Storytelling makes its way to backyards and living rooms along Wasatch Front
Jul 25, 2018 01:49PM
By City Journals Staff
Cherie Davis recounts a true story of Deborah Sampson, a woman who enlisted to fight in the Revolutionary War, as a man. (Amy Green/City Journals)
By Amy Green | [email protected]
When the words “house concert” are mentioned, one might think of a party thrown by high school kids (without permission) while homeowners are gone for the weekend. A sketchy rockfest, with neighbors complaining, and the Five-0 showing up to lay down the law, to the wild and noisy.
There’s a calmer type of house concert happening locally, law-enforcement free, and not so risky—a storytelling party. These are low-key and usually targeted to teens and adults. It’s not just for mean girls and hot guys—everyone is welcome and invited. The concerts are relaxed with refreshments after, organized by Story Crossroads, people who do events that have no awkward, exclusive or destructive end.
Story Crossroads brings professional storytellers to Utah each year for performances and events. In addition to larger festivals, the group arranges a monthly house concert fundraising series to offer arts year round and to bolster funds to bring storytellers to the stage. This ongoing series helps keep the Story Crossroads Festival going strong, and it’s done at neighborhood homes all along the Wasatch Front.
On June 30, Cherie Davis brought a patriotic style of storytelling to West Jordan for an evening of fundraising and entertaining. She recounted a true story of Deborah Sampson, a woman who enlisted to fight in the Revolutionary War, as a man. Davis has a talent for narrating and doing first-person dialogue. She performed in the backyard of host-couple Lorna and Danny Young, who offered up their outdoor terrace for two hours of relaxing entertainment.
The Youngs’ backyard had chirping birds and evening sunlight through shade trees. The distant crack of fireworks heard around the neighborhood was perfect ambiance for Davis’s story of gunfire, pre-industry and duplicity. Bob Davis accompanied with guitar, and Teresa Winkler on flute, added a time-hopping melody to parts of the story. Audience member Julie Kemp complimented Davis saying, “She did an excellent job. It was also educational. I liked having the music added. That made a difference with the feeling of authenticity.”
Signing up to host is an option for anyone interested in bringing storytelling to a space. The website www.storycrossroads.com has information on hosting guidelines, and a list of currently scheduled events. House concerts can stretch from North Ogden to Payson.
Cherie Davis is proof that one doesn’t need a fancy costume or traditional theater to tell a captivating story. She came in modern clothing, yet transported her audience to a time when females had few opportunities—a place where war wounds were left to fester. She re-created an era that frowned on educating women, when yellow fever was not a dance but a death sentence.
Davis got her start in 2000 saying, “At church, I told a Bible story. Someone told me to join the Storytelling Guild.” She’s been reciting stories ever since. Davis has a gentle yet persuading voice, fitting to retell another woman’s story of endurance and tenacity. She also co-authored a book (available on Amazon.com) called “Spooks and Saints,” a compilation of legendary Utah ghost stories.
This fundraising series helps maintain events with Utah’s treasure trough of storytellers like Davis. Bring whatever ticket price.
“House concert donations help the artists with income to cover time and cost,” Organizer Rachel Hedman said. Money is appreciated at the door for a donation, but it’s not absolutely mandatory to see a house concert. There is no cap or minimum on how much one can donate. Bring a pocket full of change or some serious art-supporter cash.
Each house concert is a unique adventure out. Come alone even, or bring that dicey Tinder date. These events could be a great option to bring a parent or grandparent. The next story is Saturday, Aug. 18 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. featuring Paige Funk in West Jordan. Email [email protected] to RSVP for a seat.
There is a grassroots feel to the experience of hearing stories up close on a patio or portico. It’s a detail storytellers and their audiences seem to love. Part of the experience is to have an intimate setting—a teller standing at a fireplace mantle or by the clubhouse pool. It can be simple or elaborate, however a host chooses to set the atmosphere. Anyone can host without a “Pinterest” home. It’s all about the company, the stories, the art, the fun and keeping Story Crossroads Festival happening every pulchritudinous year in Utah.
Cherie Davis’s stories easily move one to feel grateful for a modern independent America, where a man, or woman, can choose to host a house concert or try their hand at telling a far out gender rule-bending biography. When the story ends—the audience returns to 2018, with a renewed appreciation for freedom and maybe the urge to look up history, or a word like “pulchritudinous.”