by ALEXANDRA RETTER
With Irish on one side and an English translation on the other, storyteller Clare Murphy’s reprint of a medieval Irish text is just one of the many books of Irish myth and folklore she draws from.
“And these are the myths. And they’re so short … and they’re so simple, but they’re so packed full that I have to keep going back and reading them, because they’re really enormous, dense, beautiful stories, and I always find I missed something,” she said.
Murphy will bring some of those stories to Winona in April for a performance and workshop presented by the Sandbar Storytelling Festival.
Murphy was told many stories while growing up. She would listen to them during walks around her village. “I was raised in stories,” she said.
Murphy also wrote for herself. “I would write stories from the time I could hold a pen, really,” she said. When Murphy was in her early 20s, she showed someone her writing, and they recommended storytelling. She decided to look into it. Ultimately, she chose to pursue it as her work.
When choosing the tales she tells, Murphy considers which stories in her repertoire may interest a community. “I think the job of us as storytellers is to have enough variety that you can touch on all the key themes — conflict, resolution, romance and family and community and rage and joy … I think as a storyteller, you need a little bit of everything,” she said.
“She’s a fabulous storyteller, and she comes from a long line of storytellers in her native Ireland,” Sandbar Storytelling Festival Board of Directors President Hywel “Taff” Roberts said. He added, “She has a lot of passion with her storytelling. She’s sensitive, passionate and engaging.”
Currently, there are many stories coming to light about heroic women throughout history, Murphy said. “Those are my favorite stories at the moment, the kind of stories that have been hidden for a couple hundred of years,” she said. One from ancient Celtic myth is about a woman fighting a warrior god, and the fight is funny and farcical, she said. Another, from Scotland, involves a warrior who sets up a school of her own to train men and women as warriors.
In general, Murphy will bring fun, strange myths, she said, such as those she finds in ancient texts. “I’m bringing the ones that surprised me. I’m bringing the ones that I just can’t help but tell,” she said.
While telling stories, Murphy appreciates co-creating with audience members. There are moments when audience members become so engrossed that their eyes widen, their jaws relax and they forget what they are doing as they experience their imagination at work, she said. “And I put that down to the alchemy of story itself, not me,” she said. She added, “So they get this incredible state in their brain, and being in that is my favorite thing about live performance, because it’s never the same twice. So you never know what’s going to actually happen.”
Murphy will also facilitate a storytelling workshop for community members. She encourages community members to come with an open mind and sense of play.
The performance will take place on Saturday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. It will be held at the Page Theatre at Saint Mary’s University. Tickets are $25 for community members and $20 for students.
The workshop will take place on Sunday, April 16, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Winona Arts Center. Space is limited, and participation is $15.
More information is available at sandbarstorytellingfestival.org.
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