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September 2002
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Spinning Yarns

The night of August 3rd was balmy and truly the essence of summer on Beaver Island when the Preservation Association hosted a storytelling event at Peaine Township Hall, which was transformed into a stage-like setting, adorned with beautifully arranged containers of wildflowers.

People began arriving and taking their seats, which soon were in short supply … and in the end, there was standing room only. Jacque LaFreniere emceed the event, introducing storytellers Doris Larson, Tammy Layman, and Amy Wisner, members of the Story Spinners of Grand Rapids. Phil Gregg, our Island curmudgeon, and Pinky Harmon, Beaver's answer to Irma Bombeck, filled out the rest of the cast.

Leone Schellenberg mentioned being a friend and neighbor who had experienced Doris Larson's storytelling at gatherings on the beach during past summers. Whether Doris is producing her beautiful artwork or telling tales, she's known for doing things with a flair.

Donna King expressed how professional all the players were. Her depiction of Tammy Layman in her black dress with hunched arm and craning neck gave strength to her crow-like mannerisms. Annette Dashiell also commented on the immediate willingness of the multi-aged audience to participate in the sound effects for the Crow tale. This was the only encouragement necessary to capture the audience and have them remain engaged and animated throughout the evening.

Many expressed how powerfully they reacted to Amy Wisner's story of the Swedish Christmas with the smorgasbord produced by her father. We were all moved by the beautiful memories she shared about her father, and her ultimate loss in the end. What strength to share, with such poignant, raw intimacy.

That Phil Gregg can tell a story! Imagine putting caps of dynamite and fuel oil in the same sentence, let alone the same boat!! No matter what he says, everyone feels they're right there.

When Pinky was asked about her impressions of the evening, the first thing out of her mouth was, "I'm glad it's over!" She claims any other venue, whether it be calling out Bingo til she's blue in the face, or standing up in front of the congregation at church, would have been easier than this storytelling experience–a root canal being much more pleasant. She did say, "Once the mouth starts going, the audience disappears, and I'm off and running." Jacque thought a hymn sung in the background as a mantra might have alleviated some of Pinky's stage fright!

The storytellers succeeded in carrying the audience away to memories of their own childhood, with tales of Christmas' past, summer camp, family gatherings, and house guests. I think we all had moments of tender recall–a tear, a laugh, and the fondness of the human spirit, ever present. "The best light entertainment," I heard it said. In the end the mosquitoes took leave of their nightly rounds, entering to surf the wind sent up from the applause. I think we got most all of them!

There are stirrings of an encore next summer.

–Krys Lyle

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