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The West End Well and Ottawa Storytellers join forces

By Jared Davidson on September 3, 2014



A good story can be a powerful thing. It can connect, it can inspire, and it can provide meaning to a community. But in the hands of a gifted teller, it can take on a kind of magical quality, rising above mere words on a page. It is a magic that Ottawa Storytellers has been creating for over 25 years. The organization promotes the art that is storytelling, and consists of over 70 experienced storytellers.

This September, Ottawa Storytellers plans to bring their art to Hintonburg with Tellings at the Well. A storytelling series akin to Ottawa Storytellers’ successful Stories and Tea, which takes place every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month at The Tea Party (119 York Street), Tellings at the Well promises to be a great showcase of local storytelling talent. It is set to take place on the second Friday of every month at the West End Well and will feature both established and emerging Ottawa storytellers telling stories drawn from wide ranging themes. Every show is pay-what-you-can, with a suggested price of five dollars.

Tellings at the Well begins on September 12th. It will be one of the first events to take place at the brand new West End Well (969 Wellington Street), a community grocery and café with a strong focus on supporting local arts and culture. The Well opened fairly recently, on August 23rd, but has already generated a fair amount of buzz with its unique blend of locally-grown produce, boxed health foods, and fresh-made café fare. Built to be a flexible space, its small café can be transformed into a 60-seat venue for events and workshops. It is this kind of venue—not too large, not too small—where storytelling truly thrives.

For the first edition of Tellings at the Well, the theme of the night will be “Out of the Everywhere: Stories of Newcomers to Canada with a Traditional Twist.” Audiences will hear tellings from Ruth Stewart-Verger, Donna Stewart, Janet LeRoy and Rick Czpelka, all based on stories from Canadian author Jan Andrews’ book Out of the Everywhere, a work which takes traditional folktales from around the world and sets them in Canada.

“Folktales are thousands of years old for a reason,” says Stewart-Verger. “They have a centre of truth; a core of shared experience. These stories help us understand the world and the varied people around us.”

Stewart-Verger is a veteran storyteller and has been telling stories across Canada for over thirty years at various festivals, public libraries and cafés. On the 12th at the Well, she will be telling “The Fly,” Jan Andrews’ Canadian take on a traditional Vietnamese folk tale. However, this will not be a rote recitation of the story. As with all the tellers, Stewart-Verger will be interpreting the story her own way.

“Telling is not recitation and telling is not reading. The stories will not be recited word for word. The tellers take the story from the book and massage it slightly to make it their own,” says Stewart-Verger.

Tellings at the Well is set to continue for the foreseeable future. On October 10, the theme will be “Dangers of the Sea.” Next, the series will take a more musical turn with “High Notes and Fast Times” on November 14. Each telling will begin at 7:30 at the West End Well, and each promises to be an eclectic showcase of local storytelling talent.

Tellings at the Well happens on the second Friday of each month at 7:30, beginning on September 12, at the West End Well, 969 Wellington Street.