Reflections on the VASA Virtual Gathering 2021
by Beth Ohlsson
The Virginia Storytelling Association (VASA) had its annual Gathering virtually this year, and even though I am truly “Zoomed-out”, I was blown away by the caliber of this year’s event.
The event was organized and coordinated by Mylinda Butterworth, who graduated with me from East Tennessee State’s Master’s program in Storytelling. Organizing, coordinating, and marketing conferences is Mylinda’s strong suit. In fact, her Capstone Project was a how-to guide for such events. Even knowing her for the last 14 years didn’t stop me from being blown away.
The talent that Mylinda brought together for this event was astonishing. As the event was not limited by its geography, Mylinda was able to reach across the country to find incredible storytellers. Featured tellers Laura Packer, Adam Booth, and Carrie Sue Ayver gave us a smorgasbord of stories, taking us to lands and times that spanned the entire range of time and space. Their skill, their joy, and their connection to the audience (via Zoom, no less!!) were inspiring. I had the privilege of being the opening act for the Friday night concert and I was humbled to be in such company. Jane Dorfman, another VASA member had the same opportunity Saturday evening and her performance was the best I have ever seen her give.
Artists Standing Strong Together (ASST) partnered with VASA to bring other regional tellers to the conference, increasing the depth and breadth of the stories we heard. Thanks to Sheila Arnold, we were introduced to 10 more tellers, some of whom were new to me which is always a treat.
AND…there were 14 workshops!
Everything I attended was beyond my expectations.The level of excellence in the workshops was mind boggling. I was humbled by the standard of excellence that was demonstrated in each and every performance and workshop. I was blown away by the degree to which everyone had honed their craft. Truth be told, I was just a tad intimidated by the company I was keeping last weekend.
Andy Offut Irvin always says, “Show me, don’t tell me.” The presenters showed me what excellence looks like. The workshops showed me how to get there from here. There is something incredibly wonderful about being surrounded by excellence. It felt a bit like a warm embrace.
Thanks Mylinda. Thanks VASA.