That was a lie. It was simply preparation for the Boldfaced Liars’ Showdown in Laurinburg, where you’ll need to keep your wits about you or you’ll come away thinking you’ve learned something true.
That was only a little white lie. The liars at the showdown tell whoppers that last five minutes. The showdown happens Saturday starting at 2 p.m. at the Storytelling Arts Center of the Southeast at 131 S. Main St. in Laurinburg.
The first Boldfaced Liars’ Showdown was performed in Laurinburg almost 150 years ago. One of the storytellers participating was a young Grover Cleveland, who went on to become the 22nd and the 24th President of the United States.
That was another test. If you believed it, you failed.
The liars competition is really in its second year in Laurinburg. It’s modeled after a larger competition in Charleston, W.V. that has been going on for years.
“This is the twinkle in my eye and my best buddy’s eye,” said Jan Schmidt, who is the co-founder and marketing director of the Storytelling Arts Center of the Southeast. After a trip to Vandalia Gathering in Charleston, W.V. to see the annual liars’ competition there, they decided that they needed one at their storytelling center in Laurinburg.
“We looked at it and developed what we thought would be best for our area,” she said.
This year, there are 16 fibbers registered at the Boldfaced Liars Showdown. The event will be judged by a veteran liar Ed Stivender. The liars will come from all over North and South Carolina, including a local entrant, who won last year — Tyris D. Jones of Laurinburg.
“He’s an exceptional storyteller other than being a great liar. The national festival is eyeing him, and it’s really hard to get into the national,” said Schmidt.
Jones is active in the storytelling community in Laurinburg. He’s been involved with the Storytelling Center of the Southeast and been on the committee that helped plan the liar’s show. Jones got involved in storytelling after a teacher asked him to tell schoolchildren a story about black history in class.
“I told a story for about two minutes and I got bitten by the storytelling bug,” Jones said.
Jones has a theater degree from N.C. Central University, which helps him in his story telling — though it didn’t occur to him at first that a storyteller is basically a actor doing a monologue. Good storytelling and lying both have elements of theater. They both require a good original story or a good lie, but that’s not all you need to do it well. Lying and storytelling, at this showdown, is a performance art that requires a connection with the audience.
“My theater background prepared me in all aspects of it, from writing, acting, make-up and costumes,” Jones said. “Having that training adds that depth where you can put a character with the story. If you can visually internalize that character and bring it forth through words, your audience should too.”
Jones wants to be invited to Jonesborough, Tenn., as a featured storyteller in the National Storytelling Festival. If they accept his application, it would be an opportunity to expand his professional touring. He tours locally, but such national recognition would allow him to go further and make storytelling a profession. He’s also eager to leave the label of Champion Liar of Laurinburg behind.
“I don’t know if I want to carry that title for too much longer,” he said. “My students actually come up to me and say, ‘You tell lies Mr. Jones.’”
Liars tell a three to five minute story for a judge, who scores them on their technique, story development, originality and their effectiveness. The judge, Ed Stivender performs that night at 7 p.m. after all the local contestants have been judged.
The Storytelling Arts Center is only a few years old. It is located in a small old downtown department store and has been converted into a performance venue. Its first storytelling festival attracted 800 people in 2007.
Last year, 200 people attended the liars’ showdown, and 1,700 students came to the storytelling festival at the John Blue house.
If you go...
Tickets are available online at www.storyarts.info and range from $6 for just the showdown, to $15 for the showdown and the concert by Ed Stivender. The showdown starts at 2 p.m. and the concert starts at 7 p.m. The Storytelling Arts Center of the Southeast is located at 131 S. Main St., Laurinburg. To order tickets by phone or for information, call (910) 277-3599.