Nanaimo’s Around Town Tellers – Laurie Hutchinson, Lee Porteous, host Ann Ronald, Rachel Dunstan Muller and Pat Forrest – present Around the World in 60 Minutes at the Nanaimo Fringe Festival. (Photo courtesy Chuck Easton)

Around Town Tellers return to Nanaimo Fringe Festival

Tellers presenting original stories and folk tales from around the world

A storytelling group will be taking audiences on a tour of the world at the Nanaimo Fringe Festival.

The Around Town Tellers, who hold regular storytelling events at Nanaimo’s Unitarian Hall, are returning to the festival after a one-year absence to present Around the World in 60 Minutes. In the production, tellers Pat Forrest, Laurie Hutchinson, Rachel Dunstan Muller and Lee Porteous will present folktales and original stories from five continents.

Hutchinson will be telling a story about the time she was caught in a storm during a kayaking trip off of Tofino. As she’ll be shortening the story to fit the Fringe time constraints she said she’ll be emphasizing the dramatic parts.

“Hopefully I have enough time to create the scene that gives the impact of what I went through,” she said. “And it was my first offshore kayak trip. It was a really, really amazing experience and the ocean does things you never dreamed of unless you’re actually there and it’s something that stays with you forever.”

Porteous will bring audiences to the other side of the Pacific Rim with folk tales from Japan and Australia. The Japanese story involves Jizo, the Buddhist protector of children, wanderers and the lost, a curious group of monkeys and a human they mistake for a statue. The Australian tale is about “how the moon came into the sky and death came into the world.”

“I have a friend I was telling it to and she says, ‘This is a horrible story. It’s got people dying and bullying,’ and I said, ‘No, it’s one of the most beautiful stories I know,’” Porteous said.

Forrest, who only starting storytelling just over a year ago, will be presenting a story that originates from the Limba people of Sierra Leone. It describes a strength competition between the animals that takes a turn when a human joins in.

“It’s fun at the beginning of the story with the animals all showing off their strength and then it kind of comes back to reality,” she said.

Muller is telling an original story set in Ireland that draws on the mythology of that country’s folklore. It follows an in-demand midwife, who has never been able to carry a child of her own, as she’s sought after by a pregnant faerie.

“On the surface it is a folk tale-type story but my stories often deal with deeper themes,” Muller said. “And so there’s the theme of infertility, adopting challenging children, otherness, unconditional love, all of those are strands in the story.”

The Around Town Tellers perform without scripts, reciting their stories from memory and reacting to the audience, making each performance unique. Porteous said while an evening’s crowd will only hear each story once, the tellers get to listen every night.

“You’d think that was boring but it’s actually quite fun,” she said. “No story comes out exactly the same every time we tell it and sometimes by the end of the week the story has considerable differences.”

WHAT’S ON … The Nanaimo Fringe Festival free preview performance takes place at Harbour City Theatre, 25 Victoria Rd., on Aug. 8 at 8 p.m. Festival continues through Aug. 17. Individual show ticket $12, festival pass $50. Attendees must purchase $5 membership button. Tickets available online.

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