Funny bones beware: tellers coming

Published 10:40 pm Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nationally acclaimed storytellers Barbara McBride-Smith and Elizabeth Ellis both hail from Texas but they are as different as night and day.

McBride-Smith is a high-energy teller. Her colorful voice, along with its native Texas twang, reminds listeners of a fire and brimstone preacher, carnival barker, used car salesman or Butterfly McQueen of “Gone with the Wind” fame.

Ellis, on the other hand, has a soft, silky voice that invites listeners into her stories and holds them as snuggly as a mother would hold her child.

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McBride-Smith and Ellis will join master storytellers Donald Davis and Kevin Kling at the Pike Piddlers Storytellers Festival this weekend at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge and the Trojan Center Theater at Troy University.

Annette Bryan, a member of the sponsoring Brundidge Historical Society, has heard both McBride-Smith and Ellis and said they are delightfully different.

“I don’t have a favorite,” Bryan said. “They are both excellent storytellers. Barbara McBride-Smith is hilariously funny and can make you laugh until you cry. Elizabeth Ellis’s humor is more subtle and you’ll be laughing days later as you remember her dry wit.”

However, Bryan said both have the ability to tug at the heartstrings.

“They will make you remember people and things you haven’t thought about in years,” she said.

“They will entertain you and you’ll be glad you came.”

McBride-Smith, the recipient of John Henry Faulk and the Storytelling Circle of Excellence awards, is recognized internationally as a storyteller of time-honored tales mixed with comedic idioms.

With all her humor, Barbara McBride-Smith doesn’t forget the poignant sorrows of people’s lives.

“New Directions for Women” said of McBride-Smith, “Her stories will “make you laugh, break your heart and give you a new take on the struggles of ‘we mortals’ to live our lives on this earth.”

Ellis grew up in the Appalachian Mountains in a family filled with stories. As a child, most of her best friends were imaginary. In some ways that’s still true. Living now in Texas, Ellis travels constantly, sharing personal stories, folktales and stories of heroic women. Both witty and wise, her stories are often about seeing the extraordinary in our every day experiences.

Designated an American Masterpiece Touring Artist by the NEA, Ellis is also a nurturing teacher of tellers at all levels.

She is a Storytelling Circle of Excellence Award recipient.

Tickets are available for the 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. storytelling concerts at the Trojan Center Theater on Saturday and may be purchased at Rue’s Antiques in Brundidge and The Messenger in Troy or by calling 334-735-3125.

The Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival is sponsored in part by the Alabama State Council on the Arts with support from the Troy University College of Communication and Fine Arts.