Storytelling — humanity’s oldest art form – is alive and well in the community of Andes where a group of Andes Central School students have been busily rehearsing and sharing stories with their classmates, families, and the community at large.

Under the skilled guidance of “Story Laurie” McIntosh, who has been coaching this group since September, the students recently enchanted the entire audience that packed the children’s room of the Andes Library.

The library concert was just one of several performances the children gave, as they prepared to participate in the National Youth Storytelling Showcase  (NYSS) competition.  The NYSS is open to all school-aged students up to age 17.  Participants compete by submitting a video or DVD of their performance to the contest’s state judges.  State finalists proceed to the national level where, if they are selected as one of twenty national finalists, they are then invited to perform in February 2007 at the Smoky Mountains Storytelling Festival in Tennessee.

Back Row: “Story” Laurie McIntosh, Russell Koronowski, Rebecca Kole Front Row: Cassandra Storey, Adriel Grapes

The stories shared at the Andes Library last week were as varied as the performers’ styles.  Rebecca Kole and Cassandra Storey, both fourth graders, amused the crowd with the picture book-based tales Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London and The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, respectively.

Ninth grader Russell Koronowski told his own, cleverly personalized version of a classic tall tale about a dog who is accidentally split in half and then slapped back together again so haphazardly that “she ended up upside down and the wrong end to…with half a tail and half a nose on one end and the same thing on the other end.”  Luckily, she turns out to be an even better hunting dog than she had ever been before.

Adriel Grapes (third grade) performed a beautifully dramatized Navajo myth, “Coyote’s New Coat” which she personalized with an in-depth introduction explaining the meaning of Coyote as trickster in many Native American cultures.

Adriel’s brother, fifth grader Zackery Grapes, was so inspired by watching the other students perform, that he joined the competition as well with a hilarious rendition of John Scieszka’s True Story of the Three Little Pigs.

“Coaching this small group of students has been an absolute joy,” said McIntosh.  “In working one-on-one, we could really break the story down into its individual components, sometimes even line by line.  I am very impressed with how hard these kids worked in our sessions – most of which we managed to squeeze in during their free time after school.  I feel honored by their level of commitment to the process, and am grateful to Kids in the Kaatskills for helping to make this program happen.”

Kids in the Kaatskills (KIK), which is probably best known for the free, library-based arts programs it offers each summer, has also shown a great commitment to arts-oriented educational programs in area schools, as well as at local events, such as the Margaretville Cauliflower Festival.  KIK provided all the funding for this endeavor, thereby granting an opportunity for these local star storytellers to shine in this national competition. ~

Zackery Grapes