By Ashlee Duenas
Advertiser Staff Writer
If you've ever wanted to be able to tell a better story — to captivate your children, or a room full of listeners — an unprecedented opportunity to polish your craft is coming up this week, as master storytellers from Japan, Canada, Australia, Thailand, the Mainland and Hawai'i gather for five days to share knowledge, entertain and, of course, tell tales during Hawai'i's first-ever "Talk Story" Storytelling Conference.
The gathering will take place from sunrise to sunset, featuring tales in a variety of genres.
Some storytellers aim to heal, some to preserve traditions. Some aim to transform members of their audience, giving them strength and hope.
Some will pass down historical tales. A distinct subgroup tells stories with string; another via math.
"In Hawai'i, we don't gossip, but rather we talk story. We all tell stories," said Alton Chung, award-winning storyteller and one of the many who will present at the conference. "We usually tell stories (to) family or among friends. It is a part of who we are and living in the Islands."
Chung points out that storytelling is a fundamental part of Hawaiian history.
"(Ancient Hawaiians were) without a written language. They (passed) on to future generations the collective wisdom of their society through stories, chants, prayers and dances. When (they) go, they take their stories with them," said Chung. "If we do not ask them to tell us their stories and repeat the stories to our children, they may lose touch (with) part of who they are and their place in history and the world."
The conference takes place Thursday through Monday at the Queen Kapi'olani Hotel. Some of the biggest names in storytelling will teach their art, tell stories, and listen to your own stories.
"My thinking is that we would be apes if not for language utilized to share human experience and give it meaning. We live our life based on the stories we hold in our heart," said master storyteller Jeff Gere, organizer of the conference. "Stories are what make us human."
The conference will feature different themes, including storytelling skills, cultural storytelling, story growth and education, Japanese focus, and technical storytelling. Workshops are also separated by theme: Mainland storytelling and workshops; Pacific Rim (Australia, Thailand, Japan and Canada) workshops and performances; and Hawai'i's Best Storytellers doing workshops and general story-tell sessions.
Master storytellers who will perform and conduct workshops include EthNoh- Tec, who performed at the Smithsonian for President Obama's inauguration; Diane Ferlatte, who performed at former President Clinton's inauguration; Margaret MacDonald, who has published more than50 books; Kate Lutz; and Hawai'i's own Lopaka Kapanui (known for his ghost stories and tours), Alohalani Brown and Kathy "Tita" Collins.
"There has never been and will never again be a national storytelling conference here," said Gere. "It'll sharpen speaking skills (and) expand your ideas of what story is and the rainbow of ways people use, tell, collect and apply them."