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Will Hornyak invites audiences in Milwaukie to contemplate death as part of the cycle of life

For storyteller Will Hornyak, "death is not something people generally feel comfortable about discussing, but stories about death can loosen us up a bit, provide some perspective and insight into an area of human experience often fraught with fear and trepidation."

He will give an audience the chance to face their fears when he performs "Tales from the Other Side" from 3-4 p.m. on Oct. 30 at Ledding Library.COURTESY PHOTO: WILL HORNYAK - Will Hornyak will once again tell Halloween and Day of the Dead-related stories at the Ledding Library.

A nationally touring storyteller, Hornyak has performed at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tennessee, and at numerous regional festivals around the United States. The Milwaukie resident has taught storytelling at Marylhurst University and is a member of Portland Storyteller's Guild and the National Storytelling Association.

The full title of Hornyak's presentation is "Tales from the Other Side: Bone-chilling Stories, Poems, Songs and Lore for Mature Audiences (14 and older) in Celebration of Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Samhain (Halloween)."

In Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, Dia De Los Muertos is a lively celebration with storytelling, food, music, dance and prayer, Hornyak said. It usually takes place at the end of October or in early November.

"It's a wonderful recognition and celebration of death as a part of life," he said, adding that humans tend to be fascinated by these stories, because "death is a big mystery in life."

Because we often fear the unknown, "stories about death provide a way of coming to terms with the inevitable," Hornyak said.

Samhain is believed to have Celtic pagan origins and also takes place on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

Both Samhain and Dia de Los Muertos are also celebrations of the harvest season, "so they remind us that we too are part of the great cycles of the earth."

Hornyak added that his presentation at the library will also include some comical tales about death from Ireland and Mexico, as they add a dash of levity "into a what is a rather grave subject — pun intended."

Finding the perfect story

For Hornyak, "a good story can entertain, inspire, educate and offer some ideas for how we can approach life's challenges, trials and tribulations."

Finding ones that attract his attention is the first step in choosing stories to tell in a presentation like the one at Ledding Library. Then he works on developing a relationship with that story until "it feels like an old friend when I go to tell it."

Storytelling differs from a conventional play presentation, as Hornyak does not memorize the pieces, but instead adapts the story to the audience in front of him, he said.

"Reading an audience is important because it gives you a feel for what rhythm and pacing will work," he said, noting that he will make small adjustments during a performance, perhaps inserting a line of poetry or a song.

"Also, the stage in storytelling is actually not where I'm standing, but in the imagination of the audience. So, the primary 'engagement' is the audience making their own images from the words and gestures of the storyteller," he said.

This spring, Hornyak will continue his search for the perfect stories to add to his repertoire when he and his wife Concetta Antonelli, also a storyteller, visit Ireland to tell stories and research Irish myths and legends.

Scared to death!

What: Storyteller Will Hornyak presents "Tales from the Other Side: Bone-chilling Stories, Poems, Songs and Lore for Mature Audiences (14 and older) in Celebration of Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Samhain (Halloween)."

When: 3-4 p.m. on Oct. 30

Where: The Community Room at the Ledding Library, 10660 S.E. 21st Ave., Milwaukie

More: On Halloween, Hornyak will offer a virtual show on Zoom for mature audiences at 7 p.m. There is no charge, but he does accept donations. The link to the presentation is

Contact: For more information, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

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