Dogwood festival welcomes storyteller Ed Stivender

DOWAGIAC — Once upon a time.

For many, that is the phrase that first introduces them into the world of storytelling, as they are lulled to sleep as children by stories of fairies, knights and princesses. Though most leave the world of “once upon a time” behind as they become adults, a local festival is hoping to bring storytelling back to the adult world as an art form.

The Dogwood Fine Arts Festival is welcoming Ed Stivender as its storyteller for this year’s festival. He will be performing at 7:30 p.m. May 16 at Southwestern Michigan College, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac. Tickets for the performance are $6.

Stivender will also host a master class where he teaches people to how to harness their storytelling abilities from 7 to 9 p.m. May 15 at the Cass County Council on Aging Front Street Crossing location, 227 Front St., Dowagiac. Tickets for the master class are $10. Additionally, Stivender will host performances for students at Dowagiac Union Schools in the mornings on May 15 and 16.

Stivender, who has been called “the Robin Williams of storytelling” by the Miami Herald, is well-known within the storytelling circuit. Since turning his storytelling into a full-time job in 1977, he has amassed a number of awards and accolades, including being inducted into the National Storytelling Association Circle of Excellence.

“He is a very renowned storyteller,” said Jennifer Ray, who is on the committee that chose Stivender. “I’m so tickled that he will be with us for all these performances.”

The event Ray is most excited for is the master class, she said. For the master class, Stivender will be teaching attendants how to create, develop and craft stories, as well as how to present them.

“It really is a marvelous workshop,” Ray said. “I’ve been so moved by some of the things people have shared in the past. I have been inspired by it. I’ve always enjoyed hearing about how stories come together.”

Though some might not see storytelling as an art form, Dogwood chair Jim Benedix believes it is one of the most important forms of art there is.

“Storytelling is who we are. It’s where we come from,” Benedix said. “For a good portion of history, storytelling was how information was passed down. …  I would say it is truly an art form and one that we should all pay a bit more attention to.”

Both Benedix and Ray said they hope the public will turn out to the storytelling events and would enjoy learning from Stivender.

“It really is a very fun time,” Ray said.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit dogwoodfinearts.org.

A full list of Dogwood Fine Arts Festival events:

May 3: Starfish Circus, 7:30 p.m., Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center, 57028 Riverside Dr., Dowagiac.

May 4: Starfish Circus, 7:30 p.m., Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center, 57028 Riverside Dr., Dowagiac.

May 10: Fischoff Soiree, 7:30 p.m., Dowagiac Train Depot, 200 Depot Dr. Dowagiac.

May 10: Klassics for Kids, 1 p.m., Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center, 57028 Riverside Dr., Dowagiac.

May 11: Fischoff Soiree, 7:30 p.m., Dowagiac History Museum, 201 E. Division St., Dowagiac.

May 12: Sweet Tea Trio, 7:30 p.m., Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center, 57028 Riverside Dr., Dowagiac.

May 15: Storytelling Master Class: 7 to 9 p.m., COA Front Street Crossing, 227 Front St., Dowagiac.

May 16: Storytelling with Ed Stivender, 7:30 p.m., Southwestern Michigan College, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac.

May 17: Youth Fine Arts Night, 6 p.m., Dowagiac Union High School, 701 W. Prairie Ronde St., Dowagiac.

May 18: Karen Dionne, 7 p.m., Southwestern Michigan College, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac.

May 19: Harp Twins, 7:30 p.m., Southwestern Michigan College, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac.

Stivender, who has been called “the Robin Williams of storytelling” by the Miami Herald, is well-known within the storytelling circuit. Since turning his storytelling hobby into a full-time job in 1977, he has amassed a number of awards and accolades, including being inducted into the National Storytelling Association Circle of Excellence.

“He is a very renowned storyteller,” said Jennifer Ray, who is on the committee that chose Stivender. “I’m so tickled that he will be with us for all these performances.”

The event Ray is most excited for is the master class, she said. For the master class, Stivender will be teaching attendants how to create, develop and craft stories, as well as how to present them.

“It really is a marvelous workshop,” Ray said. “I’ve been so moved by some of the things people have shared in the past. I have been inspired by it. I’ve always enjoyed hearing about how stories come together.”

Though some might not see storytelling as an art form, Dogwood chair Jim Benedix believes it is one of the most important forms of art there is.

“Storytelling is who we are. It’s where we come from,” Benedix said. “For a good portion of history, storytelling was how information was passed down. …  I would say it is truly an art form and one that we should all pay a bit more attention to.”

Both Benedix and Ray said they hope the public will turn out to the storytelling events and would enjoy learning from Stivender.

“It really is a very fun time,” Ray said.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit dogwoodfinearts.org.

A full list of Dogwood Fine Arts Festival events:

May 3: Starfish Circus, 7:30 p.m., Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center, 57028 Riverside Dr., Dowagiac.

May 4: Starfish Circus, 7:30 p.m., Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center, 57028 Riverside Dr., Dowagiac.

May 10: Fischoff Soiree, 7:30 p.m., Dowagiac Train Depot, 200 Depot Dr. Dowagiac.

May 10: Klassics for Kids, 1 p.m., Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center, 57028 Riverside Dr., Dowagiac.

May 11: Fischoff Soiree, 7:30 p.m., Dowagiac History Museum, 201 E. Division St., Dowagiac.

May 12: Sweet Tea Trio, 7:30 p.m., Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center, 57028 Riverside Dr., Dowagiac.

May 15: Storytelling Master Class: 7 to 9 p.m., COA Front Street Crossing, 227 Front St., Dowagiac.

May 16: Storytelling with Ed Stivender, 7:30 p.m., Southwestern Michigan College, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac.

May 17: Youth Fine Arts Night, 6 p.m., Dowagiac Union High School, 701 W. Prairie Ronde St., Dowagiac.

May 18: Karen Dionne, 7 p.m., Southwestern Michigan College, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac.

May 19: Harp Twins, 7:30 p.m., Southwestern Michigan College, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac.

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