remember so much as well as how he complained in a fun way that “Why wasn’t it 13 for Christ and the 12 Apostles? But 16!!!” Towards the end of the piece, there was a portion from Dickens that ends a sentence with “which” and Tim shared in an exaggerated defensive way that Dickens had to get the story out by Christmas time and there was no time for editing and apologized to the English teachers.  It wasn’t “Ha ha” every 10 seconds or so but, when I did laugh–and laugh I did, it was a more lasting laugh that brought me closer to appreciating the words from Charles Dickens, the interpretations and asides from Tim Lowry, and the overall delight in what it means to be human.

A story may not be a funny piece though even the most dramatic pieces usually have some level of laughter.  For what is comedy but shared grief from the small to the big?

The FanX special guests had two main tactics for humor:  swearing (or lack of swearing) and story snippets. 

Being that FanX is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, I am not surprised that the panels are more family-friendly than let’s say…San Diego, California.  I have a sense that the FanX Administration either directly or indirectly shares with their special guests that this is a more conservative audience.

Katee Sackhoff, best known for playing Kara Thrace on Battlestar Galactica, said after session, “This was the first panel where I didn’t swear!” She sounded impressed with herself in a delighted way.  The audience cheered and laughed at this feat—and I added a loud “Thank you!”

Though that does not mean that swears do not exist at FanX.  When John Cleese came last spring for FanX, he said the F-bomb.  Some people laughed, and it was enough for John to continue.  He was rude and simply a curmudgeon in any response to the questions from the audience.  Luckily, most of his time was not of swearing though this language distracted me enough to not remember anything else from that encounter.  I thought my husband and I walked out…but it is a blur and I don’t know if that is what I felt like doing or if I really did it.  It was obvious that John Cleese purposely swore when he got a reaction.

Yet, when Dolph Lundgren, best known as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, was on stage, he accidentally swore.  I was not offended by this as I was with John Cleese because made a choice to use bad language where it felt more of like a habit with Dolph.  Even John Rhys-Davies swore once–more of the most minor of swears–and humbly caught and apologized for it.  As he already started his session with a keynote level on making people comfortable throughout life, we could see him doing that very thing with that apology.  I sensed an increase of endearment from the audience towards John.  Instead of the loud and irreverent laughs, we had more of a delighted chuckle all throughout the time with John Rhys-Davies.

The storyteller side of me honed in anytime a special guest at FanX use a story or story snippet to complete their answers from audience members or as part of their presentation.

Carlos Valdes, known best for playing Cisco Ramon/Vibe on The Flash, had a hostess who wanted him to answer random questions with one word or phrase answers.  Rarely could Carlos follow that request.  He wanted to justify his answers, and what better way than through a story?  I looked forward to anytime he hesitated, leaned back in his chair, and guiltily said, “Well, you have to know…” or “You have to understand…” and then we enjoyed a story snippet.  The audience got used to this and practically cheered him on while laughing to get a better understanding of this person before us.  Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy and many other characters, told stories about encounters with fans.  For some reason, he is asked about Harry Potter all the time.  Hmmm.  Without all the make-up and garb, Jason looked like anyone else.  I am guessing this relaxed the audience and made it easier for us to laugh with him as if we were hearing fun stories from a neighbor or friend.

Although from last FanX, one of my favorites has been the panel with Warwick Davis.  He has amazing stories including a crazy one about how, for a friend, he had on his Ewok Wicket garb on.  A girl kept wanting to feed Wicket cake and Warwick was unsure how long he could stay in character while practically choking on cake as the hole for the mouth already was small.  So.  Many.  More.  Crazy.  Stories.

The best of comedy is a celebration of being human despite mistakes, misunderstandings, and accidents.  It is not a degrading mockery of our fellow beings.

For this round of humor, it is a close call though I would say Timpanogos wins on account of more intelligent humor (even with puns).  Tomorrow we discuss the spine tingling tales shared at each of these events and how they compare.

Interested in Part 1?  That can be found here.  Want the next installments of 3, 4, or 5 on Timpanogos vs. FanX?  My final verdict with Part 5?  Come back tomorrow. And the next day after that. And after that.

Until we tell again.

Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX – Part 1 of 5

If I could clone myself, the weekend of September 5-7, 2019 would have been it. I was cringe-worthy of guilty pleasure as I attended FanX in Salt Lake City…while missing fantastic and earth-shattering storytelling with the 30th Annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Lehi. I repented of this guilty pleasure by taking my boys all day and night for the Saturday part of Timpanogos.

So what draws me to both FanX and Timpanogos?  You certainly have two different crowds.

The FanX crowd is where mainly adults with the occasional child dress up. Some people transform into beloved characters while other people dress with color and style to celebrate their uniqueness of being human with no connection to anything seen on a screen or what was read in a book.  A part of that “uniqueness” included a few ladies revealing more than necessary…though thankfully most people are covered–or completely covered as in “I hope you can breathe”–in fantastic renditions of otherworldly beings.

The Timpanogos crowd is family-friendly in manner and mode. People dress modestly. Some people have on neck ribbons much like some parents do for their Scouts all jangling with pins.  Yet, these neck ribbons are certified Timpanogos gear.  From Board Members to Volunteers to Fans, pins clatter about with the 30 or so “pin of the year” designs infused with themes of past Timpanogos festivals. Plenty more fans dress in story-related t-shirts such as “Liar” or “Greatest Hits” that lists all the storytellers who ever told at Timp. I was pleased to see several people wear Story Crossroads t-shirts.

Considering the dressing up at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, perhaps the fanaticism is not that different from FanX.

Think of it.  There were 6,000+ people at the Saturday night concert for Timpanogos howling (thanks Don White) while that number hooted and hollered with energy for special guests in the Grand Ballroom.  Truly, truly, I see these worlds on the edge of each other that I want to explode with glee.

My FanX time with my husband included seeing R2-D2 and BB-8, some of the most inspiring droids in history. I admire the people able to replicate and then let these inventions roam for others to take a trip to nostalgia.  Though, I had nostalgia galore when I saw Megan Follows who played Anne of Green Gables.  The librarian side of me bubbled with joy as people dressed up as Anne or other key characters for that panel.  Dressing up is a way to honor the lessons learned through that stalwart and spunky red-headed gal. I was thrilled to see John Rhys-Davies usually known as Gimli with Lord of the Rings or Sallah in Indiana Jones.

John–can I call him “John?” because sometimes it feels strange to not say the whole name–expressed the importance of saying “Good Morning, sir!” or “Good Morning, ma’am!”  As I heard this from 20 or so rows back, I thought, “How interesting that he wants to share something before others get a chance to ask him things.  He is doing this is such a humble and respectful way…we can learn a lot in these few lines.”  He continued that there will be plenty of people who will glare at you for saying something so offensive as “Good Morning!”  Though, he said, persist in it and eventually those people will melt.  John then reiterated, “Good manners is more than knowing how to use a fork or knife.”  John’s favorite word was “comfortable.”  He said he wanted to talk in such a way to us so that we are comfortable.  He believes that success in life is based on how we make others feel comfortable.

I have tossed around this thought.  In the storytelling world, International Storyteller Elizabeth Ellis has said that we–as tellers–make the comfortable uncomfortable and the uncomfortable comfortable.  Though, I could see what John was saying with his theme of “comfortable.”  As with anything, it is best in moderation rather than extremes.  Thus, I think most of the time it is to be comfortable in who we are and who others are while also being willing to allow the uncomfortable so that we can really talk, come to some kind of action, and progress.

Do you see how the two worlds of FanX and Timpanogos can collide though bring about deeper thoughts?

Interested in Parts 2, 3, 4, or 5 on Timpanogos vs. FanX?  My final verdict with Part 5?  Come back tomorrow. And the next day after that. And after that.  And that.

Until we tell again.