Stories a Slam Dunk
Spotlight News, Schenectady, NY.
August 23, 2010
by Alyssa Jung
When she saw three teenagers—one Jewish, another Hindu and the other Muslim—sitting in a storytelling circle laughing and joking about a legendary Jewish “village of fools," it left her awestruck, said Kate Dudding.
“I was so struck by that because for one reason, how many places in the world would you find a Jew, Hindu and Muslim sitting together as friends and sharing stories? Second, who would have imagined one path to world peace had to do with a village of fools?” said Dudding, of Clifton Park.
Dudding has been a storyteller for 15 years now, giving up her job as a computer scientist with GE’s Global Research Center to pursue a far freer yet equally intricate life as a teller of tales.
“I fell in love with the art form. I did a little of it, just mimicking other storytellers I’d heard, and I realized if I didn’t pursue it, I’d regret it the rest of my life,” said Dudding, who was introduced to storytelling when her son was young at the New York State Museum. “It just spoke to me. It’s a very personal art form because the storyteller is in the same room, looking into the eyes of listeners, reacting to what listeners are doing … It’s very intimate where the storyteller is present and acknowledging that they [and the audience] are sharing this experience together.”
Dudding used her storytelling prowess to win top prize in a Story Slam at the 2010 National Storytelling Conference in Los Angeles in early August. Around 100 people attended the conference and 11 names were picked out of a hat for a chance to tell their story at the slam. Hers was the last name chosen and with her story of the three youth from different faiths, she won the competition.
The three youth her story centered around are part of a local youth interfaith storytelling group called Children at the Well. She serves as their webmaster and supporter.
“For five years, teenagers from different faith communities have gotten together and learned how to tell stories from their own faith traditions,” said Dudding. “At the end of each year’s activities, there’s a performance and what I enjoy even more than the stories and food everyone brings to share, is how the kids interact before and after the program. They’re just teenagers, grouped together, talking, gesturing and clearly friends.”
Dudding said her experience with Children at the Well is an honor and has made a lasting impression.
“I really believe it is the path to world peace. Storytelling has been used in the reconciliation process in norther Ireland and South Africa for years. It’s a very powerful tool that can bring people of diverse backgrounds together,” said Dudding. “Once you’ve heard someone’s story you can no longer hate them; you may not like them, but you can’t hate them as the unknown other.”
She said she makes it a point to attend as many storytelling gatherings as possible.
“Since 2000, I’ve gone to every National Storytelling Conference there’s been. I go to the New England Storytelling Conference every year and take weekend workshops with various storytellers,” said Dudding.
To make storytelling a life, Dudding has taken on the role of an organizer, running various programs for adults, families and schools, like a storytelling dinner series at Glen Sanders Mansion which is entering its 12th season. She also has a storytelling series at Proctor’s in September, going into its 4th season. A full list of her programs is available at katedudding.com.