Story Time

blog storytellingStorytellers, poets and musicians perform in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Storytelling is much more than a method for putting children to sleep at night. A group of Santa Cruzan storytellers want to remind people that storytelling invites us to sit back with open ears, minds and hearts, and simply listen, letting the voices of others enthrall our imaginations and take us on a journey within our own minds.

“There are treasures hidden inside [stories], such as how to live a meaningful life,” says Sirena Andrea.

Andrea, a local storyteller and dancer, is most recently known for her presentation of the classic Russian fairytale “The Firebird” at the Santa Cruz Fringe Festival in July. She will be one of the headlining storytellers at the upcoming Santa Cruz Storytelling Festival on Saturday, Aug. 18, where she will be performing Martin Prechtel’s story “Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun: A Mayan Tale of Ecstasy, Time, and Finding One’s True Form.”

“I tell the story the way it’s been told, and keep all the details the same,” Andrea says, adding that she particularly enjoys telling fairytales, myths, legends, and old Grimm stories (of German, Romanian, and Russian descent), not to mention sweet Asian stories that deal primarily with “inner being.” 

Andrea first hopped aboard the storytelling train at the age of 28 while teaching kindergartners at the Tara Redwood School, which is nestled in redwood trees near The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park and promotes a Buddhist philosophy and the creation of compassionate cultures. Around the same time, she became involved with “story circles,” where she would meet with other tellers once a month to swap stories. She has been studying stories for the 15 years since, and amidst much of her worldly traveling, has collected not only stories, but mental images to go with them, as well.

Andrea believes in “moving” the stories, and she intertwines dance, tale, and “Zirzuvi” (what she refers to as Turkish Gypsy music) to do so. ”[It’s] less about acting, and more about the embodiment of the story,” she says, adding, “It’s not like a movie where everyone sees the same image on the screen. Everyone sees the dragon differently. It’s important to keep imagining and sparking original, authentic imagination.”

The upcoming festival has attracted both local and world-acclaimed tellers to perform stories, live music, and euphoric poetry. In addition to the featured array of dynamic storytellers, the evening will include picnicking, “story jamming” (where anyone is free to voice their imagination to the audience), and a closing circle that will end the enchanting evening with fire dancing in the meadow.

Andrea hopes the event will satiate what she believes is a growing hunger for stories. People need stories, she says, because “they are necessary, like bread.”

“These days, it seems as though there’s been a revival, or craving, for storytelling,” she says. “They’re nourishing for our souls, and it’s a nourishment that [the soul] can’t get any other way. … People chew on the stories in their mind, and they seep into their subconscious. [Stories] get people to think about why they’re alive, and inquire and self-diagnose what their life is about.”

The Santa Cruz Storytelling Festival kicks off with a story jam at 5:30 p.m., followed by the main storytelling event from 7 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School Redwood Grove, 2190 Empire Grade, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $15 adults; $12 children and seniors. Tickets available at the door and at brownpapertickets.com. For more information visit SantaCruzStoryTellingFestival.com.

PHOTO of Sirena Andrea performing ‘Firebird.’ Taken by Susan Hill Yard.

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