The wide, lazy Ohio River has shaped Indiana’s history since the state’s beginning.
It has brought new settlers, commerce and thousands of people to its shores. As a result, the river also provides a wealth of good stories to the people paying attention.
Jennie Kiffmeyer will be sharing some of that storytelling tradition in her performance, “The Rivertown Dispatch.” The show, slated for 3 p.m. Sunday at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre, revolves around the tales of a fictional Ohio River town.
Kiffmeyer’s performance is part of the Emerging Storyteller Festival. The event is a gathering of talented Hoosier voices who have been awarded the status of Frank Basile Emerging Storyteller Fellows by Storytelling Arts of Indiana.
The festival will be 8 to 10 p.m. Friday, 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the theater, 719 E. St. Clair St., Indianapolis. Tickets to each show are $5.
What is it about storytelling that you fell in love with?
I love the stories themselves. I’ve never outgrown being able to go out and listen to a story. There’s something about listening to someone tell a story, there’s something in their voice. I hear things I hadn’t heard before, or see something differently because of what the teller brings for it.
What does storytelling allow you to do?
It allows me to share the story I love with the audience. I tend to pick stories that I love, because I’m going to be spending a lot of time with it.
What are the keys to telling a great story?
Certainly being able to hear the person is important. There has to be something about their presence in front of a group, where they are really engaged with you. They make eye contact, a certain gesture, a tone in their voice. That can come through in the story.
What is the focus of “The Rivertown Dispatch”?
It’s a piece that I wrote for myself to perform, a series of interlinked short stories, I assume the character of the narrator named Mary, who is the editor of a small newspaper in a town on the Ohio River.
What we get are a series of stories and the stories behind them that live in the town.
Why does the river make such a rich source of stories?
There’s something about the presence of the river and the commerce. Places like Madison owe their existence to the Ohio. River life is endlessly fascinating to me — the landscape, the geology and the types of people who come to town because of the river, the culture that comes in. So many individual stories. As a storyteller, that’s what I tend to focus on.
What do you hope people take away from your performance?
It’s really about the power of storytelling in our lives. We do have these stories, and we need to treasure them and tell them.