By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times
Yazoo City, Miss., has birthed more than one famous storyteller. In addition to producing the Southern humorist and comedian, Jerry Clower, it is also the birthplace of nationally celebrated storyteller, Nina Reeves.
The North Alabama Agriplex is happy to bring this teller of tales to Cullman on Friday, at 7 p.m.
Reeves calls Birmingham home now, but has traveled all over the country and abroad telling her own special brand of Southern stories.
She began at Camp Sumatanga while serving as youth director of the United Methodist Church in the North Alabama Conference. Reeves spins all kinds of fairy tales and folk tales, but she is especially fond of, and is known for, her rendition of Appalachian stories.
“I believe that stories have power,” she said. “They can make you laugh or cry and help you get in touch with your own story hidden inside.”
A Christian educator and minister for over 40 years, she worked mostly with teenagers in the church camps. Now her stories are told to people of all ages. “I jokingly say that I’m a Methodist nun with a lot of spiritual children,” she laughed. “I like telling stories to people of all ages.”
Although she has attended and taught many storytelling workshops, the art seems to come naturally to Reeves.
She had to stop and think a minute when asked what her own favorite story is. “Well, I like all Appalachian folk tales,” she said thoughtfully. “But what I probably get the most requests for is a story called Wicked John and the Devil.”
As a professional storyteller, Reeves has spoken extensively at churches, schools and storytelling events as far away as New York City and as nearby as Athens and Florence, Ala.
In a workshop in Florida she gathered Haitian folk tales, at another in NYC she told stories of her homeland. “They all love Southern stories,” she smiled.
An avid book collector, she has studied stories from all corners of the earth. She makes it a point to attend the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tenn., each October, where there are storytellers from as far away as Wales and Japan as well as all over Europe.
Her own favorite storyteller is Jay O’Callahan, who was commissioned to tell the story of the history of NASA for their 50th anniversary. “My favorite Alabama storyteller is Delores Hydock, from Birmingham. Each storyteller has his or her own style,” Reeves pointed out.
Coordinator of the North Alabama Agriplex, Rachel Dawsey, was once a camper who sat around a fire and listened to Reeves tell her tales. “I grew up hearing her at camp. Now she is a nationally known storyteller and I’m so excited to be bringing her to Cullman,” said Dawsey. “She came here to Peinhardt Day once and was a big hit, so people are really looking forward to having her return.”
Come out and enjoy fun while you warm up with hot cocoa, desserts, and some tall tales from beloved storyteller, Nina Reeves.
Storytelling with Nina Reeves
Date: 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18
Place: Heritage Center, 1714 Talley Ho Street, Cullman.
Phone: 256-297-1044 for more info.
Admission price: $2/person, $5/families