The first performance held in Theatre 101, a children’s storytelling show, filled the air with laughs from both kids and adults on Saturday, June 9.
Andy Offutt Irwin performed two shows, and was the first storyteller to be showcased in the Virginia Tech Summer Arts Festival.
Irwin said his stories about childhood are overstated, silly and true. He said that during a performance, he tries to engage everyone in the audience.
“It’s exciting that kids sat with their parents,” he said. “When I’m saying something truthful and funny, the kids look at the parents and the parents look at the kids. my job is to be a connector.”
Irwin said that connections happen when the grownups are laughing about something related to childhood, and both the kids and adults are reminded that grownups used to be children. He said it helps the parents understand their children better.
“That’s real family entertainment, instead of just kid’s entertainment,” he said.
Irwin said that he knows the secret to entertaining children and grownups.
“I treat children with the respect I treat adults, and I treat adults with the frivolity children crave,” he said.
During his children’s show, Irwin addressed kids and grownups separately, as well as together. Irwin said that his favorite part of performing is when the storytelling has become a live thing in the mind of the audience. He can tell when this has happened by the laughter.
“People stop looking at their watches and their phones and get caught up in the story,” he said.
Irwin, the storyteller, humorist, musician, public speaker, educator and whistler, enchanted the audience with his energy.
“Andy has taught me that people might be strange, but they don’t have to be strangers,” said Patty Ruan, head of the Department of Theatre and Cinema at Virginia Tech, who organized the event.
“I love the way stories can teach you important things with joy,” Ruan said. “I think storytelling is the best way to learn.
“I saw a little girl in front of me acting a little impatient, and of course I’m feeling responsible for the whole event. Then she turns to her mom and says vehemently, ‘I like him.’”
She wasn’t the only one.
“I think he’s hilarious,” said Samuel Freeman, 11 years old, who helped Irwin solve a math problem during the show.
After the audience applauded Freeman, Irwin said, “Sam, thou art brainy.”
Ruan said she thought there were over 100 people attending Irwin’s performance.
The annual Virginia Tech Summer Arts Festival began in 1991. the festival consists of various art exhibitions and performances, which run through late August. It is sponsored by Virginia Tech and the Town of Blacksburg in effort to highlight talent in the local area.
Information about the festival and the schedule of events is listed on Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts and Cinema’s website.
A version of this article appeared in the Jun 14 issue of the Collegiate Times.