Ask Homestead Montessori school owner Betty Calabrese what most people usually think of as storytelling, and she'll say, "a bunch of preschool children sitting around the knees of a grandmother reading to them." It's an inaccurate notion, and one Calabrese is quick to correct. "It's totally changed," she reports. "Today it's more adult entertainment." Well, perhaps not "adult entertainment" in the smutty sense. But storytelling and festivals that celebrate the art are indeed family affairs.
With family fun in mind, nearly as many yarn spinners as yarns will be featured at this weekend's debut Storytelling Festival in Historic Homestead. Presented by Friends of the Seminole Theatre, a group that helps in the restoration efforts of downtown Homestead's historic-landmark movie house (currently being transformed into a state-of-the-art multi-use performance center), the three-day event will offer workshops, a parade of costumed characters, musical entertainment, a buffet dinner, and tons of tales told by a variety of tellers.
An ambitious lineup includes three nationally renowned narrators: David Holt, a three-time Grammy Award winner whose mission is to preserve traditional American storytelling and songs; Heather Forrest, who relates anecdotes in the style of a minstrel; and Antonio Sacre, a Chicago-based Cuban American who grew up in Miami and tells stories in Spanglish. Other regional and local wordsmiths include Lucrece Louisdhon from Haiti, Rod Hendrick from Hernando, and Linda Spitzer from Miami.
Inspired by the delight her students exhibited during a visit to Tennessee's huge five-day Jonesborough Storytelling Festival, Betty Calabrese decided to create a similar albeit smaller celebration (Jonesborough attracts upward of 20,000 people) set in her hometown, a first for South Florida. "I saw complete joy on the faces of these kids," she recalls, "and these are teenagers who don't want you to know how they feel about things. They had the greatest old time." As did Calabrese, who was very impressed by what she saw and heard.
In fact seeing, hearing, and learning is what a storytelling festival is all about. There's more to this event than just lolling around passively. Kids can brush up their tale-telling skills in seminars and participate in a competition. Adults can pick up storytelling tips too, or just shop, eat, and enjoy performances by mimes, singers, dancers, and buskers.
For a city still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Andrew, the thought of downtown humming for an entire weekend is an exciting prospect. Calabrese hopes to make the fest a yearly occurrence. And why not? As she says, "It's good, clean fun."