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Tall Tales, Shaggy Dogs, and Crowd-Pleasing Sagas


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Celebrating the ancient art of storytelling.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 1999 issue of Spirituality & Health. In these days of high bandwidth and uncertain connections, the ancient art of storytelling provides a rich cultural banquet. An evening thunderstorm rolls over the mountains of eastern Tennessee, distracting the 1,500 people gathered in a concert tent listening to one of America’s master storytellers. Donald Davis has held this audience spellbound with a side-splitting tale about the mother of all family vacation nightmares — a trip to Florida in a ’57 Chevy with sticky plastic seats, suffocating humidity, no air-conditioning, and a demonic, nearly sadistic, older brother. But pelting rain on canvas, thunder, and lightning unravel the delicate connection between the story, it’s teller, and the listeners who now worry about a leaking tent and a rain-drenched walk back to muddy parking fields. Losing his audience to the elements, Davis decides to bring the story to the storm. Scowling at the thunder and lightning as if they were hecklers, he flawlessly weaves this Tennessee thunderstorm into his Florida story …

Gustave Reininger, writer and producer of network television and feature films, is a former board member of the National Storytelling Association and a founder-trustee of Contemplative Outreach, an ecumenical network renewing the Christian contemplative tradition.

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