Shirley Routliffe, March 21, 2017

Canadian Teller Featured

Reveal a secret dream. Slip into the past to walk with a departed friend. Find the comedy in a situation.Shirley Routliffe

A story can do these and then some, said Shirley Routliffe, the teller who’ll come to the free Story Swap in Port Angeles on Tuesday, March 21.

The title of her set is “Daring Deeds and Jarring Events: Tales from My Family Archives,” but that’s about all Routliffe will say at this point. She doesn’t want to give anything away until the night of the swap, which takes place at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St.

Admission is free and the program is geared toward adults and teens; newcomers are welcome.

Humor and Heart

Routliffe, who’s lived all over Canada — Halifax, Nova Scotia; Ottawa; on Baffin Island inside the Arctic Circle and now balmy Victoria, B.C. — will bring a fistful of stories with her to the United States. She’ll also bring a light heart, in that she’s a big believer in the power of humor.

Now 73 and retired, Routliffe’s work experiences include acting as a therapeutic clown at a cancer clinic.

“Our job as clowns was to make a ‘heart connection,’” she recalled, adding that this connection would happen in the stories she told.

One patient told her that a little humor helped him transcend his illness: “When I laugh, I come back to myself,” he said.

Today, when Routliffe walks onto a stage — or just to the front of the room at a house concert — she wants to give listeners that feeling of connection.

The message, she said, is: “You’re not alone.” Other people have dealt with the struggles you are going through now.

Routliffe has been a schoolteacher too, the founder of the kindergarten program in the tiny Canadian Inuit community of Pond Inlet. She told stories then, of course, having learned from her folks how to deliver a tale.

“My dad was a great storyteller. It was what our family always did,” she said.

“And for me, the writing and the telling was very therapeutic.”

Refreshments and Open Mic

Routliffe will tell during the first half of the Story Swap; then comes a refreshment break and time for anyone to step up and share a short tale.

The nonprofit Story People of Clallam County group hosts these swaps on the third Tuesday of the month, along with other public events: the annual Liars’ Contest June 3rd, the Forest Storytelling Festival in Port Angeles October 20-22, and, this year for the first time, the International Story Slam at Sequim’s Olympic Theatre Arts on May 18.

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