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Telling tales

Local author and storyteller join forces to bring fables to life

Why would a humpback whale teach a hammerhead shark to dance?

Storyteller Nancy Marie Payne will be providing the story behind many such questions at the Bethlehem Public Library when she performs selections from local author Norman Cohen's Fables by jambbal on Saturday, Jan. 16.

It's a literary mash-up that is billed as appropriate for the whole family, as Payne takes Cohen's tales that were woven over the course of five years and adds her improvisational styling to bring them to life.

Cohen wrote the fables under the pseudonym jambbal, which was not only the phonetic spelling of his grandfather-in-law's nickname, but forms an acronym including figures from every major world religion.

"It was intended to be ecumenical in its base," Cohen said. "And to put forward the idea we are all part of the world, we are all responsible for taking care of it."

Rather than promoting the book through traditional book signing or readings, Cohen elected to let Payne tell his works on the suggestion of a colleague. The result, he said, has been more than satisfactory.

"It's a whole different level of performance, it adds value," Cohen said." I'm delighted to work with her."

Accessing a work through a storyteller rather than just through the words on a page adds another dimension to the story. Payne said that she will often tailor her presentation to her audience, changing elements to suit the listeners while retaining the plot.

"I am the type of person that has to see something, so when I am telling you the story, the story is flashing through my mind like a video, and I'm telling you from scene to scene," she said. "Because I do it that way, it never comes out the same twice."

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