Storytelling leads to greater cooperation and empathy

Every year for the last 33 years, a magical and mind-altering event takes place, hidden away in the hills of North Columbia. It’s the Sierra Storytelling Festival, where hundreds of expectant, kind and hopeful people gather to listen to stories, to learn from the craft and experience of others, and to create and feel a tangible and powerful sense of human connection.
This connection is catalyzed by seven storytellers who are invited to the humble yet prestigious stage at the North Columbia Schoolhouse. Their voices reach out with images of African savannas and the ancient drama of lions and humans sharing a home, with Jewish tales full of wit and wonder, with the deep change we go through after the loss of a dear brother, mother or friend, and myriad other creative and compelling human stories.
Listening to a well-constructed narrative releases oxytocin, the brain chemical that tells us we are safe in the world, which in turn leads us to be more giving and helpful, according to researcher, Paul J. Zac. Our brains develop with storytelling as our synapses and cortical structure are shaped by it. When we engage deeply with a good story, we become part of it, and we want to participate.
The storytellers featured at the Sierra Storytelling Festival are award-winning, multilingual artists whom you may have heard on NPR or as a voice in a film, or seen in a filmed theatre production. This year’s featured storytellers are Charlotte Blake Alston, Charlie Chin, Vicki Juditz, Larry Littlebird, Clare Muireann Murphy, Izzi Tooinsky, and special guest Tom Wade.
They are writers, actors, playwrights, travelers, jugglers, and what social scientist Brene Brown would call ‘wholehearted people’. Storytellers guide us through the world, help us make sense of the images we’re immersed in, the advertisements we absorb, the news that we hear.
The Sierra Storytelling Festival is nurtured throughout the year by a small committee that focuses on the audience and their experience. It’s a no-screen, very-little-photography, gently amplified event at which everyone gets relaxed and emotional.
The Storytelling Festival takes place on the third weekend in July, which this year falls on July 20-22. The most popular events of the three-day festival are Friday and Saturday nights, from 7:30-10pm, when each teller tells a tale. The Friday afternoon workshop “Learning to Play with Words” will be led by Clare Muireann Murphy. Saturday is filled with hour-long sessions with each of the featured storytellers, as well as a themed Story Slam and a showcase of local storytellers. Sunday’s finale brings us the sweetest events of the weekend: The Children’s Concert and Tales from the Heart.
Patrons can purchase tickets for the whole festival or individual events on the web at sierrastorytellingfestival.org. Discounted early-bird tickets are available until June 30th. Request a brochure by calling or emailing the North Columbia Schoolhouse at (530) 265-2826 or ncscc@nccn.net.