Delores Hydock entertains with tales of legendary ‘Close Encounters’
Published 3:00 am Friday, June 17, 2016
Anna Chuplis could relate to Delores Hydock’s story on Thursday.
“It’s like she was talking to me, or about me,” Chuplis said. Chuplis was one of more than 100 audience members who listened to Hydock weave tales about the legends she’s encountered as a storyteller, including the late Katheryn Tucker Windham, the grand dame of storytellers; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “a sparrow of woman” who retold the Greek myths to her children as bedtime stories; and Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the petite powerhouse of a personality who rose to fame as an American sex educator and media personality who at 87 is still a driving force.
“I’m 87, too,” Chuplis said, adding with a laugh: “Of course, I haven’t done all that stuff.”
Hydock was the featured performer at the June Buggin’ storytelling event hosted by the Brundidge Historical Society. She shared her “Close Encounters of the Storytelling Kind” in the sold-out We Piddle Around Theatre as rain pelted the tin roof above.
Hydock is one of the nation’s premier storytellers, serving as teller-in-residence at the International Storytelling Center in historic Jonesborough, Tennessee. She had been a featured teller at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, which is the granddaddy of all storytelling festivals, and will be featured at the highly acclaimed Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Orem, Utah in the fall.
She has appeared at the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival and other Alabama storytelling festivals.
“Jaine (Treadwell) called and invited me,” she said after the show. “Jaine had heard me tell these stories at another festival, and I’m glad to share them here as well.”
Hydock began her performance sharing her experiences with Windham, the late storyteller from Selma who is renown for her Ghost Tales and love of life. She had been a favorite of audiences at the Pike Piddlers’ festival.
“I used to listen to her on the radio … I’d hear that accent, that unmistakable voice and listen to her tell those stories,” Hydock said. “It was the slow, easy way she had of telling the stories … you could almost hear the creak of the rocking chair or the thump, thump, thump of the ceiling fan overhead.”
Hydock also shared her experience meeting the esteemed U.S. Supreme Court Justice when Ginsburg came to Alabama to speak at a law school graduation. “I was talking to a friend when I felt this presence next to me,” she said. “I turned and there was this sparrow of a woman … she told me ‘I’m a storyteller too. I used to tell stories of the Greek myths to my children at bedtime.’”
And while Hydock’s first reaction was “talk about tough love,” she later reflected on how those tales of challenging gods might have reflected Ginsburg’s own life. “She was one of nine women among 451 men in her Harvard law school class, so she knew something of challenges.”
And, of course, there was Westheimer, whose unabashed and frank messages – combined with her thick German accent and vivacious personality – make her a media celebrity. Hydock starred in a Birmingham production of the one-woman play “Becoming Dr. Ruth,” which tells the backstory of Westheimer’s life, from losing her family at the age of 10 to the Nazis to being a single parent, surviving on egg salad sandwiches as she worked her way through school, to bringing her educational message that “you are responsible for your actions” to the masses through the radio, television shows and her books.
Slipping effortlessly in and out of character as Dr. Ruth, Hydock shared how a phone call to Westheimer led to her visit to Birmingham and, later, to another visit in New York. “Her mission is to live life as fully and joyfully as she can, not for herself but in honor of her mother, her father, her cousins and her family who never did,” Hydock said.
The stories enthralled the audience, many of them women. “It was wonderful,” said Annette Tustin. “Of course, I’ve never been to one of these storytelling events that I haven’t enjoyed.”