Stories that stand tall

Local storytelling group celebrates landmark

— Kate Dudding’s first storytelling experience was with a group of fourth-graders. She started out with a typical “Once upon a time, when animals could talk ...”

But she quickly realized something extraordinary was happening. The room was totally silent.

“They were all waiting for what I was going to say next,” she said.

That powerful connection with her audience has fueled Dudding's storytelling for more than a decade. A mainstay on the Capital District storytelling circuit, Dudding has complemented her frequent appearances with CDs, noting that there's a mindset that serious storytellers put their work out on disc.

Her latest offering, “Young People Who Made a Difference,” will be released Sunday, Nov. 18, at the 101th Story Sunday at the Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia. Dudding and Betty McCanty of Saratoga Springs will also present a program, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Other Stories to be Thankful For.”

Dudding, from Clifton Park, was turned on to storytelling when she took her young son to the state museum, where several programs featured storytelling. A voracious reader, Dudding loves the intimate nature of storytelling, the way the storyteller makes eye contact with the audience, “inviting them in.”

Dudding started attending storytelling workshops in the Adirondacks put on by renowned storyteller Jeannine Laverty. It was through one of these workshops she met McCanty, 89, who has been telling stories for 25 years. They became fast friends. Among other things, McCanty said, “We liked the kind of stories we each told.”

Dudding’s stories tend to focus on people who’ve made a difference — some well known, some lesser so. She’s always on the lookout for potential story subjects, scouring her Facebook news feed for interesting links and filing away magazine stories that catch her attention. Once when she was at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago she saw two displays that would eventually make their way into her work. One was about Eddie O’Hare, the World War II fighter pilot for whom the airport was named. The other was an exhibition on women aviators.

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