When he accidentally ended up in charge of a kindergarten class, local storyteller Don Doyle picked up more than enough material for the yarn he plans to spin for a local audience at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Pine Cultural Hall.
"I had to take them to an assembly to hear a flute player, and I had to get them to line up in two lines of boys and girls," Doyle said. "And there were girls in the boys' line and boys in the girls' line and I'd have to say, "Are you a boy or are you a girl and move them over."
Things went downhill from there, and Doyle will have you holding your sides you'll be laughing so hard as he recounts how he tried to survive until the principal finally showed up to give him a hand.
Doyle will appear with four other storytellers as the Rim country joins with communities worldwide in celebrating the art and power of storytelling at the fifth annual Tellabration! Similar storytelling events -- dubbed Tellabration 2003! -- will be held the same evening in small and large towns around the world.
"At the same time we're sharing stories here in the Rim country, people all over the globe will be telling and listening to their own tales," said Doyle, who is producing the Pine event. "Last year there were 273 Tellabration sites in this country, so thousands and thousands of people were listening to stories at the exact same time.
"It's exhilarating to know we'll be part of a worldwide celebration right here in our community. For people who have never experienced a storytelling performance, this will be a great opportunity."
Doyle will be joined on stage by Valley storytellers Dorothy Daniels Anderson, Douglas Bland, Liz Warren and Ricardo Provencio. Anderson appears in costume and tells first-person stories of Arizona women who have made a difference, Bland relates original life-experience stories that are often twists on ancient tales, while Warren is noted for stories that reflect "the heroic journey of personal transformation."
Provencio, who is making his first appearance in Pine, is "a very good Latino teller who tells personal stories about his growing up," Doyle said.
Rounding out the bill are Chuck and Barbara Casey, popular local musicians whose ballads often tell stories.
"Storytelling is one of the oldest art forms in the world," says Doyle, a retired Arizona State University theater instructor. "Before people had a written language, they would come back and tell stories of hunts and battles, successes and failures.
"Many of us tell stories from our own personal lives as well as folk tales." Doyle's stories often reflect his Celtic heritage.
The founder of Phoenix Little Theater, Doyle began his storytelling career in the classrooms of fellow ASU instructors.
"I always did a unit on storytelling when I taught theater," he recalled. "Then one day a fellow teacher said she'd give me $25 to come to her class and tell some stories.
"When I got home that night there was an invitation from the teacher next door, so I began telling stories part time." When he retired from ASU in 1991, Doyle became a full-time storyteller. While he has raised the price a bit over the years, Doyle emphasizes that he's not in it for the money.
"It makes me rich in other ways," he said.
"I used storytelling as a tool when I was teaching creative drama, but I eventually realized the power it has as an art form. Storytelling can reach people in wonderful, life-changing ways."
Storytelling also encourages people to tell their own stories.
"It helps people to begin to tell their own stories to their families that need to know those stories to help them know who they are," Doyle said.
Educators are discovering that storytelling also has therapeutic applications.
"A lot of people are now taking storytelling into nursing homes, hospitals -- not just to take their minds off their own problems, but to help them identify with positive things," Doyle said.
Doyle says that storytelling at this level is not intended for very young children.
"Our audiences tend to be adults, but children who are in fourth grade and up will also enjoy the experience," he said.
The stories range from funny to poignant, and can last from five minutes up to an hour and more.
The Pine Tellabration has increased in popularity each year.
"It's grown from 50, five years ago to over 200 last year, and this year we have 75 extra chairs, so we're hoping we can fill those," Doyle said.
"It's exciting to see it grow like that, and people seem to have a wonderful time."
All seats are $5, and tickets can be purchased at the door, with proceeds going to the Pine-Strawberry Archeological and Historical Society.