Q&A: Storyteller Not Shy with a Good Tale
The Gazette, Schenectady, NY.
November 16, 2008.
Kate Dudding was always a bit shy and still gets a little nervous when she speaks in front of people. Still, when she hears a great story, the first thing she wants to do is share it with others.
Dudding will be doing exactly that today at 2 p.m. at the GE Theatre at Proctors in downtown Schenectady as part of
“Tellebration 2008.” A benefit event designed to underwrite other storytelling events at area libraries and musuems, “Tellebration” will feature presentations by eight storytellers, all from the Capital Region.
Dudding, a Fairfield, Conn., native, moved to the area in 1978 when both she and her husband were offered jobs by the General Electric Co. She began telling stories in 1995 soon after becoming involved with the Story Circle of the Capital District. Earlier this year, she won an
Oracle Award from the National Storytelling Network for work and service to her local organization.
Q: How did you get into storytelling?
A: I started going to storytelling performances when my son was young and I just fell in love with the art form. The first time I got up and told a story was at Camp Chingachgook when my son was in fourth grade and had an overnight program there. Each cabin was supposed to present something. So I had recently heard a story, “Why the Bear had a Stubby Tail,” and I thought to myself, ‘I could do that.’ I had the seven girls in my cabin each play one of the animals that the bear ran into in the forest, and I was the bear. It worked. It was a lot of fun.
Q: How did you become good at it?
A: I started going to weekend workshops. I studied under Jeannine Laverty up in Saratoga Springs; she’s a great storytelling teacher. And then I also worked with Elizabeth Ellis, a Dallas, TX storyteller / teacher whom I met at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck. I went to different conferences and monthly meetings of the Story Circle of the Capital District. I really got into it.
Q: What kind of stories do you tell?
A: I concentrate on telling stories with history in them. I found those are the stories I love the most. The stories are about people who made a difference, and it’s not necessarily famous people. If it is, I focus on their work and what drove them to do their work. Their possessions and their lifestyles are of no interest to me. So, almost all the stories I tell are nonfiction.
Q: Is the art of storytelling different from the other arts?
A: It is different. I think that the experience of storytelling involves three key elements. There is the story, the storyteller and the listener. But it’s not as if I’m an opera singer and I’m singing an aria and people are going to critically evaluate every note I hit or almost hit. What we’re doing in storytelling is creating a story together. The words I choose to express my story trigger the memories and feelings of the listeners and reminds them of their past experiences. All storytellers tell their story, but each listener hears their own version of it.
Q: What makes a good storyteller?
A: The desire to share a story and the willingness to work on their craft.
Q: What story are you going to tell at “Tellebration 2008?”
A: It’s an adaptation of a traditional folk tale about a tailor who makes himself a long coat. He wears it out, and so he cuts it down to a short jacket, and when he wears that down he cuts it down to a vest, etc., until all that’s left is the story. I don’t usually tell stories about myself, but my adaptation of this one is partially autobiographical. (See page 2 of this
pdf file for a copy of this story.)
Q: Do you get nervous before telling a story?
A: Well, I’ve never thrown up before a performance, but I still always get a little bit nervous. But that’s OK because I think the extra adrenalin just helps the performance.
Q: What can first-time visitors to a storytelling program like “Tellebration 2008” expect?
A: We have eight storytellers, all from the Capital Region, and typically one of their stories will take anywhere from five to 20 minutes. It’s all about sharing the human experience. People who enjoy the theater, and who like things such as Garrison Keillor’s “News from Lake Wobegon,” will probably fall in love with storytelling.