Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Everyone's got a story to share

by Margaret E. Davis
| August 13, 2023 12:00 AM

Emcee Barbara Schiffman stepped to the fore in the Arts & Technology Building at Flathead Valley Community College one evening last spring to announce the setup for that night’s “story concert.”

A big voice that comes in a small package, Schiffman may make an unlikely seeming impresario. After all, most of her storytelling chops occur behind the scenes.

A veteran former reader of scripts for the film industry, Schiffman and her husband Glenn are indefatigable cheerleaders of local talent and curiosity around storytelling, writing and specifically scriptwriting for Flathead Valley creatives. The couple has taken on a meatier chapter at each turn since their move to the Flathead in 2019 to be closer to family.

Ostensibly marking National Tell a Story Day on April 27, the night presented the result of two months of work by eight students, who looked into the threads of their lives and detailed moments of them for an audience of 65. The community college’s continuing education class “Tell Us Your Story” served as the launchpad for the performance.

“Most of us consume stories onscreen these days,” Schiffman said, while referencing the campfire as a historic setting. She mentioned a vision to establish an independent, curated series of story concerts to occur every three to four months.

From the beginning it was clear we would listen and feel a range of emotions.

Among the first performers, Polson’s Rebecca Ashcraft recounted a childhood discovery during a late 1960s Easter egg hunt that haunted for years. “That dead body shuffled around my head looking for a place to sit,” she said.

Another presenter, Heidi Wolf, described the dating scene of Columbia Falls (“You don’t break up, you take turns.”) and talked about how she found a way out, through a labyrinth she constructed in her front yard.

Despite the nosy neighbor, “the planting process energized me!” Wolf said. “It gave me a glimpse of my lost soul.” Even with an unexpected rain that erased her chalk lines and other challenges, Wolf persevered.

“Soul searching takes grit,” she said. “Each step felt like a mountain. They all lead to the center.”

Then it was on to Oregon’s RJ Young, who declared, “The cathedrals of nature are where I’ve always belonged.”

Glenn Schiffman capped the night recounting his formative times “trucking on the rock ‘n’ roll road from 1971 to 1975” as a roadie for a few of the biggest bands of the time. Suffice to say, lessons were learned and limits reached.

As shown by the popular storytelling programs “The Moth Radio Hour” and “Stories from the Stage,” it’s innately human to connect this way. Our curiosity for others’ stories often feeds a willingness to share our own.

This time around the “campfire” starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Sacred Waters Brewing Company’s newish event space, The Wild Side, and the theme is “Nature & Nurture.” The series continues 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 15, so the Schiffmans’ vision is at hand, and accelerated.

It’s free to listen. Pull up a chair and check out another view to life.

Margaret E. Davis, executive director of the Northwest Montana History Museum, can be reached at mdavis@dailyinterlake.com.