StoL past Halloween

Visitors enjoy the storied offerings of a past Stories to Life event. Stories to Life: Stranger Things Have Happened will be Oct. 30, at the Coconino Center for the Arts. Courtesy photo.

With the ultimate fright night around the corner, the Stories to Life series is conjuring its eighth season beginning with a spooky Halloween-themed collection of “Tales to Chill the Bones."

Born of a partnership between the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library and the Flagstaff Arts Council, Stories to Life has built a sterling reputation on presenting diverse programming audiences devour. Project Manager Judy Finney and Artistic Director Jamey Hasapis have been elated to present a combination of genres and methods of storytelling that has garnered multiple awards including the Governor’s Arts Awards and the National Book Award for Innovation in Reading.

Stories to Life takes place at the Coconino Center for the Arts Sunday, Oct. 18 at 4 p.m. The event is free on behalf of funding from the Friends of the Flagstaff Public Library. To learn more, call 779-2300 or visit www.flagartscouncil.org.

Rooted in the past

For the first time in the series’ history, “Tales to Chill the Bones” storytellers Tony Norris, AnnaDel Paxton and M. Henry Hall will recount popular folktales originating entirely in oral tradition. Each tale was chosen for its in-person impact, rather than simply words on a page. Between self-styled music, the tellers will interpret classic folktales including “La Llorona,” “Two White Horses” and “The Golden Arm.”

Like many folktales, their origins are murky. “La Llorona,” Spanish for “The Weeping Woman,” is continually set on the banks of a Southwest river. One variation speaks of a woman named Maria. Scorned by her husband, she turns on her sons and drags them into the river. As their bodies float downstream, Maria realizes what she’s done and spends the rest of her days wailing next to the water.

Though wildly entertaining, many folk stories lend a moral. It is said Maria appears dressed in white to children who disobey their mothers.

“The Golden Arm” warns of greed, and fits perfectly within the gutsy Halloween framework. But the ending must be precisely delivered for optimum effect. Oral tradition, especially in retelling scary stories, relies on a number of devices. Timing is the most important when delivering the perfect fright.

“It’s like sitting around a campfire,” Hasapis said of these devices, adding some stories are scary and others have a sense of humor. “I think each storyteller has their own way of telling that story.”

The director notes in the past, readings of classic horror and suspense included authors like Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dahl, but this year’s Halloween show is a slight departure from their previous literary foundation. It also turns the attention from a separate ensemble to the storytellers, who are all also accomplished musicians, providing their own songs.

“I love music, I love literature and I love doing stuff for the community,” Hasapis added. “It’s so important to have something that’s educational and entertaining at the same time. How many opportunities do you get to provide a free event and involve people in the community?”

Finney explained the series always kicks off with Halloween because of the mutual appreciation between Flagstaff and the library.

“It doesn’t get much more fun than to work with these musicians and spoken-word performers who embrace the spooky magic of the season,” she said. “My goal in the eight years we’ve been doing Stories to Life has always been to create quality original programming that’s free for the audience.”

Continuing traditions

The management team is exceedingly proud of the series’ accomplishments. From spotlighting talented local families like the champion hoop dancers, the Jones Benally family and artist Ed Kabotie telling stories of father Michael Kabotie’s murals on display at the Museum of Northern Arizona, each installment captures the vibrant essence of the community and literature.

The eighth season of Stories to Life will continue with two more shows in 2016. On February 7, “The National Park Service — 100 Years of Preserving America” will highlight the importance of our parks, especially Grand Canyon, with musical accompaniment from the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra’s ensemble, the Ponderosa Players.

To add to the program, Hasapis noted the team is searching for historic readings, letters and essays surrounding the parks.

April 3 will feature the stories of “Blue Hawaii.” A musical group from Prescott will come to Flagstaff and present native Hawaiian stories including a hula dance set to ukulele tunes.

“Music is a really big part of our lives,” Hasapis added. “Look at Pickin’ in the Pines … it brings us together. Stories and music bring people together whether it’s at home or in a larger expanse. It tells a lot about our culture.”

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