Storyteller Kim Weitkamp to host class, performance at Dogwood Festival
Published 8:00 am Monday, May 5, 2014
While her year-round bookings and multiple awards may suggest otherwise, professional storyteller Kim Weitkamp insists that her talents aren’t anything uniquely innate to her.
“My philosophy is that it’s woven into the DNA of every human to tell stories. It’s part of how we’re made up,” Weitkamp said. “I’m a total gear head, but no matter how far we get with state of the art, we will never replace the state of the heart. I believe it’s built into every human being.”
The storyteller, musician and songwriter will provide an outlet for others looking to get in touch with their inner-muse in Dowagiac during the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival, which begins Friday. Weitkamp, one of this year’s featured artists, will host a master class on Tuesday, May 13, where she will develop participants’ skills in character creation, acting and presentation. The following evening she will give a live performance at the Dale A. Lyons Building Theater.
Weitkamp has spent nearly her entire life honing and perfecting her own oral storytelling skills. Growing up in the heart of Amish Country in Pennsylvania, much of her formative years were spent molding the skills she would carry into her career years later, telling stories to friends, playing music and acting in plays in high school.
“It was a great place to grow up,” she said. “I spent a lot of my time mainly outside, playing in the fields, riding my bike around the neighborhood. A majority of my stories are based during that period.”
Despite her early interest in the arts, Weitkamp initially pursued a career in nonprofit work, a line of work she is engaged in today.
“I used my natural tendency to speak in story in that line of work,” she recalled. “It became a joke amongst my coworkers about how often I told stories.”
Around five years ago, while visiting with friends in California, she learned about the National Storytelling Festival that takes place every year in Jonesborough, Tenn.. Intrigued by the concept, she decided to travel out to the event with a friend.
“My friend kept saying to me during the show, ‘You already know how to do this. This is what you’ve been doing for years,’” Weitkamp said.
From that moment on, Weitkamp has traveled the country as a professional storyteller, performing in front of audiences, recording albums and hosting workshops. Despite her busy travel schedule, the storyteller said her love for the medium drives her to push through the difficulty of life on the road.
“I love stories so much. I believe in the power of them so much,” Weitkamp said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
The performer’s stories range from humorous yarns to spooky ghost stories, she said. In recent years, she has started to incorporate live music into her performances as well, using songs she had written alongside her stories.
Weitkamp has released six audio collections of her works so far, the most recent, a folk operetta entitled “The Ballad of Ronnie Calloway,” released this year. Her work has garnered her several national storytelling awards, and has been featured on NPR affiliate stations as well as Sirius Radio.
Despite her growing notoriety, the most important thing she treasures about her career is seeing the impact her shows has her audience, Weitkamp said.
“When people leave a music show, they don’t immediately go out and buy a guitar. When people leave an art show, they don’t immediately go out and buy paint,” she said. “But, as I go leave one of my shows, I always see people standing in the lobby, sharing their own stories with each other. They are immediately copying the art form they had just seen. To me, that is so cool, and so powerful.”
The May 13 workshop takes place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Cass County COA Front Street Crossing location. Cost for the class is $10, and the size is limited.
The performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Dale A. Lyons Building at Southwestern Michigan College. Tickets cost $6.
To purchase tickets or for additional information about the events, contact the Festival at (269) 782-1115, (866) 490-2847 or at www.dogwoodfinearts.org.