Dogwood storyteller to focus on southern tales
Published 8:00 am Wednesday, April 29, 2015
The inspiration for many of the tales that professional storyteller Tim Lowry weaves right in front his audience’s eyes and ears comes from two things that many can relate to.
History, and his own backyard.
For Lowry, home happens to Summerville, South Carolina, a city deep in the American South. As one of the country’s original 13 colonies, South Carolina is state rife with history, home to nearly 100 different nationally recognized landmarks and monuments.
“How could I live here and not tell stories about its history,” Lowry said.
For the first time in his 15 years in the profession, Lowry will be sharing his assortment of Southern folk stories, chronicles from American history and tales from his own life with audiences this far north of the Mason-Dixon line when he arrives in Dowagiac next month as this year’s featured storyteller during the 24th annual Dogwood Fine Arts Festival, which takes place from May 8-17.
Lowry will perform in front of audiences at the Dale A. Lyons Building theater at Southwestern Michigan College beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 13. Tickets for the performance cost $6.
While now a resident of South Carolina, Lowry was born in rural southeastern Kentucky. He was exposed to the art of verbal storytelling from a young age while spending time around the elder members of his community, who shared stories about everything from old historical events like the Civil War to just simple parables about daily life, Lowry said.
“I had a close relationship with all of them,” Lowry said. “They were kind of like adopted grandparents.”
Despite the early lessons, Lowry didn’t begin to formally learn the art form of storytelling until he began studying theater in college, he said. The class he enrolled in gave him the opportunity to hone his natural talents with storytelling, developing stories in a variety of different genres and techniques, Lowry said.
“We [students] came away with a good file of stories, and a lot of experience,” Lowry said.
While interested in potentially pursuing storytelling as a career, Lowry graduated with a degree in theater, and spent the next five years teaching English to high school, middle school and elementary school students.
“I got the chance to work with students, parents, other teachers, administrators,” he said. “That provided a great lesson about the human race, and it helped me craft stories about the human condition.”
In 2000, he finally decided to take the plunge as a full-time storyteller, in part due to his desire to manage his career on his own terms. Over the last decade-and-a-half, Lowry has toured all over the country, presenting educational programs for children, performing for adults at festivals and teaching workshops at corporate retreats.
“While I love traveling the country and checking out all the sights, I find the people I meet even more fascinating,” Lowry said. “That’s the greatest perk of my job.”
Employing a combination of traditional storytelling, elaborate historical costumes and even sound effects using a kazoo, Lowry’s shows focus on a combination of personal tales and stories focusing around history, particularly the period around the American Revolution.
Audiences attending his show in Dowagiac next month will be in for a surprise, as Lowry plans on telling whatever stories he feels the crowd will eat up when he takes the stage that evening.
“One of the big differences between storytelling and theater is that it [storytelling] is always in a state of flux,” Lowry said. “If I did a one-man show, I would go up on stage, do the show, and people would either love it or hate it. But with storytelling, a lot of what I end up going with depends on the people who show up.”
In addition to his family-friendly show, Lowry will be teaching a master class at the Cass County COA Front Street Crossing building from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12. Entitled “The Story is in the Why,” Lowry will be teaching attendees about how improve their own stories through fleshing out character motivations, he said.
“If you find people fascinating, you’ll find storytelling fascinating,” Lowry said. “If you enjoy a good book, you’ll enjoy storytelling. If you enjoy a good movie, you’ll enjoy storytelling.”
For tickets or more information about this or other Dogwood Festival events call (269) 782-1115, (866) 490-2847 or visit www.dogwoodfinearts.org. Reservations for the master class cost $10, and space is limited.