Storytelling school

The Connecticut Storytelling Festival performs in downtown New London on Saturday

NEW LONDON – What happens when a proofreader fails in the only job he has to do?

“I used to wake up at night sweating, wondering if ‘kick off’ is one word or two words? With a hyphen or without a hyphen? And which one did I use? Oh my god, I don’t know!” ChaChanna Simpson told a delighted audience at “Cabaret,” the first event of Connecticut’s 40th Annual Storytelling Festival at Hygienic Art Park on Friday night.

When her boss asked her to check out an important logo for a major event, Simpson was mortified when she discovered she had spelled “the” with two t’s instead of one and the logo had already been printed on it. merchandise for the event.

“I started cleaning my desk, cleaning my cabinets, and I think, I’m going to miss working here, and how embarrassing it is,” Simpson told the crowd. “I filled three shopping bags with stuff I had accumulated over my nine years with the company and on the way home I started thinking, are they going to fire me? money do I have until I have another job?”

Simpson paused. “On Monday, I walk into the office and sit at my desk and wait to be called into the senior vice president’s office…and I’m still waiting. Thank you.”

The audience, many of whom were wrapped in blankets and seated near outdoor heaters, cheered and whistled. Simpson was one of four performers on Friday night who presented personal stories, followed by an open mic.

The festival will continue all Saturday with performances and workshops for teenagers and adults, as well as a family concert from 4 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.

“What most people don’t understand is that storytelling isn’t about reading a book to little kids,” said Ann Shapiro, who served as executive director of the Connecticut Storytelling Center for 20 years and started as an educator when the center was created in 1982.

“It’s performance art for all ages. And at the festival in particular, we focus on adults — we have a concert for children — everything else is for adults. It really is a sophisticated art form,” she said.

Shapiro said the storytelling encompasses a wide range of expressions, and that’s what she loves about it.

“People who tell personal stories, people who tell folk tales, people who tell stories from books – and that everyone has their own style, their own way, their own culture that they bring and that’s a great way to learn about other people and connect.

The storytelling center offices and the festival moved to downtown New London this year, creating new opportunities, she said.

“For 40 years we lived at Connecticut College and held the festival there. And this summer we moved to [the Thames Club] in downtown New London and so it’s all happening downtown this year, which is exciting,” she said. “It feels like the first festival again.”

Schedule and registration for shows, workshops and the family concert are available at Ticket prices for sessions are $25 for adults, $12.50 for students, and $10 per family for the family concert.