Have you heard the one about the jolly fat guy with red cheeks who drops presents off to all the good boys and girls?
Surely you know about the flying four-legged hero with a red nose?
Of course you do, because that’s the typical holiday lore we’re all privy to this time of year – but an interim pastor at Baptist Tabernacle in Wilkes-Barre is about to change that come Dec. 7.
Rich McIntyre, a seasoned storyteller, will spin holiday tales not oft heard for the church’s “Christmas Storytime” this weekend, an event that’s free and open to the public.
“I’ve always been a storyteller,” McIntyre said. “Some would say I’ve always been a liar, I’ve always stretched the truth,” he continued with a laugh,” but I have just always been a storyteller.”
McIntyre began his foray into storytelling 20 years ago when he worked with a pastor who was working towards his doctorate in biblical storytelling. It was then he learned a more disciplined way to read and tell stories. He has had the opportunity to lead several workshops on the subject.
“I thrive on it,” he said. “I love it. I’m an extreme extrovert.”
McIntyre may have started out telling passages from the bible, but he soon moved on to stories dealing with many different subjects, and finds most of his opportunities to tell tales in public pop up in a seasonal way.
“Around this time of year, even adults become childlike,” McIntyre said with a laugh. “They just want to hear a story.”
The atmosphere of the season helps such an event gain popularity.
“The smells, the sounds of Christmas, they’ve all been sort of the same for decades,” McIntyre said. “For me it’s walking into a candle shop and smelling apple and cinnamon-scented candles; being 10 or 11 and going with mom to shop for a wreath for Christmas. Around this time, there are more cues that remind people of their childhood.”
Those who gather ‘round at Baptist Tabernacle will find new narratives falling upon their ears, as McIntyre will tell holiday tales that hale from the likes of Norway and Scandinavia.
“What really grabbed me about these stories is that they are so different from anything I heard growing up,” he said. “Santa and the reindeer do show up in one, but the reindeer all have very different names than we’re used to.”
McIntyre doesn’t entirely ignore tradition, though.
“I do tell a traditional American tale, but I like to get the audience involved in it,” he said. “People get to help out with sound effects, and they love it. It’s one story everyone will definitely recognize.”
He said he expects the entire event to last a little under an hour, a time period during which he’ll tell five tales.
McIntyre labels his method of remembering his stories as “internalizing,” not “memorizing.” Performing for an audience is not just about the way the words are said, but the facial expressions and gestures that accompany them.
“I try to get myself stuck right in the middle of the story,” McIntyre said. “I try to act the way I would react if I were the character I’m portraying.”
He said he practices constantly, despite the fact it sometimes gets him funny looks.
“I will walk through Wal-Mart mumbling under my breath,” he said with a laugh. “Every now and then my facial expression will change from joy to fear to sorrow. A passerby will look at me funny and I have to say, ‘Oh, I’m not dangerous – I’m just a storyteller.’”