When she saw three teenagersone Jewish, another Hindu and the other Muslimsitting in a storytelling circle laughing and joking about a "village of fools" in Israel, it left her awestruck, said Kate Dudding.
"I was so struck by that because for one reason, how many places in the world would you find a Jew, Hindu and Muslim sitting together as friends and sharing stories? Second, who would have imagined one path to world peace had to do with a village of fools," said Dudding, of Clifton Park.
Dudding has been a storyteller for 15 years now, giving up her job as a computer scientist with GE's Global Research Center to pursue a far freer yet equally intricate life as a teller of tales.
"I fell in love with the art form. I did a little of it, just mimicking other storytellers I'd heard, and I realized if I didn't pursue it, I'd regret it the rest of my life," said Dudding, who was introduced to storytelling when her son was young at the New York State Museum. "It just spoke to me. It's a very personal art form because the storyteller is in the same room, looking into the eyes of listeners, reacting to what listeners are doing It's very intimate where the storyteller is present and acknowledging that they [and the audience] are sharing this experience together."
Dudding used her storytelling prowess to win top prize in a Story Slam at the 2010 National Storytelling Conference in Los Angeles in early August. Around 100 people attended the conference and 11 names were picked out of a hat for a chance to tell their story at the slam. Hers was the last name chosen and with her story of the three youth from different faiths, she won the competition.
The three youth her story centered around are part of a local youth interfaith storytelling group called Children at the Well. She serves as their webmaster and supporter.