Famed piddlers to bring ‘lost art’ to campus

Sable Riley

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Madina Seytmuradova

Staff Writer

Masters of storytelling, the Pike Piddlers, are putting on several performances on campus this weekend.

A single free concert by Josh Goforth, a member of Pike Piddlers and nationally recognized storyteller and musician, is set for Friday, Jan. 27, from noon to 12:50 p.m. in the Trojan Center Theatre.

For some students, attendance is required or strongly urged by their professors, according to Maryjo Cochran, professor of broadcast journalism and communication studies, calling the event a “unique” opportunity for students of all majors to “hear traditional storytelling—stories that are passed down through generations,” which she describes as “a lost art.”

For many of her classes, she has incorporated an essay or critique into coursework.

“I know the value of the spoken word and the written word, and I think that’s something that our digital natives, i.e. students, are getting away from a little bit,” Cochran said.

She said she will do “anything I can do as an old curmudgeon—a teacher—to share wonderful story-telling opportunities with our students.”

Saturday will be an entire day of festivities with all four members of the Pike Piddlers including Donald Davis, Michael Reno Harrell and Adam Booth, having three story-telling sessions at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in the Trojan Center Theatre. Each will last approximately half an hour.

Cochran, a storytelling enthusiast, said all the members, although with very different styles of storytelling, tell stories that are “common threads of the foils of humanity.”

Pike Piddlers festival tickets are $10 for the morning and night sessions and $15 for the afternoon session.

However, tickets for certain sessions often get sold out before the event, according to Cathie Steed, ticket chair of the Brundidge Historical Society, which helps to sponsor the event.

Cochran said attendees will be amused, might shed a tear and will definitely be engaged in relatable stories.

Christian Catrett, a junior communication major from Troy, has attended the annual event twice and recalled being “lulled” into the plot of each interactive story.

“It’s very comedic, but it seems more tailored to a very young, more PG, audience ’cause that’s who comes there,” Catrett said. “It doesn’t devalue it, but you’re not going to get any raunchy, edgy comedy or anything like that.”

Cochran said she developed a particular fondness for storytelling at a young age because of her own father’s ability to create and deliver allegorical tales.

She said the lead character in his stories was a squirrel named Jasper Jay Snickersnack.

“We would give him a title like ‘Jasper and the Pink Lemonade,’ and my dad would tell a story about Jasper and his friends,” Cochran said. “Those four friends would sometimes get into mischief and adventures as my dad made them up.”

Cochran said she feels stories bring back “delightful memories of childhood” and remind us that we are all kids at heart, no matter how old we are.

“These characters are so pressed into my brain from my dad’s ability to tell these marvelous stories that I really wish he had written them down and we’d had them illustrated,” Cochran said. “Those were some of the most precious memorable times I ever had with my father because he worked a lot, so when he had time to tell a story, it was an event.”

Caroline Hughes, a sophomore English language arts major from Decatur, said attending the event is mandatory for her Oral Interpretation class, but she’s glad for the push to go.

“I want to observe storytellers in order to improve my grade in this class,” Hughes said.

“We’re actually going to be doing storytelling, and so actually watching someone professionally would be a good way to learn.”

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