Don Doyle has appeared before a lot of audiences during his long theater and storytelling career, but the toughest critic of them all had to be the mother of the late actor Dennis Day.
"I toured for two years as a leprechaun in Dennis Day's production of ‘Finnian's Rainbow,' said Doyle, who is of Irish descent. "Occasionally his mother, who lived in Ireland, would come to a show and make sure my dialect was up to her standards."
Rim Country residents will be able to judge for themselves this Saturday, Nov. 19, when Doyle and friends stage the seventh annual Pine Tellabration!, an evening of storytelling, at 7 p.m. in Pine Cultural Hall.
Doyle, who taught storytelling and creative drama at Arizona State University, took an early retirement so he could pursue a career in storytelling (although of late he has returned to his first love -- the theater).
"I tell mostly folk tales from the Irish and Celtic cultures," he said. "And then, of course, I include personal stories."
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, Bland relates original life-experience stories that are often twists on ancient tales, Warren is noted for stories that reflect "the heroic journey of personal transformation," and Provencio is "a very good Latino teller," Doyle said.
Appearing for the first time in Pine are Marilyn Torres, a Phoenix teacher and traditional Mexican teller, and Tony Norris of Flagstaff, a folk singer and storyteller.
"There isn't a folk song he doesn't know," Doyle said.
The audience is also in for a special surprise in the person of nationally known storyteller Susan Klein, who just happens to be visiting the Doyles and has agreed to tell a story. She is from Martha's Vineyard.
The Rim Country will join with communities worldwide in celebrating the art and power of storytelling as similar events are being held in small and large towns around the world.
"The Saturday before Thanksgiving is the traditional day to hold storytelling events," Doyle said.
Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale and Sedona are among the Arizona communities holding storytelling events Saturday night.
While storytelling is an ancient art form that predates the printed word, Doyle said it almost became a lost art until its revival over the course of the past three decades.
"Before people had a written language, they would come back and tell stories of hunts and battles, successes and failures," he said. "Before television, small communities often got together and told stories. It was a way of talking about the past and letting people know who you are. We still should be doing that."
The storytelling renaissance began with a nationwide storytelling event in Jonesboro, Tenn., 30 years ago. Today, every state in the country and many other nations have storytelling organizations and hold storytelling festivals.
It's even possible to get a master's degree in storytelling at East Tennessee State University.
People who attend the Pine event should come prepared for intellectual stimulation.
"You have to bring a mental alertness and a willingness to engage," Doyle said. "And an open mind to be carried on a journey, sometimes literally, but always mentally -- someplace where you can look at something in a different way."
Doyle says that storytelling at this level is not intended for very young children.
"Our Tellabration audiences tend to be adults, but children who are in fourth grade and up will also enjoy the experience," he said.
All seats are $5, and tickets can be purchased at the door. A pre-concert dinner and reception is sold out.
Tale of Three Sons
(Don Doyle provided this brief sample of the art of storytelling.)
"An old man was dying, and he had a small farm and three sons and he wanted to leave his farm and his land to his sons. But the farm was so small he couldn't leave it to all three because it wouldn't be enough.
"So he said, ‘I'll leave it to the son who can fill this house most completely.' So each son decided he could fill it in his own way.
"The oldest son said, ‘That's not a problem.' So he went out and herded all the cattle through the front door of the house and they went into every corner of the house, in the kitchen and all the rooms. He just stuffed them in the house.
"Then he went down to the little guest house where his father was staying and he carried him up to the main house and said, ‘Dad, I want you to see the house is completely full. You can't get another cow in there.'
"He opened the door and the father said, ‘Oh my, that's interesting, but look at all the space between the top of the cattle and the ceiling -- that's empty space. You didn't fill the house completely.'
"And the son was disappointed because he knew he didn't win.
"Then the middle son said, ‘I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to fill that house from top to bottom.'
"So he gathered all the feather beds and all the feather pillows and everything that had feathers in it together, and he ripped open the casings, and threw the feathers up in the air. The house was completely filled with feathers and he said, ‘This will surely win.'
"So he went down and carried his father up to look inside. But time had passed, and when he opened the door all the feathers had floated down to the ground. There were feathers everywhere -- on the floor and on the furniture -- but there was all that space up in the air that wasn't filled.
"Now that the second son had his chance, it was the youngest son's turn. He thought and thought about it and he finally said, "I don't have a clue how to do this, so what I think I'm going to do is have a party,'
"So he invited all his friends that he loved, and some were musicians and some were singers and some were dancers and some were storytellers. They came to the house, and there was laughter and singing and dancing.
"Suddenly he heard a knock at the door, and his father was there. He had heard all the joy going on inside, and he managed to walk up to see what was going on.
"He came inside and saw that the whole house was filled with laughter and good friends and singing and dancing and he said to his son, ‘You have won my son. Nothing fills a house so completely as music and dancing and good friends and laughter. My farm is yours.'
"And that's what we'll try and do in Pine Saturday night -- fill that hall completely."