By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times
Delores Hydock is considered to be one of the most talented storytellers in the Southeast. Her brand of wit, humor and wisdom combines for a side-splitting evening of laughter wherever she performs.
According to her biography, Dolores grew up in Reading, Penn., home of the Reading Railroad and Luden’s Cough Drops, and got her start in storytelling at the age of five, when she won a blue ribbon in a local storytelling contest.
Dolores has been a featured teller at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough and many other festivals, has served as Teller-in-Residence at the International Storytelling Center, and has won Resource Awards from Storytelling World Magazine for her nine CDs of original stories.
As a part of the Farm Y’All, Farm-to-Fork evening event on August 23, 2013, she will bring to Cullman a fun-filled, after dinner, one-woman show.
Hydock competed in storytelling challenges on the playground when she was just a kid. “I grew to love the power of words,” said Hydock, thoughtfully.
“It felt like something powerful and beautiful,” she explained. “My sister and I often put on elaborate plays, using words and language to make them interesting.”
For a time, she wanted to be an actress, but got a job with IBM, instead.
“I was in my 30s, and I wanted so badly to perform, so I called up the local retirement home and asked if I could come over and read Mark Twain to the residents,” she recalls. “As word got around, people would come up and say, ‘Darlin’ I’m in a garden club, would you come and do your skits for us?’ I’m just grateful that I landed in Alabama where people love stories,” she laughed.
Hydock lives in nearby Birmingham now, but travels extensively. She has been a featured teller at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, and at other story concerts, festivals, and special events throughout the U.S., as well as community events, like the Farm-to-Fork dinner.
“I’m so lucky,” she said. “Ten years ago I began traveling to lots of public libraries, and places who sponsor evenings of storytelling.”
At first, booking agents didn’t know what to do with Hydock. “They knew what an actor was, and they knew what a comedienne was, but they all wondered what kind of a weird duck is this?” she chuckled.
She also does theatrical portrayals of historical Wild West women, oral histories of the lives of these women in words that will bond you with them, transporting you to another place and time.
As an actress, she has been featured in the one-woman plays Shirley Valentine, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Fully Committed, Talking Heads, The Lady With All the Answers, and Nothing Sacred: An Evening of Stories by Ferrol Sams.
Her early theatrical career included portraying the Statue of Liberty in a Fourth of July pageant. “The role required me to stand on a float in the middle of a pond, wearing a 20-pound electrified crown on my head,” she laughed. “Somehow, I managed to survive that role without drowning or electrocuting myself, but I’ve avoided historical dramas ever since.”
Her storytelling talents are for people of all ages, and she likes to remind people that it’s not only children who like to hear a good story; most grown-ups love to hear stories when they are told well, too.
“It’s essential to get the attention of the audience,” she said. “It is so important to make them a part of your imagination.”
In her spare time, Delores says that she enjoys tending a garden that includes a pomegranate bush, muscadine vines, blueberry bushes, a 20-foot jujube tree, and “a family of slugs the size of cheap cigars.”
She's held a wide variety of jobs: As a house parent at a halfway house for juvenile delinquents, a blues deejay, an au pair in Paris for three small children, a computer sales representative for IBM, a cookbook copy editor, an acting teacher at Birmingham-Southern College, and a teacher of Cajun dancing. “When people inquire about my strange path through such a variety of jobs, I simply tell them that it's all just material for my stories.”
Her topic for the Cullman Farm-to-Fork event, sponsored by Traditions Bank and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, is “Dishing the Dirt: Stories of Gardens and Good Eating.” Hydock will share funny and heartwarming stories about the revenge of Mother Nature, the intrigue of Frederic the French Yard Man, the dismay of diet resolutions, and the life wisdom that can be found in a 60-year-old skillet.
Another of Hydock’s current projects is a play which has historic connections with the University of North Alabama. Sallie Independence Foster was 12 years old and living in Florence, Alabama, when the Civil War began. Her journal, begun in June 1861, paints a picture of a child’s innocent world colliding with the reality of war.
Hydock teams up with nationally known music historian, Bobby Horton, to intertwine Sallie's writings, letters, historical photographs, and music of the time to create a uniquely personal glimpse at a radically changing world. The date for the opening of the play is April 8, 2014.
For more information about the Farm-to-Fork event, visit www.farmyall.com or call 256-734-0454.
For information about Dolores Hydock, visit www.storypower.org. To learn more about Bobby Horton, visit www.bobbyhorton.com.