Not many people work in an environment that values acting like an animal and excessive exaggeration.
Not many people, however, tell stories for a living.
John Stansfield, 60-year-old former elementary teacher and long-time storyteller, makes a career out of a universe in which rattlesnakes chew bubblegum and monsters brush their teeth with blueberry jam.
The impact of storytelling in Stansfield's classroom fueled his founding role in the inception of the Rocky Mountain Storytelling Festival. He wanted a medium for regional storytelling: something summery and festive, invoking all of the history and flavor of the Southwest.
Even in today's visual age, Stansfield explains, movies and radio are just different forms of storytelling with higher technology: "Humans are storytelling creatures; that's how we evolved. But it's important to save a dance or two for the one that brought us."
Now in its 20th year, the festival draws the best regional storytelling talent, including New Mexico author Joe Hayes and Cherokee flutist-minister Bailey Phelps.
Oral tradition may be older than technology, but it is not without props and tools. Common visual and auditory aids include: puppets, arrowheads, balloon art, African djembes, bongos and lasso rope tricks. Many regional storytellers today draw deeply from folklore and Colorado history, researching and retelling tirelessly to the festival's audiences of extremely varied ages.
"A good story is pretty easy to define," says Stansfield. "It tickles their funnybone, makes them laugh, makes them cry, scares the hell out of them."
Rocky Mountain Storytelling Festival
Kirk Hall, Douglas County Fairgrounds, 500 Fairgrounds Drive, Castle Rock
Friday, July 25, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Palmer Lake Elementary School, 115 Upper Glenway, Palmer Lake
Saturday, July 26, 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
For pricing, concert and workshop information, call 303/660-5849 or visit colo-performingartists.com/festival.
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