PEPER COLUMN: Charleston Tells worth a listen
Every so often, one of Tim Lowry's stories will end “happily ever after.” Most of the 100 stories he keeps at-the-ready, though, are more often completed with this tag line: “And that was the end of that.”
Lowry's been a professional storyteller since 1999. Five years prior to that, he was a tour guide and a teacher.
His abilities to capture your attention and take your imagination to places only you can determine will be on display with many others at the first Charleston Tells Festival on March 8-9.
Lowry uses voice inflection, facial expressions and sometimes even a kazoo to take his listeners on a magical journey. Since every person's mind is wired with his own individual experiences, the same story might connect with many different emotions.
The morning I heard some of Lowry's stories, he rolled up his sleeves and took command of some excited second-graders at Oakland Elementary School in West Ashley. There was a folktale about the North Wind. A fairy tale from Europe that prompted “oohs and aahs.” Plus, a yarn with roots in Appalachia that required the youngsters do nothing but listen and believe.
All along the way, Lowry might use a squeaky voice ... then a deep, guttural tone. He could easily transition from a Russian accent to a backwoods hillbilly. The stories were full of detail and pacing and timing.
Lost in space
The idea for Charleston Tells started with Douglas Henderson, the executive director of the Charleston County Library. Henderson shares a concern that “telling a story” is about to be lost in our culture. Why? We don't talk to each other as much anymore.
That time lost around the dinner table or even the shared experiences at group gatherings are evaporating with every additional technological advancement that supposedly improves our lives.
In Sunday's Arts & Travel section, you'll see more on the who, what, when and why of this new festival.
Lowry lets his audience dictate the direction his stories will take. Clearly, when watching wide-eyed second-graders hang on every word, he knows how to bring them along for the ride. His tour-guiding days also evoked more than one or two sideway glances from tourists wondering if they'd climbed aboard the right carriage.
A good story touches people. When a good story and a good storyteller meet each other, the product is a moment that transcends age, race, culture or any other considerations that seem to separate us.
Lowry's stories include topics as varied as the social significance of seersucker as well as what he describes as “growing up Baptist.”
In October, Lowry's been invited for the first time to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn. Some of the world's best storytellers have been spinning their yarns in this mountain town for the past 40 years. He's also proud that his new hometown will have its very first such festival next Friday and Saturday.
It's definitely another good excuse for people to visit the Lowcountry. It's also another opportunity for those of us who live here to experience an art form that appeals to all ages.
As Lowry would say, “And that's the end of that.”
Reach Warren Peper at 937-5577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: Charleston Tells Storytelling Festival
When: Friday and March 9
Where: Wragg Square and Second Presbyterian Church
info: 805-6930 or ccpl.org for tickets and schedule.