Storyteller par excellence Susan Klein captured the imagination of more than 40 people Saturday night at the Unitarian-Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard on Main street in Vineyard Haven, with her program entitled Silent Night, An Evening of Christmas Stories.
The raconteuse from Oak Bluffs opened with a sound check: “We’re recording all live performances from here on — just because.” Because, Ms. Klein explained, when she was old and gray she wanted to sit back and listen to us laugh again.
Reverend Judy Campbell introduced her. “Susan is the master storyteller. Hang onto your seat; there’s magic in the way she tells a story.” Ms. Klein tours her one-woman shows internationally. Here, where many of her stories are set, Rev. Campbell said, Ms. Klein’s stories bring you back to being a kid and to a deeper sense of self.
Ms. Klein spoke for an hour and a half and rendered three charming Christmas stories. The Star Mother’s Youngest Child was a fable about a star from the heavens who enters the hovel of a grumbling old woman to share a Christmas that lasts forever.
Ms. Klein’s tales of Oak Bluffs in the 1950s portrayed idyllic glimpses of a childhood where redeeming bottles at a penny a piece could be traded for a devil dog, a childhood delight.
She recalled overhearing that the family was struggling to make ends meet; so at the tender age of seven, Ms. Klein resolved to stop growing, so she could continue to wear her brown checked dress another year. Her rollicking account engendered peals of laughter.
The story evolved into memories of bulky, colored bulbs on Christmas trees, paper cottages with illuminated cellophane windows, and the smells of Christmas. When she rode her new blue metallic Flexible Flyer bicycle along Wing Road on Christmas Day, she captivated her audience. “It handled real well in the snow,” she recalled.
The third tale was a reminiscence of an artist enthralled by flowers that the 13-year-old Susan Klein picked for her.
Ms. Klein closed the evening with Silent Night, from her mother playing the record at full volume in the summer “because tourists need entertainment,” to the German origins of the song in 1818 after a mouse bit into the bellows of a church organ.
“Tonight had me laughing and crying at the same time,” said Pat Schofield. “An Island treasure,” was her husband Jay’s endorsement. The Schofields participated in Ms. Klein’s oversubscribed storytelling program at the Tisbury Senior Center last spring. Held in venues across the country, in Europe, and annually on Martha’s Vineyard, the popular storytelling and memoir writing workshop will be offered again here from Jan. 3 through Feb. 21.
“The fun part [of the show] is when you know the names,” said Dick Goodell, a retired teacher who had invited Ms. Klein to regale his class on numerous occasions. His wife, Patty, had never heard Ms. Klein before. “I felt like a child, captivated by a master storyteller,” she said. “I could have sat there for hours.”