For four years in a row, the stage at the Coconino Center for the Arts has come alive on selected Sunday afternoons each season of the Stories to Life series.
The series combines a charming alliance of the spoken word, live music and captivating sound effects, to create the perfect setting for the art of storytelling.
All shows are held in the intimate indoor amphitheater at the center, often playing to a packed house as guests fill all 200 seats in the amphitheater.
Again on Sunday, Oct. 14, the series will bring a new batch of wonderful programs, starting with a scary Halloween-inspired event, “Boo! Ghost Stories!” which will feature readings married to the music of “Slugs From Space,” an ensemble of musicians from the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra.
The series is produced through a partnership of FSO, Flagstaff Cultural Partners (FCP) and Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library.
Since September 2008, the partnership has produced 17 thematically-diverse programs and has worked in collaboration with many other local community individuals and groups, such as the Grand Canyon Guitar Society, Flagstaff Unified School District, Theatrikos Theatre Company and the Coconino Community College and NAU theater departments.
This innovative, grant-funded programming is free for the public.
“Stories to Life does exactly what the title implies,” said John Tannous, executive director of FCP. “The program literally brings to life old tales and stories in the imaginations of our audience. Through the talent of spoken-word artists and the beauty of live music and sound effects, story-telling is once again alive as a great way to experience the love of literature.”
Performances are kept to about an hour to stay within the attention span of young people in the audience, with attendance not recommended for children younger than 6.
The lively shows are sure to entertain the young in all of us.
“Who doesn’t love a good story?” asked Robin Cadigan, gallery director for Flagstaff Cultural Partners. “Being read to is such a treat and for most of us, but hasn’t happened in years. Story-time is something that my childhood was filled with and ended when I reached a certain age. Stories to Life is a late-afternoon treat that this month is themed around spooky tales and is for people of all ages.”
Local librarian Judy Finney came up with the concept for the series and is the project manager.
“I talked to Cindy Gould at the symphony and JT (John Tannous), and they both really liked the idea, and we put together a management team,” Finney explained. “I’m very happy with it. We’ve had a lot of people come to our programming who don’t normally attend programs like that and are very positive in their feedback.”
Since its inception, Stories to Life has been nominated for a variety of awards, including the Viola Awards (twice), Governor’s Arts Awards (twice), and National Book Awards, innovations in reading prize (three times).
Local musician and actor Jamey Hasapis, who at the time was a PR staff member at FSO, was also instrumental in getting the series off the ground and serves as the artistic director.
“I come up with the actors, and I come up with the program, pretty much,” he said. “Judy comes up with the literature, and we discuss it. We’ve got four stories we’ve chosen for this next one, then we look at the musical ensemble.
Three readers will read from scary stories by O. Henry, Joyce Carol Oates, Ambrose Bierce and Saki (pen name for Hector Hugh Munro).
Hasapis read in the first two series but now performs exclusively as host.
“It was so much fun we just wanted to do it the next year, and the next, and the next,” he added.
An educational element, which Hasapis also presents to the audience, gives historic background for the authors and their works.
At the heart of the program, classic tales, poems and literature have come to life through the talents of readers against the backdrop of live music from some of Flagstaff’s premier musical ensembles, like Slugs From Space, or SFS.
This string quartet made up of current and former Flagstaff Symphony players:
Kari Barton, violin; Vanessa Miller, violin; Cindy Binkley, viola; and Emily Millhouse, cello.
“We were given our unusual name by the members of the local rock band Whiskey Rodeo when we showed up one night to play rock music at an open-mic night they were hosting,” Binkley said. “We are an unconventional string quartet. While we can and do play much of the traditional, our emphasis is in contemporary literature, including jazz and rock.”
Hasapis is still trying to arrange percussive sound effects for the creepy Halloween program, which he himself participated in several years ago portraying a walking dead man reading Edgar Allan Poe.
His enthusiasm runs high for the series and its goals.
“One of the things that’s glorious about this is it’s a free program for the community,” he said. “Where else are you going to have readers reading for you with music in between?”
Funding for this Stories to Life season is provided by the Friends of the Library.
Betsey Bruner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 556-2255.
IF YOU GO ...
WHAT: Stories to Life, 2012-2013 series
— Boo! Ghost Stories!
Featuring the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra ensemble “Slugs From Space”
Sunday, Oct. 14, at 4 p.m.
— Painted Caravans: The Gypsies
Featuring the live gypsy jazz music of Zazu
Sunday, Nov. 4, at 4 p.m.
— Magical Realism: Short Stories From Latin America
Featuring Classical Guitarist Craig Yarbrough
Sunday, Feb. 10, at 4 p.m.
— Celtic Traditions
Featuring live Celtic music
Sunday, March 10, at 4 p.m.
MORE INFO: Call Flagstaff Cultural Partners at 779-2300 or visit culturalpartners.org/storiestolife.htm.