The 416 Fire took over the area this summer, resulting in the cancellation of all sorts of activities and events – including the Raven Narratives storytelling event scheduled for June in Silverton.
Now, the show will go on.
On Sept. 7 at the Grand Imperial Hotel in Silverton, and Sept. 8 at James Ranch just north of Durango, storytellers from Silverton, Durango and Montezuma County will take the stage and share their tales under the theme “water.”
“This is a really special one, partly because we had to cancel and reschedule it,” said Sarah Syverson, who produces the Raven Narratives with Tom Yoder. “We were just going to do the event in Silverton at the Grand Imperial Hotel. Because of circumstances, we had to cancel, and I think September is a beautiful time to be up there. And although folks from out of town will definitely enjoy it, this is really a community event in terms of connecting people to each other in the community and across communities.”
She said the show is a collaboration with Silverton Theatre Mine, which selected the water theme in January, and with a focus on Silverton, the Raven Narratives will have a different feel.
“For Raven Narratives to go into a community, we need people in the community that know each other and the stories that they each have, so it’s a really important and vital collaboration,” she said. “And then we started listening to these stories ... it’s palpably different stories than we get in Durango or Montezuma County.”
The Narratives strives to connect people and communities through the act of storytelling. People have eight to 10 minutes to tell their tales that relate to the show’s theme.
Next weekend’s storytellers – Brad Tafoya, John Chmelir, Katrina Blair, Claudia Eiserman, David Swanson, Beverly Rich and Kim Grant – will feature stories about surviving an avalanche, encountering wildlife and more – with a mostly Silverton flavor.
“We really focused on the majority of them being from Silverton but wanted voices from all the communities that we work with,” Syverson said.
For first-time storyteller and three-year Silverton resident Eiserman, the water theme is what drew her in.
“I had a story that I thought was quite interesting that very few people knew about,” she said.
Eiserman, who wants to keep her story a mystery until she tells it at the show, “saw a very rare weather phenomenon.” She said she hasn’t talked a lot about what she saw, but that’s about to change when she takes the stage.
“I sort of kept it to myself,” she said. “And I just thought that it was time to get that story out there.”
For someone who has never participated in this before, Eiserman is feeling a little anxious.
“Well, I’m scared, I’ll tell you. This is very much outside of my realm. I’m a person I never would have dreamed would do this,” she said. “But when I found out that the theme was water, I just thought, ‘Gosh, that would really fit with my story.’”
It’s this urge to tell a story despite being nervous that keeps participants in the Raven Narratives connecting with the audience and each other.
“It connects us in a different way – I think it connects the storytellers, too, that are telling stories. They meet people from different counties and regions because there can be this kind of silly line that we draw between Montezuma and La Plata counties and Silverton and Durango,” Syverson said. “Then all of a sudden when it becomes these incredible, funny, poignant, microscopic macrocosm stories, everybody forgets about what town they’re from, what name’s on their T-shirt, and it becomes more of a place of connection for both audience members and for storytellers. I think it’s especially poignant with the fire this year.”
The 416 Fire, too, Syverson said, also helped unite local communities, which the Raven Narratives is hoping to illustrate with next weekend’s shows.
“I think because that fire was so huge, and then the flooding since then, too, both communities have been riveted to that and trying to work together,” she said. “I think there’s a stronger bond between the communities that I think is a beautiful outgrowth of the challenging situation, and the aspect of having Raven Narrative storytelling happening now is a way to bring out that connection.”