TAMPA — A 3 1/2-foot-tall Cinderella spun around as her evil stepsister commanded her to dance.
"That was mean," the first stepsister said, looking suspiciously like a preteen boy wearing a horse mask.
"We're the ugly stepsisters," said stepsister two, equally masculine in a top hat and sports-themed T-shirt. "We're supposed to be mean."
The stepsisters and Cinderella, along with a three-headed fairy godmother, got to improvise the fairy tale for an audience on Saturday afternoon as part of the 30th Annual Tampa-Hillsborough County Storytelling Festival.
The city- and county-funded festival, which took place at Hillsborough High School, aims to help children tell their stories to an audience.
"Every child who learns to tell a story has an achievement," said Kim Rivers, a member of the festival organizing committee.
Rivers estimated the event would attract as many as 3,500 people, who traveled from as far as Pasco County.
Literary characters roamed the halls of the high school, dispensing advice at a variety of workshops. In Eth-Noh-Tec, the featured act, performers Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo and Nancy Wang used music, Asian mythology and choreography to tell their stories to a packed auditorium.
This was a repeat engagement for Tampa comedic actor Mike Norton, who strutted around in gloves and a straw hat as Mark Twain.
Norton also has played Capt.Hook, Bilbo Baggins, and H.G. Wells. He enjoys seeing the next generation of storytellers come into their own, he said.
"Maybe I'm meeting someone who's going to be a bestselling author one day."
Hilary Lehman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2441.