Monday, May 15, 2023

Myths, Vikings, nostalgia: International Storytelling Festival in Budapest

The 10th International Theater Olympics is currently happening in Budapest, and as part of the event series, Karinthy Theater decided to put on a storytelling festival! I attended as part of the audience, and immediately felt at home: I got to hear some of my favorite storytellers, and after 11 years, we had a mini-reunion with tellers from the second Holnemvolt Festival, Berecz András and the Paramythokores trio. For three days, the theater created a friendly community of tellers, listeners, and a dedicated organizing staff.

On Friday, I was reunited with my three lovely Greek friends the Talemaidens (Paramythokores), whom I had last seen in Athens for the MythOff we did together. We took a boat trip on the Danube, ate some Hungarian street food, and caught up, enjoying each other's company despite the pouring rain. In the afternoon, I returned to the theater to attend Tom Muir's show of folktales from Orkney. I have met Tom at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in Edinburgh last year, and it was great to hear him tell old stories about sea serpents, fairy hills, Viking battles and hidden islands. The performance had a Hungarian interpreter (all of them did) who did a great job of translating the tales' language into eloquent and expressive Hungarian. (You can buy Tom's book of Orkney tales here!)

On Saturday, the Greek ladies of Paramythokores told the Greek myths of Europa, Semele, and Athene, with their usual humor and brilliance, and a lot of music. Their interpreter, Edit, was an especially good choice; she found herself in the stories, and made an entertaining addition to the trio. After Greek mythology, Berecz András did his linguistically elaborate, hilariously funny performance of Hungarian folk humor, wisdom, and eloquence that had us in tears of laughter for ninety minutes straight. He is the greatest master of Hungarian storytelling; he is near impossible to translate, but you can trust me on this. I especially loved that he opened his show with the myth of Momus. Very fitting. The last performer of the day was Piret Päär from Estonia. She is a graceful, soft-spoken teller, who can bring out the magic in old folktales with a single smiling look. She connected the tales with stories from her own life, stringing them one after the other, and especially enjoyed showing us the wisdom of tradition. After the story of The happy man's shirt, she asked the audience to come up with new endings to the tale, and had a lovely conversation with us.

On Sunday the featured tellers had a roundtable meeting with the audience where they spoke about their work and experiences. They talked about difficult situations where stories won the day; turning points in their lives, memorable audience feedback, and strange places where they had performed. It was a fun, fascinating conversation that inspired a lot of questions from the listeners. After the roundtable, I went out for lunch with the Greek group, and then ran back to the theater to catch Berecz András' second show. I was drenched in the rain and arrived like a drowned rat, but it was worth it.

The last show of the festival was The golden tree by the Paramythokores. It is an hour-long enchanting Greek fairy tale with singing, music, and a lot of deep emotions. I have been looking forward to hearing it because we worked on the same folktale type parallel to each other (Paramythokores for this show, and me for my book last year), and Vasileia and I talked a lot about it at the time. It was absolutely brilliant: it took us on a journey were time ceased to exist, and words came alive. Even the interpreter was swept along, adding her own voice to the story. It was a perfect closing event for the festival. We applauded so much that we even got an encore story at the end!

Image from here

It was great to see international storytellers on a Budapest stage again. The organization of the festival was smooth, the staff was welcoming and friendly, and the program was just enough to fill our ears and hearts for three days. I really hope they will do it again next year!

Monday, May 1, 2023

A to Z Challenge Reflections: Body Folktales



I am usually a very organized A to Z participant. In the past several years, I have had all my posts scheduled before the start of April, so I could spend my time going around and visiting other people. This year, things unexpectedly piled up. The Internet went out for days, my phone died, I went on a spring break trip and work crashed down on me after... I started April with A-M scheduled, and then worked ahead, but I still ended up pantsing the last five letters day to day. It was a close call, but I managed to crawl across the finish line!

With that said, I absolutely loved this year's theme. Every time I began researching a new body part, fun, weird, and fascinating folktales jumped out at me left and right. It was probably the most entertaining research binge I have ever done, and it added a lot of cool new stories to my repertoire!

The sad part is, I barely had any time to go visiting. So many of you had such wonderful themes, and you were all kind enough to come visit me every day! I am planning on catching up over the course of the next weeks. I love the visiting part of A to Z, so it will be like an extension of the challenge experience :) Thank you all for sticking around and leaving comments!

As for statistics: I am very surprised that the most popular post of the month was not one of the adult-themed body parts... but ELBOWS! By a wide margin. All y'all really like elbows. Go figure.

Thank you all, and congratulations on another fun Challenge year!