Sharing the Riches of Stories
by Mike Piekarski, Times Union, Albany, NY.
December 24, 2008.
Kate Dudding's "aha!" moment occurred at a children's summer camp in 1995. She was a chaperone for her son's fourth-grade class at Camp Chingachgook in Lake George when she realized her life's calling.
Around a fireplace at the camp's lodge, Dudding and the eight girls in her cabin performed an American Indian story about why Bear has a stubby tail. As Dudding, the narrator and Bear, and each of the girls spoke, the audience of about a hundred youngsters was captivated.
"The crowd just loved it," said Dudding, 58, a Clifton Park resident. "It was that night that I knew I needed to pursue storytelling. I had no idea where it would lead, but I knew I would regret it if I did not. Since then, I've come to consider storytelling my vocation."
In the ensuing years, Dudding has compiled an impressive resume. She has told her stories at
a plethora of venues, including the New York Historical Society in New York City, the Clearwater Festival in Croton-on-Hudson, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., and First Night Saratoga; has had articles published in newsletters and magazines; and has produced two compact discs, including her latest,
"People Who Made a Difference: Volume 1," which came out last month.
Her first CD,
"Lighting the Way Home: Stories of Lighthouses and Their Keepers," was a Parents' Choice-approved award winner of 2007, one of only six storytelling CDs to be recognized that year.
Dudding, a native of Fairfield, Conn., moved to the Capital Region in 1977 along with her husband, Jerry, after both were offered jobs at General Electric, she at the company's Niskayuna facility, he at GE Silicones in Waterford.
Following her experience at Camp Chingachgook, Dudding told her first public story at a children's holiday party at GE in December 1995. The following February, she decided to get serious, attending weekly workshops conducted by storyteller Jeannine Laverty of Saratoga Springs.
From Laverty, she learned that each story needs a beginning, a middle, an end, a conflict and a resolution. But there was more.
"With storytelling, there are storytellers, the story, and there are the listeners," she said. "The listeners help create the story with their own imaginations. Each of them hears their own story, filtered through their life experiences."
Dudding started off telling mostly children's stories, such as folk tales, personal narratives and myths, but after leaving GE about five and a half years ago, she sought out adult audiences.
"I found I was most intrigued by creating stories set in history," said Dudding, who has a master's degree in computer science and a B.A. in psychology. "I could give a voice to people from the past. My goal is to make a story, not a lecture."
"She's got a real gift for it — taking historical stories and bringing them to life so that they're meaningful to us today," said Gert Johnson of Niskayuna, leader of the Interfaith Story Circle of the Tri-City Area and a sounding board for Dudding. "She does meticulous research on the material. She'll not only read the facts, she'll read what people have written about (the person)." In addition to her day job as a storyteller, Dudding is co-producer of
Story Circle at Proctor's in Schenectady, a resident storytelling company that performs nearly 20 events a year.
Her self-published CDs, recorded live and produced by sound engineer
Barry Marshall, can be purchased through
her web site. Her first CD also is available at the New York Folklore Society on Jay Street in Schenectady.