Featured storytellers

Peter Cook is an internationally renowned Deaf performing artist whose works incorporate American Sign Language, pantomime, storytelling, acting and movement. He has appeared in “Live from Off Center's Words on Mouth” and “United States of Poetry” (both PBS), produced by Emmy winner Bob Holman. In 1998, Cook set up PC Production, a video production company based in Chicago. Cook has been featured in such national festivals as the Jonesboro National Storytelling Festival, Oklahoma City Winter Tales, Illinois Storytelling Festival, Indiana Hoosier Storytelling Festival, Eugene, Oregon Multi-Cultural Festival and Deaf Way II. He has also appeared on the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and was invited to the White House to join the National Book Festival in 2003. Cook has worked with Deaf storytellers and poets in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Japan. He lives in Chicago and teaches in the ASL-English Interpretation Department at Columbia College, where he received the 1997 Excellence in Teaching award. pscookprod@aol.com.

Regi Carpenter has been bringing songs and stories to audiences of all ages throughout the world in school, theaters, libraries, festivals, conferences and in people’s backyards for more than 20 years. An award winning performer, Regi has presented solo shows and workshops in national and international theaters, festivals and schools. She is the youngest daughter of a family that pulsates with contradictions: religious and raucous, tender but terrible, unfortunate yet irrepressible. Her tales of family celebrate the glorious and gut-wrenching lives of four generations of Carpenters raised on the Saint Lawrence River in Clayton, N. Y. Tales of underwater tea parties, drowning lessons and drives to the dump give voice to multi-generations of family life in a small river town with an undercurrent. 607-280-1013, regi@regicarpenter.com.

Bobby Norfolk is a master storyteller. His extensive experience includes professional theater and television, an accumulation of 23 years in the performing arts. His distinctive voice immediately captures the listener’s attention, and his imaginative stories produce visual images in the minds of his audience. “I didn’t seek storytelling, it sought me,” he says. He is like an adventure story come to life. Norfolk was a featured storyteller at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival in 1989 and 1999. In October 2009, he received the National Circle of Excellence Oracle Award presented by the National Storytelling Network. 314-968-2606, jdolan9928@aol.com.

Gayle Ross is a descendent of John Ross, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation during and after the infamous Trail of Tears of the late 1830s. Her grandmother told stories, and Gayle’s storytelling springs from this rich heritage. During the past 20 years, she has become one of the most respected storytellers to emerge from the current surge of interest in this timeless art form. She has appeared at most major storytelling and folk festivals in the United States and Canada and in concert halls and theaters throughout the U.S. and Europe, often with some of today’s finest Native American musicians and dancers. The National Council for the Traditional Arts has included Gayle in two touring shows, “Master Storytellers” and the all-Indian “From the Plains to the Pueblos.” She was invited by Vice President Al Gore to perform “A Taste of Tennessee” at a gala at his residence, and was the only Native American speaker chosen by the White House to appear in America’s Millennium on the Mall celebration in Washington, D.C. gayleross81@hotmail.com.

Alton Chung performs at storytelling festivals internationally, sharing stories and legends from Hawaii and spreading aloha. He also tells stories from the Hawaiian Monarchy and Plantation Days as well as Asian folk tales from around the Pacific Rim. He is also passionate about sharing stories of the Japanese American experience in WWII. In 2005, Alton was awarded the first J.J. Reneaux Emerging Artist Award by the National Storytelling Network. He has performed at the Congress of Asian Storytellers in Singapore, the International Gimme Story Storytelling Festival in the Cayman Islands as well as venues in India, China and Okinawa. He has also performed at the Talk Story Festival, the Bay Area Storytelling Festival, the Four Corners Storytelling Festival and the Oklahoma City Storytelling Festival; and has been a New Voice Teller at the National Storytelling Festival. 360-882-3581, Alton@altonchung.com.

Donald Davis was born into a southern Appalachian mountain world rich in stories. While he heard traditional stories about Jack and other heroic characters, he was most attracted to the stories of his own family and places of origin. Davis began retelling these stories, adding his own stories until he was repeatedly asked to "tell it again, on purpose!" During his 25 year career as a United Methodist minister, Davis used stories more and more. He was also asked to perform at festivals and in other settings until retiring from the church to tell stories full time. The author of 18 books and more than 40 original recordings, Davis is the recipient of both the Circle of Excellence and Lifetime Achievement awards from the National Storytelling Network. 252-995-2603, donald@ddavisstoryteller.com.

David Gonzalez is a professional storyteller, poet, playwright, musician and public speaker. He is a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department and the proud recipient of the International Performing Arts for Youth Lifetime Achievement Award for Sustained Excellence. Gonzalez was named a Fellow of the Joseph Campbell Foundation and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience for “The Frog Bride.” Gonzalez has created numerous productions, including the critically acclaimed “¡Sofrito!” with The Latin Legends Band and “MytholoJazz,” both of which enjoyed sold-out runs at The New Victory Theater, New York. “Sleeping Beauty” was co-commissioned by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Brooklyn College and McCallum Theater. Gonzalez was a featured performer at the National Storytelling Festival, and appeared for three seasons at the Royal National Theatre in London. “The Man of the House” was commissioned by and premiered at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2013. (607) 435-2045, sandra.peevers@gmail.com.


Regional and Guest Storytellers

Francisco Aguilar is an Associate Professor of Forestry by day in the MU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In his free time, he shares bilingual stories in Spanish and English at Columbia libraries, using storytelling as a tool in developing language facility in multiple languages. This is his first appearance at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival as a Regional Teller.

Mike Anderson is one of the most versatile folk entertainers in the Midwest. He hosted a national award-winning children’s TV show, created and ran the New Salem Storytelling Festival as well as the Clayville Music and Storytelling Festival. He was a featured teller at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival in 1991 and 2005.

Kenya Ajanaku is a dynamic storyteller and drummer. Formerly a percussionist with the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe, Kenya weaves these talents into his storytelling. As Founder and Executive Director of Harambee Institute, Kenya teaches children and adults alike in the importance of African history and culture. He was a Featured Teller in the 2016 St. Louis Storytelling Festival.

Barney Bradshaw worked in the Museum field for 35 years, most recently at the Missouri History Museum, where he dealt primarily in re-telling stories of our nation’s past. He has paid particular attention to the history of the St. Louis area and Missouri. Recently, he created his own professional storytelling brand called “Historically Speaking” and freelances as a historical storyteller.

Beverly Brennan was the Director of Speech and Theater at Harris-Stowe State University for the past 22 years, and also worked in the St. Louis Public Schools for 20 years. She is a well known cabaret singer, writer, director, humorist and storyteller. Her stories are both engaging, animated and always creative.

Mary Lu Bretsch is a retired school librarian who now tells stories in the Belleville, IL area for community events and multiple ages. She especially likes to tell her favorite children’s authors, literary tales, and multi-cultural stories. She teaches an annual storytelling unit for 6th graders in Millstadt, and several of these students have gone on to become tellers in the Festival’s annual Youth Concert.

Anthony Clark has shared stories and music across Missouri and beyond for more than 14 years. Songs from his Parents’ Choice Award-winning CD “Coughin’ In Your Coffin — Sing-along Songs for a Smoke-free Planet” are played in the U.S. and internationally. In addition to school and library appearances, Clark has performed live on numerous radio shows, and he has been featured on the nationally syndicated Dr. Demento Radio Show.

Gladys Coggswell brings to the stage a blend of tradition and performance through her stories of the African-American experience in Missouri, as represented in her book, “Stories from the Heart — Missouri’s African-American Heritage.” She has been a long-time teller-in-residence at the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, MO, and is a four-time master storytelling artist in the Missouri Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2015.

Becky Everly earned a degree in Elementary and Early Childhood from William Jewell College, and completed numerous storytelling workshops with nationally known professional storytellers. She facilitates the development of language skills necessary for oral presentations and stories through workshops and professional development opportunities with children, parents, and teachers. 

Flavia Everman has been telling stories for the last 20 years or more across the county and internationally, with a focus on folktales and fairytales that teach a moral or have a specific message for audiences past and present. She tells at multiple locations, including the St. Louis Renaissance Festival, and is currently orchestrating a folktale gathering project in Rwanda to help publish and preserve the stories of the country.

Jim Gerst learned about storytelling through his work as an interpretive park ranger at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and the Festival sessions held at the Arch. He continues to share stories and support the Festival in many ways. Gerst is also a Vietnam War Veteran, and will be leading the Veterans Storytelling Workshop. 

Grupo Atlántico was founded in 1995 by Carmen S. Dence, retired associate professor in Radiology at Washington University School of Medicine, and a Master Artist-Educator of the Missouri Folk Arts Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. Their mission is to share, teach and perform the rich cultural heritage of the people of the Atlantic coast of Colombia and other Caribbean regions.

Dre Guevara served as an in-house poet for the Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists’ Collective, an urban storytelling collective and long-time artistic partner of the St. Louis Storytelling Festival. As a Hip Hop and Spoken Word Artist & Writer, Dre is making his first appearance at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival as a Regional Storyteller.

Heather Harlan hails from Columbia, Mo., and performs through stories and songs to audiences of all ages. Whether spinning an Irish tale, an African folk fable or an original story, she finds a common chord within listeners and plays that chord with resounding energy, insight and plain old fun. Harlan also has completed two recording projects.

Annette Harrison has been a multi-talented storyteller, performer, author and educator for 30 years. She travels throughout the U.S. performing, teaching and giving keynote addresses. Harrison created two books on storytelling with a third waiting for publishing, and hosted KMOV-TV’s “Gator Tales,” a weekly television program promoting literacy, personal responsibility and self-esteem through storytelling. She was a St. Louis Storytelling Festival featured teller in 1980, 1988, 1999 and 2009.

Raven Heavy Runner was a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school youth, and is a self-described Seattle street kid, U.S. Army veteran, stage actor, Two-Spirit leader, Native Activist, college graduate, social worker, and storyteller.  Partly raised on the Blackfeet Reservation with his grandparents, his grandfather would entertain the kids with stories of the Blackfeet Trickster Napi and the dog days (prior to horses). 

Sue Hinkel is a storytelling artist who paints pictures with her words. A storyteller for 35 years, she is a member of the National Storytelling Network (NSN), Gateway Storytellers, River and Prairie Storyweavers, and Riverwind.  Sue was a recipient of NSN’s Circle of Excellence Award, and was also Missouri Art Teacher of the Year. On the faculty at St. Louis Community College – Meramec, she’s a storyteller for all ages, and a workshop leader for the young and old.  

Pippi & Papa (Bob and Jan Jensen) are a storytelling husband-wife duo. Bob has incorporated storytelling in his sermons as a minister, while Jan used storytelling as a school teacher and librarian. She was also the producer and director of the annual Storytelling Festival in Coal City, IL from 1992 to 1997. Now retired, they tell in tandem at festivals and tellabrations in Illinois, Oklahoma and Wisoncisn.

Marilyn Kinsella, known as “Taleypo,” is a full-time teller of tales from around the world. She shares her stories with the young and young-at-heart. She tells Native American stories, personal experience stories, Brer Rabbit tales and Midwest folklore. Besides performing at many Illinois and Missouri schools, she has been a featured teller at Cahokia Mounds and several libraries, museums and special events.

Linda Kram teaches preschool science and outdoor learning. She has a program through Springboard using storytelling, the arts, and snack to bring different countries to life. Linda volunteers at Litzsinger Road Ecology Center and at the Garden of Eden, and has been telling stories at the Festival and elsewhere for over 30 years.

Mike Lockett is a teller of traditional tales in a nontraditional manner, using audience participation, vocal sound effects, dialects, music and more to entertain audiences. An award-winning author as well as a storyteller, he has performed all over the world, most recently in Taiwan. Mike has written nine bilingual children’s books, all written under the name given to him in Taiwan: Miko Yeh Yeh — Grandpa Mike.

MMC Starlight Goodwill Youth Ambassadors are a group of very talented youth storytellers from Taiwan, trained by English-speaking storytellers as a way to learn English. The youth represent MMC Starlight, Inc., an Educational Foundation in Taichung City, Taiwan that has partnered with the Storytelling Festival for the past 5 years in cultural and story exchanges.

Ben Marxer is a second-generation storyteller who got his start with Second Tuesdays. He’s also been involved with the Risk storytelling podcast, and was a featured performer at the “Picturing Women” storytelling/art expo held at St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum. He was a 2016 Festival New Voices Teller, and has been a regular attendee of the National Storytelling Conference in Kansas City.

Kunama Mtendaji is a native St. Louisan influenced by the stories, poems, riddles, rhymes, songs and stories of his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. He studies and promotes the folklore of his surrounding environments, and the source of that folklore, which begins in Africa. These rich oral traditions are presented with the accompaniment of authentic dress, setting, music and dance that span from Africa to the Americas. He was a St. Louis Storytelling Festival featured teller in 1993.

Paul O’Neill Norfolk is a St. Louis-based storyteller who tells tales ranging from Dr. Suess recitations to stories of the Harlem Renaissance poets. He has told at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival several years ago, and is re-claiming his place as a Festival Regional Storyteller.

Sherry Norfolk, an internationally acclaimed storyteller and teaching artist, is co-author of several books on the use of storytelling in classroom settings to make curriculum connections in several disciplines. She is an adjunct professor in the integrated arts in learning program at Lesley University, and was a featured teller at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival in 2000. She just released a new book called “Science with Storytelling: Strategies for the K-5 classroom.”

Hakeem Oluseyi is an astrophysicist, educator, humanitarian – and storyteller. Currently serving as a Space Science Education Lead for NASA's Science Missions Directorate in Washington D.C., he is also Distinguished Research Professor of Physics and Space Sciences at Florida Institute of Technology. As co-host of Outrageous Acts of Science and How the Universe Works on Discovery Science Channel and a frequent scientific contributor to TV news programs, communicating the scientific process and the results of modern science to the public is one of his passions.

Daniel “Digger” Romano is a puppeteer, storyteller, teacher and folklorist, and has performed at festival and fairs around the St. Louis area. With his own puppet theater company, Blaque Berry Puppets, he performs traditional tales and original stories using hand and shadow puppets, in addition to sharing Irish legends, history and folklore. Daniel teaches art and storytelling residencies with PreK to 8th grade students for Springboard.

Lynn Rubright, co-founder of the St. Louis Storytelling Festival, is the author of “Mama’s Window.” She leads workshops and seminars on the art and power of storytelling in our personal and professional lives. She is the designer of Project TELL and co-founder of St. Louis’ Metro Theater Company. In 2007, she received the National Storytelling Network’s Oracle Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists’ Collective is a group of St. Louis based artists from many different disciplines. They bring teens and artists together in documenting their St. Louis community through art, word, video, and music. Currently artists-in-residence at the Kranzberg Arts Center, their programs explore the dynamics of community in St. Louis through tackling issues and topics relevant to their lives.  

Kathy Schottel has been singing stories most of her life. Her storytelling began during her 36-year employment with the St. Louis Public Library. Not only has she been onstage storytelling, but she has also trod the boards in everything from dramas to musicals. This Renaissance woman has dabbled in directing, musical direction, puppetry and trying to play every stringed instrument ever invented. Schottel has one recording out and loves finding obscure humorous songs to sing. She was a featured teller at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival in 1994 and 2010.

Carole Shelton is a storyteller, author, and retired educator form St. Louis. She earned a Master’s Degree in Communication from Webster University, and works part-time for the Missouri Humanities Council’s “Read from the Start Program” as a discussion leader.  Carole tells a wide variety of stories and encourages audience participation. Her repertoire includes story songs, folk tales, inspirational and original stories, and she has created first person narratives of historical women from the African American experience, presented in period costume.

Joyce Slater was born and raised in northeast Kansas City. She attended Central Missouri State University and later received a BSE in art from Emporia State University. She lives in Kansas City with her husband, Bob, and their dog, Gracie. They have two children and six grandchildren. Slater began her professional career as a high school art teacher and also as a private teacher. She has been an artist and actress for most of her life, but she became a full-time and freelance storyteller in 1996.

Fran Stallings  grew up with storytelling. As eldest of 5, storytelling was a survival skill. School residencies built a vast repertory of world tales, and Hiroko Fujita gave her hundreds more from Japan. She tried to repay her NSF grad fellowships with Science Told As Story, and recorded solar eclipse tales for NASA this past summer. Her style includes audience participation and autoharp accompaniment as appropriate for audience and site.

Perrin Stifel tells stories from the heart. A gifted storyteller known for his unique ability to fill a theatre with a magical sense of connection, Perrin began telling stories during his tenure as a counselor in the Ladue Schools. He believes in the healing power of storytelling, sharing humor and tradition. In 1987 Perrin founded and served as Executive Director of the MO-TELL (Missouri Storytelling) association. With his energetic and fun presentations, he blends just the right mix of warmth and sensitivity to create that wonderful concoction we call storymagic!

Chris Sutton is a talented public speaker, storyteller, actor, re-enactor, voice talent, and living history performer. He has created educational programs for the St. Louis Zoo, National Association of Interpretation, the National Park System, and the Civil War Sesquicentennial Organization. Chris has an intriguing demeanor and a magnetic personality that is unmatched, and his living history programs have been described as "intense and thought-provoking!"

Deb Swanegan weaves the threads of history, fantasy, work songs, chants, myths and legends into her magical repertoire of traditional and nontraditional oral folklore. She combines her African-American, Cherokee, Jewish and Scots-Irish cultural heritage with her natural abilities to bring life to her stories. A performing actress in the Missouri Repertory Theater and Columbia Entertainment Company’s Chalkboard Theater, she was a featured storyteller at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival in 2002.

Ric Vice has been telling stories to kids for over 19 years as an elementary librarian.  He loves telling stories that use laughter and morals to give kids a message that they can take home.  He brings his background as a professional jazz musician to enliven his stories with sound and movement. Ric currently works with children, as a Springboard Artist, in both St. Louis County and City.

Jim Two Crows Wallen, a Missouri native, is an award-winning freelance oral historian who combines his love of history with a good story to keep audiences spellbound. As the oldest son of an oldest son, Two Crows grew up in a rich heritage of storytelling. He is the fourth of six generations of storytellers, which includes his daughter, Cristi Rose, and three grandchildren. Two Crows has been sharing stories for 30 years, averaging more than 300 performances per year to capture audiences spanning four continents. He was a featured storyteller at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival in 1998 and 2004.

Marilyn Sue Warren became aware of the power of storytelling during her nursing career, when she began incorporating stories and myths into her practice with the realization that stories can change people where facts can’t. She participated in the Festival’s “New Voices” program at the 2015 St. Louis Storytelling Festival, and is a regular participant at Second Tuesdays storytelling gatherings in St. Louis. This will be her first appearance as a Regional Teller at the Festival.

Loretta Washington is a master storyteller, multipurpose workshop presenter and author. She uses voices and animations to paint the pictures that bring her characters to life, and weaves her delightful tales in such a way that makes audiences feel like part of her story. Washington has traveled to Europe and several other countries and has incorporated some of the customs, lifestyles and mannerisms of these countries into her stories, and is equally at home sharing stories of her childhood in the Missouri Boot Heel. She has been both an apprentice and a master artist in the Missouri Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program.

Carol Watkins has over twenty years’ experience as a classroom teacher, incorporating music, stories, props, and puppets to captivate and interact with her audience.  Her energetic and upbeat presentations connect with any age group. Carol is dramatic and uses many character voices., and is as fun to watch as she is to hear. A writer with published articles in magazines, she has also served as a consultant and a curriculum writer.

Greg Weiss tells stories and presents workshops around the Midwest and beyond. His story sources include world folklore, poetry, his large family and an overactive imagination. His performance background also includes theater and rock ‘n’ roll. In his spare time, he teaches middle school. Weiss is a contributing author to two popular books on storytelling for young people. On the board of the Northlands Storytelling Network, he received the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award from the Illinois Humanities Council for his efforts.

Angela Williams is a professional storyteller who has traveled to many schools and libraries leaving audiences spellbound. She adds drumming to her storytelling, is an Artist as Teacher and a Community Scholar through the Missouri Folk Arts Program. She obtained a degree in Elementary Education from Harris-Stowe State University, and believes stories serve many functions in our day-to-day lives, including serving as the key to the ability for people to think more positively about themselves and others.  

Ken Wolfe has long been telling tales, fake realities and outright prevarications to his captive audiences. His outlandishly whimsical narratives, peppered with sound effects and almost-accurate dialects, have amused middle school scholars by the thousands for nearly 23 generations of graduates. Wolfe has also performed his narrative lies for both the gullible and the skeptical in museums, camps, churches, cemeteries, caves, businesses and homes. All of his stories are completely true, by the way, at least as far as you know. Honest.

Jackie and Papa Wright tell high-energy folk tales with dynamic sound effects and music. Their stories range from multicultural and animal tales to fables and inspirational stories. Their listeners get to participate in the percussion and the stories. They were St. Louis Storytelling Festival featured tellers in 2006, and have been regional tellers since 1998.

LaRita Wright, has worked at the University City Public Library for 20 years. For about 10 of those years “Mrs. W” has been the library’s storyteller — known to the thousands of children who have passed through her tales. Her storytelling features stories, songs and rhymes of animals that are appropriate for young listeners, and she enjoys seeing children using their imagination while listening to a story.

Karen Young believes her storytelling appeals to the “young at heart and ancient in spirit.” Her vivid character portrayals from history and folklore entertain and educate all audiences anywhere. A professional storyteller since 1992, Karen has been featured at storytelling events throughout Midwest and is a storytelling and writing artist with Springboard to Learning/Young Audiences of St. Louis and the Center of Contemporary Art (COCA). She was a featured storyteller at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival in 2007.