Competition tests strength in stretching truth

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Judy Allton weaves a tale about being a chef at the South Pole during the Texas Storytelling Festival’s Liars Contest on Saturday at the Denton Civic Center.
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One by one, each of the six “Olympians” took the stage at the Denton Civic Center on Saturday to display their storytelling abilities rather than athletic talent.

One recounted the tale of running over a frog with a lawnmower. Another told how she and a village used to prepare for Christmas by not bathing for weeks. A different storyteller talked of a voyage to Antarctica where she was the chef for the traveling scientists. In turn, they were all met with laughter from the audience.

In the eight- to 10-minute performances, one by one, the six storytellers and alleged Olympians took the stage to recount some of their craziest tales. But they definitely weren’t telling the truth, and they definitely weren’t Olympians — as event emcee Darlene DuFour claimed in each individual introduction.

Storytellers competed to be named the best liar in the Liars Contest, an annual competition included at the festival, which concludes today.

A longstanding storytelling tradition, the fun is not to dupe or trick audience members, but to exaggerate for the sake of entertainment, said Elizabeth Ellis, the festival’s artistic director.

“Think of this as a modern adaptation of the men who used to sit around the courthouse on the benches and whittle and try to outdo one another with what they could tell,” she said. “It’s a long-traditional form of storytelling — stretching the truth for fun, to entertain people.”

Similar to an extended stand-up comedy bit, each performer recounted a humorous story using imagery and plot, sometimes pulling out the stops or delivering one-liners. Judy Allton, who recounted cooking on a ship to Antarctica, even used some props and came dressed in a parka with an apron underneath the jacket.

Instead of one of the top three cash prizes — up to $25 — she won a set of coin roll wrappers.

“This is to begin your war chest for your political campaign that we know you’re going to be in,” DuFour said.

The two other contestants who didn’t place in the top three received olive oil and a bar of soap.

The contest was one of a number of events Saturday at the festival, which concludes Sunday with several free events.

At 9:30 a.m., there will be a “Sacred Tales” concert and a closing concert of the featured tellers at 11:30 a.m.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.



What: The 29th annual Texas Storytelling Festival concludes today.

Where: Events are at the Denton Civic Center, 321 E. McKinney St., unless otherwise noted.

Details: Tickets for individual events cost $10 for concerts and $50 for master classes, with discounts for Tejas Storytelling Association members.

On the Web:

Asterisks indicate events that will include an American Sign Language interpreter.


8 to 9 a.m. — Labyrinth Walk with Dallas Storytelling Guild, main stage

8 to 11a.m. — Master Class: “Journeys Through Midrash, Biblical Texts and Storytelling,” Peninnah Schram, Denton Woman’s Club Building, 610 Oakland St.

9:30 to 11 a.m. — *Sacred Tales concert, main stage (free)

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — *Closing concert of featured tellers, main stage

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