2/11-12: Storytellers at Arizona Best Fest

Posted on by az100

by Jennifer McClellan – Feb. 6, 2012 04:04 PM
The Republic | azcentral.com

Good stories are powerful things.

They make you laugh or weep, sometimes both at the same time. They enlighten, inspire and make you reflect on your own life.

And telling a story, an experience shared by the speaker and the listener, creates a sense of community.

The Arizona Republic will host the Arizona Storytellers Theatre stage at the Arizona Best Fest on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 11-12. Tens of thousands of people are expected to celebrate the state’s history at the free fest in downtown Phoenix.

Part of the paper’s Arizona Storytellers project, which celebrates the state’s 100th anniversary by showcasing stories of its people, the stage will feature speakers from newsmakers to your next-door neighbors — a champion wrestler with one leg, a World Series winner, a Navajo singer, a cowboy poet, the first female Supreme Court justice, a rock musician who makes wine.

“Arizona was built by people who came here to make a better life,” said Liz Warren, a fourth-generation Arizonan and storyteller coach with the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute. “People are diverse, and they bring all their experiences and history to the state to make it richer.”

Each hour is organized by topic, such as athletes, native Arizonans, reporters, novelists and artists. Each speaker will talk about whatever he or she wants, but listeners can expect to hear narratives of life and death, victories and defeats, love and loss.

New York Times best-selling author J.A. Jance, who was raised in Bisbee and lives part-time in Arizona, will speak around 4 p.m. Sunday.

She said she will share a story reflecting on her time as a librarian telling stories to children on the Tohono O’odham Reservation.

“It’s a fairy tale that I chose because it was a favorite of the kids,” Jance said. “Storytelling crosses all kinds of lines of culture and experience. It binds us together.”

Radmilla Cody, a singer who was selected in 2010 for NPR’s “50 Great Voices” series, will talk about her upbringing as a Navajo Black woman. Cody said she hopes her participation will help “reintroduce tribes to Arizona,” along with newcomers to the state.

“Sometimes the impressions of tribes are shaped by casinos,” she said. “It’s important to share stories of Native people to realize and understand there’s a strong heritage of language, a connection to the land and a geologic diversity around the state.”

The theater, in the middle of the festival near 15th Avenue and Washington Street, will have covered seating as well as chairs outside the tent. There will be large screens outside the tent streaming performances for passers-by.


12:30 to 1:45 p.m.

Nicole Carroll, executive editor, The Arizona Republic, hosts Republic staff

Feature writer Karina Bland’s story about two dads with a houseful of adopted kids gained national attention. She writes the weekly column, “My So-Called Midlife.”

Paola Boivin is a sports columnist who shares concise insights on topics even as she’s finding the fascinating people whose stories she tells.

Movie critic Bill Goodykoontz writes about film, TV and pop culture, both in print and in his popular blog.

News columnist E.J. Montini is a foil for the state’s most powerful people (some of whom still speak to him) and a popular voice for many Arizonans.

Laurie Roberts’ columns on behalf of abused children forced elected officials to confront a broken system and introduced readers to heartbreaking and heartwarming stories.

Steve Benson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist. Readers either love him or hate him, but they can’t resist his cartoons.

2 p.m. (time tentative)

Nicole Carroll hosts

Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where she served for 24 years. She grew up on the sprawling Lazy B cattle ranch in eastern Arizona, where she learned to appreciate the silence, the rain and the stories that fill the empty spaces.

3 p.m.

Dan Bickley, Republic sports columnist, hosts

Anthony Robles wrestled at Arizona State University, earning a perfect 36-0 record his senior year and the 2011 NCAA national championship. He finished his career with the eighth-most wins in school history and posted an equally impressive number of victories at Mesa High School. And he was born with one leg.

Luis Gonzalez grew up in Florida, but Arizonans have adopted him as their own and will always remember his Game 7, World Series-winning hit in 2001 when the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees. Gonzalez now works for the team.

4 p.m.

Megan Finnerty, Republic events editor, hosts

Jim Adkins is a songwriter and the lead singer and guitarist for rock band Jimmy Eat World, founded in Mesa in 1994. The band has sold millions of records, and Adkins’ songs are known for their heartfelt and detail-rich storytelling.

Radmilla Cody is an award-winning Navajo singer and recording artist. She grew up on the Navajo Reservation, where she practiced her singing in the open expanses of the high desert.

Beau MacMillan is a chef known for dishes with American flavors and Asian accents. He has cooked at the James Beard House and the Aspen Food and Wine Classic and has worked at highly rated restaurants around the country.

Dennita Sewell is fashion curator at the Phoenix Art Museum, where she has staged 30 exhibitions. She was previously collections manager at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

5 p.m.

Marilyn Omifunke Torres, professor at the Storytelling Institute at South Mountain Community College, hosts South Mountain Storytelling Institute Faculty

Doug Bland is pastor at the Tempe Community Christian Church, aka “the storytelling church.” He is adjunct faculty at the institute and the executive director for Arizona Interfaith Power & Light.

Harriet Cole comes from New Mexico. She became a storyteller in Arizona, where she received both her academic certificate in storytelling from SMCC and her M.A. in humanities with a focus on storytelling from Prescott College.

As a professor emeritus at ASU, Don Doyle is a co-recipient of the Pied Piper Award for supporting and advocating for quality arts and education programs for young people from Childs Play Inc.

Sul? Greg Wilson — storyteller, musician, dancer, teacher — wrote “The Drummer’s Path” and is co-leader of the Black Banjo Gathering. He has performed in Europe and Africa, and on the Grammy-winning CD “Genuine Negro Jig.”

6 to 8 p.m.

Megan Finnerty hosts the best storytellers from The Republic’s monthly events

Baron Gordon is a mixed-media artist and philanthropist known for his work with the Alpha Monster Artist Collective. He also helped found the Produce art space in Phoenix and entertains and inspires dancers with his chalk drawings at Bar Smith’s Saturday night Solstice parties.

Kindra Hall is a professional storyteller and speaker. A wife and mother, she chronicles tales of fourth-grade love, parenting with the help of Lady Gaga, and setting 101 goals and trying to achieve them in 1,001 days on her website, Kindra Hall Tells All.

Bob Ortega is a senior reporter at The Republic and specializes in investigative pieces. He has worked as vice consul for the State Department in Ecuador, as an assistant professor at Ryerson University, as a Knight International Press Fellow in Paraguay and as a staff reporter at the Wall Street Journal.

Michael Weakley is the deputy director of 1n10 in Phoenix, which serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Weakley has been active in the non-profit field and gay community for more than 10 years, working on such projects as the Alternative, an AIDS Project Arizona program, and the Campaign for International Equality.

Tom Zoellner is a journalist and author, most recently of a book examining what led to the shooting that injured former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Tatiana Hensley is a mobile search and social-media producer at azcentral.com. She was born in Brazil and moved 6,000 miles to the United States to pursue a career in journalism.

Ashley Nauftule is a playwright, essayist and poet. An Arizona native, he is known for his keen, often dry observations and sense of the absurd. He blogs about ephemera at ourladyofdiscord.tumblr.com.

8 p.m.

Megan Finnerty hosts

Maynard James Keenan is a singer and songwriter who fronts rock bands Tool and A Perfect Circle. He started an innovative project called Puscifer that combines music with other performance art. He also owns Merkin Vineyards and the associated winery, Caduceus Cellars, in the Verde Valley.

9 p.m.

Dan Bickley and his band, Whiskey’s Quicker, play. The cover band specializes in classic and alternative rock.


12:30 to 1:45 p.m.

Liz Warren, director of the Storytelling Institute at South Mountain Community College, hosts Culture Keepers and Arizona Storytellers

Dean Cook is a native Arizonan who blends his life experiences and a little imagination into songs, stories and occasional poems about Arizona and the West. An Arizona Culture Keeper, he appears regularly at folk festivals, cowboy gatherings and historical events around the Southwest.

An Arizona Culture Keeper, Dee Strickland Johnson (Buckshot Dot) is a native Arizonan and secondary-school teacher. She has been awarded Cowboy Poetry Book of the Year by the Western Music Association and the Will Rogers Medallion Award for two books by the Academy of Western Artists, where she has also been named Female Cowboy Poet of the Year and a finalist for Female Vocalist and Cowboy Song of the Year.

Michael Mason is a South Mountain Community College student pursuing his degree in elementary education and certification in professional storytelling. Mason is also a youth mentor and aspiring inspirational speaker.

Sandy Oglesby, lifelong resident of Arizona, has been storytelling professionally for more than 20 years. Her favorite tales share Arizona’s lore, legend and history.

Marilyn Omifunke Torres is a professor of storytelling at the college and is an ordained West African traditional storyteller of more than 30 years. She received two chieftaincies in the Nigerian village of Imota and, among her projects, directs both the annual Return to the African Village performance and the Children’s Walk for Peace.

2 p.m.

Liz Warren hosts

Clem W. Condon has been telling stories all his life. A graduate of the Storytelling Institute, he tells stories at many events and volunteers his talents at retirement homes and schools.

Laura Rutherford is an Arizona native and a second-generation storyteller. She loves reciting stories about growing up in central Phoenix and is passionate about sharing Arizona history through story.

3 p.m.

Mark Curtis, 12 News anchor, hosts

Dan O’Brien won an Olympic gold medal in 1996 in the decathlon. He also won three world titles in the sport and continues to work as a television commentator.

Two other Olympians to be named.

4 and 5 p.m.

Scott Light, co-host on 12 News’ “EVB Live,” hosts

J.A. Jance is the best-selling author of a series of crime novels set in Cochise County, where her main character, Joanna Brady, is sheriff. A second series is set in Seattle, a third in Sedona and a fourth in and around Tucson.

Martha Beck is the author of more than a half-dozen books, including one about giving birth to a child with Down syndrome and another about her experiences in the Mormon Church and her decision to leave it.

Stella Pope Duarte is a teacher, lecturer and author, whose novel “If I Die in Juarez” won an American Book Award and the 2008 Arizona Book of the Year.

Aprilynne Pike is the best-selling author of a series about a girl who discovers she is a faerie and must learn to live in her two worlds.

Lisa McMann is the best-selling author of a series about a 17-year-old who can see other people’s dreams.

Tom Leveen is the author of the young-adult novel “Party,” a story of how the lives of a group of young people intersect.

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