Local teacher and actor Lee Howard is preparing to return to the stage at the end of this month with her own evening of storytelling, an event she’s calling “Come Fly With Me” as she hopes to take her audience on a fun and humorous journey through the simple but poignant art of sharing stories.
“I don’t know of there ever being another storytelling event like this before in Clinton,” she said in an interview last Friday. While Howard has offered storytelling events for children before, the upcoming evening is aimed at adults.
Pointing out that it’s a “one-woman show,” Howard smiled and described the event as featuring “free-range stories from a free-range girl.”
“I’ve always been intrigued by storytelling,” she shared, recalling that “my mother’s family did right much storytelling. I had an uncle who was a big storyteller.”
In fact, in 2012 she received a Simple Gifts grant which enabled her to pursue her interest. “It was for me to investigate storytelling and family history and tie those together.”
In addition to hours of reading and researching, her investigation led to attending many storytelling festivals, including one in Laurinburg as well the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tenn. Of the latter, Howard explained that at its inception it “started in the back of a pickup truck” but had since grown considerably with 20,000 people in attendance when she went. Featuring “the best of the best” in storytelling, she recalled it being very “warm, humorous, and imaginative.”
A storytelling event she wanted to attend but couldn’t due to a scheduling conflict was one with Donald Davis, a North Carolina storyteller. Although unable to take Davis’ class, Howard shared that she liked his thoughts on storytelling — “everyone has all these stories inside them and it’s a shame not to tell them and share them,”especially with family, friends, and the community.
Out of that initial interest and grant-sponsored investigation came the idea to act on Davis’ philosophy and share stories with her own community. “This is not a requirement of the grant,” she said. “It’s a way to give back; a way to say thank you.”
Howard’s “Come Fly With Me” evening is to be held Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sampson Community Theatre, a place where she feels quite at home having performed in numerous local plays — some with her daughter Lucy Lockamy — including the “Wizard of Oz” and “Steel Magnolias.”
Although describing herself as “as nervous as a cat” about her upcoming event, Howard has plenty of performance experience under her belt to rely on, not only at the local theater but also in the classroom.
“I’ve done right much theater and I’m an English teacher so I do theater every day in a way,” said the Sampson Early College High School teacher. “I love literature and so much literature is intended to be presented and performed.”
Previously, she also taught Latin at Clinton High School. “There was lots of storytelling in that too with all the mythology.”
Despite these experiences, as well as minoring in theater during college, Howard still feels like she’s challenging herself by moving beyond her comfort zone and stretching herself as a performer.
“I’m really stepping out. I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said, humbly adding that “I’m more of an appreciator of the arts; I’m no artist.”
Her daughter, artistic director of Clinton’s Old Bluff Theatre Co., lovingly disagreed.
“You just have it in your bones,” Lockamy told her mother during Friday’s interview.
“I’m incredibly proud of my mother. She’s always liked dipping her feet in the arts and I think she has more to contribute than she thinks she does. She’s really good,” she continued, noting that “Come Fly With Me” is not just an opportunity for her mother but also for entire community. “It’s not just a personal growth thing for her. It’s also a cultural enrichment event that can affect everyone in the community. It’s a fun art form that many may not really know about.”
“Hopefully this will encourage more storytelling events. Maybe some open mic nights,” agreed Howard, pointing out that her Jan. 30 event is free and open to the public. “I’m really hoping to have every seat filled. It will be a relaxed evening of warmth and humor, I hope, so come and bring a dozen people with you.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.