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SISF 2019: Q&A with Giovanna Conforto

Tell us an interesting feature of traditional storytelling in your country. 

In many villages and towns now, in Italy, we have storytelling circles. Groups of people who come together to share stories, songs, anecdotes. It was a tradition, in Italy, to sit in a circle “a veglia” in the evenings, especially in the countryside, but it had got almost completely lost. In the last 10 years, more and more events are happening. Storytellers, professionals or not, host the event and hold the space. It is beautiful and encouraging.

How did you become a storyteller?

I was working as drama teacher with a group of people with different abilities. I had been trained in a very traditional way with texts and scripts. After the first days, where we had exercises and games, I discovered that most of the people in the room could not read. I decided to tell them the stories we were going to work with, thinking that it was a simple way to share the content of my script. But something different happened: A connection between us and a peace in the room that I had never experienced before. That day I discovered the power of stories.

What is so magic about storytelling?

The magic of storytelling is that it creates resonance. After a little while all the breaths and all the hearts in the room move following the same rhythm.

Do you have a favourite story?

I was invited at this festival in 2012, and I remember answering this question in the same way. La camicia dell’uomo contento. The shirt of the happy man.

What was the last story you performed or told?

The last stories I have told are the fables of Leonardo da Vinci.

Is storytelling becoming a lost art?

No,  it is becoming more and more popular.  I often work in Asia, and there is a beautiful growing scene there.

What is the biggest challenge storytellers face?

Working together and supporting each other.

This year’s Festival theme is Beyond Words. What does Beyond Words mean for you?

It is funny, I teach in a course that has the same name at the School of Storytelling, Emerson College.

Can you tell us about a time when you have been storytelling that connected you with another teller or listener beyond words?

Each time I hear or tell a story. For me it is a heart to heart connection. It has happened to me recently, here in Portico di Romagna. We had an event on trees and an elderly lady from the village shared the story of an oak tree. Many, many years ago a young Oak Tree had witnessed the passion of two young lovers day after day, summer after summer. Under the Oak Tree’s branches they had promised eternal love to each other. Then, the two had moved to Florence and got married. Many years later, their marriage had fallen apart and the man came back to the village. He walked to the top of the mountain to see the Oak Tree, and there he met our storyteller. The Oak Tree had been cut down for administrative reasons when it was still strong and healthy. The old man was crying. “I knew it!,” he said to the lady. “The Oak tree would have protected our love if it were still standing! Our teller is in her eighties and has no idea how to “craft” a story but when the story was over there were tears in every person in the audience eyes, from children to elderly. It was not about the words, but the atmosphere, the love, the emotions and the magic that she had created.

How do you imagine being part of the SISF 2019 will be?

Wonderful as every time I have been there. Meeting interesting people and seeing and hearing wonderful stories.

Indigenous culture/language is a focus for SISF 2019: How important is heritage and culture for you?

I have recently moved to a little village in the mountains in Italy where I have created with others the first Storytelling Center in Italy. Heritage and culture are the base of our daily work. Each event we create is connected to the local traditions.

Tell us something in your own language.

Larga la foglia, stretta la via. Dite la vostra ché io ho detto la mia. The leaf is wide, the path is narrow. Now tell your (story), I I have told mine. It is the traditional formula to finish a story and invite the next teller to tell.

As part of #SISFBeyondWords, our Global Lab explores the principles and goals of The Earth Charter Initiative and how storytelling can positively impact on this. What do you feel is the role of storytellers in the 21st century?

I really believe the role of the storytellers can be very important. Storytelling offers the possibility to share information and teach without sounding patronizing.

Global Lab – Day 5: Transforming myth
Friday 15 october at 11am (5hrs)

Book Tickets

Open Hearth
Friday 15 october at 8pm (2hrs)

Book Tickets

Open Hearth – new moon
sunday 27 October at 8pm (2hrs)

Book Tickets