Stories with Spirit is a monthly online storytelling show based out of Boulder, Colorado. The shows are pay-what-you-can and feature a selection of storytellers retelling or interpreting works, in this instance, five tellers giving their versions of Cinderella.
The first to perform was Mara Menzies, a Kenyan/Scottish teller who shared a Cinderella-type story from Ancient Egypt, which is thought to be the earliest Cinderella variant. The story follows Rhodopis, who triumphs over catty servant girls and slipper-stealing falcons, eventually marrying the pharaoh. Menzies tells the story with energy and passion, creating rich images, and is a strong start to the event. She can be found at @marastoryteller on Twitter and marathestoryteller.com and will be performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
The next teller is Hungarian author Csenge Zalka, who shares a Sicilian Cinderella variant about the demanding and tenacious Nanetta who charms the prince of Portugal by stealing from his garden and seemingly refusing all of his advances. When Nanetta eventually marries him it is on her terms. After having legally been made her own woman, it is she who proposes to the prince. The story is at times ridiculous and fantastical and Zalka plays with this enjoyably, often good-naturedly mocking what she has just said. Zalka can be found at @TarkabarkaHolgy on Twitter and zalkacsenge.hu/storyteller-english.
Storyteller and musician Adam Booth shares an original work of his as the next piece – a euphemistic, rhyming, limerick-esque retelling of Cinderella that’s enjoyably queer in all senses of the word. The piece is witty, humorous, and engaging and Booth tells it with charm and flair, gleefully delivering the final lines, “she’ll never be royal, and here comes the moral: the prince was always the queen”. Booth can be found at adam-booth.com and will be available to view via livestream performing on the 28th of this month at the Kennedy Centre.
Next to perform was Pam Faro, who performed a bilingual story from New Mexico in a similar vein to the story of Cinderella. The story was wonderful and bizarre, with the ‘ugly sisters’ being cursed with green horns and donkey ears in the middle of their foreheads. It was also somewhat kinder to said ‘ugly sisters’, removing their bizarre deformities when they learn to become nicer, which is a feature of story retellings that I’m particularly fond of. Faro performed with warmth and fantastic energy and was somehow nostalgically comforting. She can be found at storycrossings.com.
Last to perform is Elizabeth Ellis from Texas, who is hailed by hosts Cooper Braun and Sarah Ann Harding as something of a hero to them and when she speaks, it becomes clear why. Ellis does not even really tell a reinterpretation of Cinderella, but instead shares a personal story of a previous event focused on retelling Cinderella that is no less engaging than a conventional story would have been. One retelling she heard at this event began with “ring a ring o’ roses…” and imagined the story during plague times, Cinderella sat weeping in ashes, after her mother’s plague-infected belongings had all been burnt.
Another retelling mentioned by Elizabeth was by Angela Lloyd and had been from the point of view of a ragpicker. She explained afterwards that she had chosen this angle because she identified with the ragpicker, which had prompted her father to tell her, “Goddamnit girl, you are not a ragpicker!” A man in the audience, upon hearing this had taken offence to her using the Lord’s name in vain and began to heckle her, shouting over everything she said. Ellis, in retelling this event, shares that her and fellow tellers felt they “should beat him to death with a Gideon bible”, although they settled on being less violent. She concluded, “it is a pity that someone becomes so religious that they can’t see something sacred in front of them”. She can be found at elizabethellis.com.
Although each of the storytellers were wonderful enough, half of the warmth of Stories with Spirit came from the audience. I was seemingly one of the younger people present and it was rather heart-warming to see a bunch of old American hippies unmute themselves at the end of every story to clap and cheer and laugh and congratulate each performer. It was clear that some people were regulars and had become close with each other, one man announcing that he was sorry to leave but that he had to go feed his cats, prompting a round of heartfelt goodbyes.
I have always loved the tradition of storytelling and it is wonderful to see it alive and well and so clearly enjoyed by people all around the world.
Stories with Spirit’s next show will be retellings of Red Riding Hood next month, tickets for which can be found here.