Storytelling festival gets off to scary start

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Al Key/DRC
Motoko performs Friday morning during the Texas Storytelling Festival at the Denton Civic Center.
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The audience didn’t bring flashlights or sit around a campfire but got chills just the same as at a childhood campout Thursday night as master storytellers brought out their scary-best for the opening night of the Texas Storytelling Festival.

About 100 people sat in the semi-darkness of the Denton Civic Center to listen, shudder and howl as Toni Simmons, Jiann Powers, DeCee Cornish, Motoko and others told increasingly frightening haunts as the night deepened.

The festival is in its 28th year and features not only ghost stories but story concerts and storytelling workshops. The festival runs through midday Sunday at the Civic Center. Workshops include not only learning how to tell scary stories but also storytelling activities designed for children.

Powers of Dallas told a story of a young girl who goes to the cemetery at twilight to retrieve her father’s cane and falls under the spell of a dead man. He captures her for the night to carry out his evil deeds. By dawn, she overcomes his powers and, instead of succumbing to her own death, uses what she learned that night to live a long and happy life.

Scary stories are popular because they set up boundaries where listeners can explore ideas on life’s edges, Powers said.

“It teaches us survival and that we can survive stuff that happens to us,” Powers said.

Cornish shared a black-Seminole folk tale that explained why dogs have been invited to share human homes.

Cornish’s storytelling, even though grounded in tradition, often contains contemporary elements. He had a different take on why scary stories are popular.

“It’s the cheapest adrenaline rush you can get,” Cornish said. “You don’t have to bungee jump, or go 200 mph in a race car, or go to court with your ex-wife.”

Individual tickets start at $10 and are available at the door for individual concerts. Workshop tickets cost $15. For more information, visit

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is



Here is a schedule for the Texas Storytelling Festival, which runs through Sunday at the Denton Civic Center, at the intersection of McKinney Street and Bell Avenue.



* 9 to 10:30 a.m. — Family Concert

* 9 to 10:30 a.m. — Workshop E: Sing A Story, Tell A Song with Fran Stallings

* 9 to 10:30 a.m. — Workshop F: Telling the Stories of African and African-American Cultures with DeCee Cornish

* 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. — Liars Contest

* 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. — Workshop G: Making a Story Sandwich: Stretchers Between Stories with Kim Lehman

* 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. — Workshop H: A Conversation With Andy Offutt Irwin

* 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. — Kids meet the tellers

* 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. — Lunch and story swaps

* 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. — Affiliate guild meeting

* 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. — Kids activities lunch and story swap

* 1:30 to 3 p.m. — Afternoon Concert

* 1:30 to 3 p.m. — Workshop I: Voices from the Past: Crafting and Telling Historical Tales with Willy Claflin

* 1:30 to 3 p.m. — Workshop J: Cultural Authenticity and Accuracy: Issues and Challenges for Storytellers with Dr. Judi Moreillon

* 1:30 to 3 p.m. — Fringe Concert One

* 1:30 to 3 p.m. — Kids Activities Storytelling Workshop

* 3:15 to 4:45 p.m. — Workshop K: Ogres, Demons and Jealous Spirits: Introduction to Japanese Ghost Stories with Motoko

* 3:15 to 4:45 p.m. — Workshop L: Storytelling and Critical Thinking with Charles Temple

* 3:15 to 4:45 p.m. — Fringe Concert Two

* 3:15 to 4:45 p.m. — Kids Activities Story Coaching

* 5 to 7 p.m. — Talespinner Dinner and Silent Auction

* 7 to 7:30 p.m. — Pre-show music with Sleepy Creek

* 7:30 to 10 p.m. — Evening Concert of Featured Tellers, presentation of John Henry Faulk Award



* 8 to 9 a.m. — Labyrinth Walk with Reagin Hults

* 8 to 9 a.m. — Master Class with Andy Offutt Irwin

* 9:30 to 11 a.m. — Sacred Tales Concert

* 9:30 to 11 a.m. — Ribbons of Remembrance

* 9:30 to 11 a.m. — Master Class continues

* 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Closing Concert of Featured Tellers

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