ST. GEORGE — Danish author Hans Christian Andersen is coming to the Santa Clara Library this Thursday at 6 p.m.
Well, Andersen, who’s been dead for nearly 150 years, won’t actually be there. Instead, storyteller and Andersen reenactor Randel McGee will perform his take on the late author’s stories, which include “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Little Mermaid” and the inspiration for Disney’s “Frozen.”
Though McGee has performed in venues and festivals around the world, he doesn’t yet know which of Andersen’s stories he will perform in Santa Clara.
“I’m going to wait till I see the audience,” McGee told St. George News. “I’ve learned the stories I perform by heart, but I still like to improvise, to keep them fresh and lively.”
A former consultant with the California State Library System, McGee discovered his love for Andersen’s work while visiting a museum dedicated to the author’s life and work in Solvang, California, in 1994.
“It was an epiphany,” McGee said. “I learned that he was a lively storyteller, who made paper cutouts while telling stories. My Andersen act grew from that experience.”
Like his encounter with Andersen’s work in the museum, McGee’s work with cutouts occurred unexpectedly. As McGee tells it, he was scheduled to perform for a group of students. He was doing shadow puppetry at the time, but he didn’t have any puppets.
“So, I cut out illustrations on the spot,” he said. “The kids loved it, and I loved doing it.”
When he added period costume, and a slight Danish accent, McGee said he knew he was onto something. McGee’s act differs from Andersen’s cutout accompanied storytelling in one respect.
“His cutouts didn’t always have much to do with the stories,” McGee said. “Mine almost always do.”
While McGee’s performance isn’t part of the Swiss Days Festival in Santa Clara, McGee said it is in that spirit.
“The paper cutouts are a traditional Swiss folk art,” McGee said. “Through those, and the stories I tell, I hope to entertain and connect with the audience.”
“Stories,” McGee continued, “are all about connection.”
The performance, set for Oct. 7 at 6 p.m., is free, and all ages are welcome. The Santa Clara Branch of the Washington County Public Library is located at 1099 North Lava Flow Drive, in St. George. Call 435-986-0432 for more information.
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