First Posted: 7/4/2009
Spend some time around Brack Llewellyn and sooner or later, hell spin a tale for you.
He cant help it. Its in his genes.
Im of Welsh descent, he said recently while sitting on the darkened stage of the L.H. Jones Auditorium in Mount Airy. Many of the Welsh immigrants came to America as itinerant preachers. They would carry a wooden box with them and then use it to climb on when they wanted to preach…weve (Welshmen) never been afraid to talk.
Most folks around the area will recognize Llewellyn from his storytelling, writing and stage acting. Twelve years ago he was joined in those endeavors when he married his wife, Angela. The two, together, own and manage The NoneSuch Playmakers, a traveling troupe which puts on plays and story-telling events.
Brack said his first foray into story telling was not all that unusual as a camp counselor in the 1970s, he was sometimes called upon to cook up a spooky tale or two. It wasnt until 1989 that his penchant for story telling began to emerge.
He was working at Surry Arts Council at the time, and a grant the council received had him traipsing to 70 preschools throughout Surry and Stokes counties, reading and telling stories.
Thats where it all began. It was a great training ground, he said. I found I had a knack for it. It stretched me creatively. Later, he carried his story telling to older kids. I built quite a repertoire of stories.
More than a decade ago he expanded his reach when he and Angela began doing annual Christmas story telling events at the Gerrtrude Smith House in Mount Airy. Soon, the two were doing the same at Halloween, and their work has been growing ever since.
Now they do stories with Brack focusing on retelling stories hes developed over the years and Angela compiling a collection of work she reads to audiences and dramatic presentations, and the two even combine talents to write some of their own plays.
Later this month an example of that sort of collaboration will be on display at the Mount Airy Public Library, where Angela works as a library assistant. There shes developed a drama group for teens called the Dewey Decimal Players, and Brack is writing an original stage play for the youth to do later this summer.
Hes a very good writer, Angela said of her husband. I have ideas, but I cant flesh them out and create whole stories. The summer reading program, built around the theme Express Yourself, is a perfect example of how they work together, she said.
I knew what I wanted the characters to be like in the beginning, what they would look like, how they would act…and I knew how I wanted them to be in the end, she said. So, Angela handed that information, along with some additional ideas, over to her husband.
It (the eventual play) had to be something that teens could do for little kids to watch, it had to be funny for kids, he said.
It had to be funny, but also have a broader message, she added. Hes really fleshed it out a lot. Its not something I could do.
The result? Thats something folks will have to wait to see later this month at the library.
Not that anyone should expect anything other than a hit among the kids and the audience. Brack and Angela have made the stage their home, sometimes using the material of others, sometimes their own.
That the two have developed a following in the area, and they seamlessly slip from story telling to acting, even to directing and writing, should be no surprise.
The spoken word is very powerful, Brack said. There is an emotional connection with live theater thats not there when you see a movie. I love movies, but live theater can touch me emotionally, even if its a play Ive seen before.
Storytelling and the theater are very much the same thing. Every good playwright is a storyteller, every good actor is a storyteller, every good director is a storyteller.
Long before he thought of taking the stage as a storyteller, Brack said he had been involved in live theater, and it was there he and Angela met.
I actually joined the theater to meet him, Angela said with a laugh. He had been the lead in a play she saw, and Angela said she was so taken with him she decided to give the theater a try, in hopes of meeting him.
Her efforts were thwarted at first, because Brack was seeing someone else. Still, she began working backstage for several productions, eventually making her way onto the stage and into Bracks heart. A dozen years ago they married, and soon afterward joined their creative forces in their storytelling and acting.
In addition to the debut production of the Dewey Decimal Players later this month, the two are involved in a number of productions this year, including Wedding of the Siamese Twins at the Andy Griffith Playhouse, Shiloh at the Blackmon Amphitheater, and they are hoping to make return appearances at the Gertrude Smith House for Halloween and Christmas.
John Peters can be reached at [email protected] or by calling 719-1931.