2020 featured storytellers
Willy Claflin is a one-man festival. Spanning historical sagas, intergalactic yarns, and counter culture misadventures, he covers the full spectrum of spoken word entertainment. A musician and storyteller since the early 1980s, Willy Claflin tells original and traditional stories, and is the speaking-mouth-person for Maynard Moose, the only quadruped on the storytelling circuit. He also sings traditional ballads from the British Isles and Appalachia, blues, and his own original tunes.
Claflin has authored multiple award-winning recordings and has performed across the globe, including at the International Storytelling Festival in Ireland. He is an NSN ORACLE Circle of Excellence award recipient.He offers stories for families as well as adults, often weaving music into his performances. An accomplished guitar player and narrative ballad specialist, Willy is sometimes joined by his son Brian for performances of In Yonder's Wood—a celebration of traditional music from the British Isles and Appalachia.
His tributes to departed tellers, especially Gamble Rogers, revive wonderful talent that might otherwise be forgotten. Festivals love sidekick Maynard Moose. Original, traditional, historical, personal, comic—regardless of genre, Willy fits any playbill.
Queen Nur (Karen Abdul-Malik) is a highly interactive International Storyteller, Folklorist and Teaching Artist from Willingboro, New Jerseu. She is the Immediate President of the National Association of Black Storytellers Inc. Following the griotic tradition, her stories capture historical victories, celebrate folkloric traditions, and profoundly speak to the quintessence of humanity.
For 25 years she has enthralled hundreds of thousands in over 34 states at such venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.; The Opening of the Smithsonian National African American Museum of Culture and History; Equitable Tower Theater on Broadway; NJN Television; Toronto Street Festival; National Storytelling Festival; and Kravis Center, FL.
Queen founded and produces the Annual Willingboro Kwanzaa Festival and is featured in local newspapers and on Fox Television every year during the Kwanzaa season. She is the Director of the Folklife Center at Perkins Center for the Arts, Roster Artist with Theatreworks USA and a Creative Consultant Teaching Artist with Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.
Queen founded In FACT: Innovative Solutions Through Folk Art, Culture and Tradition,
a cultural sustainability organization that produces workshops and events designed to
create opportunities for civic engagement through folklife traditions. Queen is a winner
of the MidAtlantic Artist-As-Catalyst Award; the NSN Brimstone Grant; and several
leadership awards. Queen has two CDs, Parent's Choice Winner, "Sweet Potato Pie and
Such", and "Live and Storified." She has an MA in Cultural Sustainability at Goucher.
Carolina Quiroga-Stultz is a bilingual storyteller, performer and podcaster, who graduated in 2013 with a Masters in Storytelling from East Tennessee State University (ETSU). Her large repertoire of bilingual stories, explores the Native and Afro-Latin American and Hispanic Myths, Legends and Mysteries ranging from El Río Bravo to La Patagonia. On July 31 to Aug 4, 2018 Carolina was a teller-in-residence at International Storytelling Center, Jonesborough, Tennessee.
In early 2019, Carolina's bilingual literary podcast "Tres Cuentos Podcast" dedicated to the traditional narratives of Latin America, was awarded two grants for its continuation by the following organizations: Alternate Roots and from NALAC (National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures). Listen to the podcast here: trescuentos.com
On 2014, she was awarded "Outstanding Performer of the Year" by ETSU, and in December 2015 she became the recipient of the J.J. Reneaux Emerging Artist Grant by the National Storytelling Network. On 2016, she became a Teacher Artist part of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts, a recognized national model for utilizing the performing arts to support young children's cognitive, emotional, and physical development and school readiness.
Tim Tingle is an Oklahoma Choctaw and an award-winning author and storyteller. His great-great grandfather, John Carnes, walked the Trail of Tears in 1835, and his paternal grandmother attended a series of rigorous Indian boarding schools in the early 1900's. In 1993, Tingle retraced the Trail of Tears to Choctaw homelands in Mississippi and began recording stories of tribal elders.
Tingle was a featured author and speaker at the 2014 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., based on critical acclaim for "How I Became a Ghost," which won the 2014 American Indian Youth Literature Award. The next book in the series, "When A Ghost Talks, Listen," will be released June 24, at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and June 26 at the American Library Association Conference in Orlando.
His first children's book, "Crossing Bok Chitto," garnered over twenty state and national awards, and was an Editor's Choice in the New York Times Book Review. In June of 2011, Tingle spoke at the Library of Congress and presented his first performance at the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C. He received his Masters Degree in English Literature at the University of Oklahoma in 2003, with a focus on American Indian studies. While teaching writing courses and completing his thesis, "Choctaw Oral Literature," Tingle wrote his first book, "Walking the Choctaw Road." It was selected as Book of the Year in both Oklahoma and Alaska.
As a visiting author and performer, Tingle reaches audiences numbering over 200,000 annually. He has completed eight speaking tours for the U.S. Department of Defense, performing stories to children of military personnel stationed in Germany. In February of 2016, his novel "House Of Purple Cedar" won the American Indian Youth Literature Award.
2019 featured storytellers
Noa Baum is an award-winning storyteller and author who presents internationally and works with diverse audiences ranging from the World Bank and prestigious universities to inner-city schools and detention centers. Born and raised in Israel and living in the U.S. since 1990, she was an actress at Jerusalem Khan Theater, studied with Uta Hagen in New York and holds an M.A. from NYU. Noa offers a unique combination of performance art and practical workshops that focus on the power of narrative to heal across the divides of identity. In a world where peace is a challenge in the schoolyard and beyond, Noa’s work builds bridges of understanding and compassion.
Noa’s book, A Land Twice Promised – An Israeli Woman’s Quest for Peace, winner of the Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award, mines the chasm between the Israeli and Palestinian experiences, the torment of family loss and conflict and the therapy of storytelling as cleansing art. With her storytelling background, Noa captures the drama of a nation at war and her own discovery of humanity in the enemy.
Noa performs and teaches internationally. Highlights include the World Bank, Mayo Clinic for Humanities in Medicine, U.S. Defense Department, Kennedy Center, National Storytelling Festival, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, AARP, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Fabula Festival, (Sweden), Limmud (UK), Jewish Theological Seminary (New York), George Washington University Law School, Brandies and Stanford Universities. Noa’s stories have been featured on Public Radio International and she is a winner of a Parents’ Choice Recommended Award, a Storytelling World Award as well as recipient of numerous individual artist awards from the Maryland State Arts Council and Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County.
Patricia "Trix" Bruce
Patricia "Trix" Bruce can tell you the story of her life without uttering a word. Trix is a storyteller, poet, actress and one deaf-woman show. You will be captivated by her electrifying energy, irresistible sense of humor, open-hearted honesty and rich experience.
Trix, who is deaf, delightful and dynamic, is an extraordinary performing artist with a spirited audience-participation entertainment style. Drawing on her background in American Sign Language (ASL) Linguistics and a life of travel and adventure, Trix excels in hilarious, true-to-life storytelling and impromptu, interactive ASL artistry. Diverse interests from business to stage performance led Trix to entrepreneurial success as an instructional presenter and sought-after entertainer. Trix is also an approved sponsor for the RID Certificate Maintenance Program. Enthusiastic audiences all across America celebrate Trix Bruce!
As a youngster, Diane Ferlatte was steeped in the oral tradition. Her early childhood years in Louisiana were spent on her grandparent's porch with family and neighbors swapping stories, lies and tales. She fondly recalls fishing in the bayou, making hoecake bread and listening to her raconteur father tell the family’s news, history, and all the old antebellum tales that had been passed down to him.
Thirty-five years ago, Diane adopted a four-year-old who had been raised in a series of homes in front of a TV. In order to wean him from TV and get him to attend the nightly reading and storytelling his sister so enjoyed, Diane had to return to her own childhood roots. She recognized how important those stories were and began to share them with her community. Before she knew it, she was telling children at her church, then at local schools, then libraries throughout California, and now at storytelling festivals and other venues all over the world.
While emphasizing African American stories, she loves to tell stories that hold truths touching upon our common humanity, including personal and historical stories. Having a background in music as well as American Sign Language, Diane frequently incorporates both into her performances. Erik Pearson, her musical sidekick, often accompanies Diane on banjo & guitar.
Diane has received numerous honors including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award, National Association of Black Storytellers' Zora Neale Hurston Award, Friends of Negro Spirituals Heritage Keepers Award as well as the California Arts Council’s highest ranking.
Bill Harley is a master storyteller. The nationally touring, critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, author, musician and monologist is considered by fans and peers alike to be one of the best storytellers in the country for his celebrations of commonality and humanity through comic narrative songs and confessional spoken works.
Entertainment Weekly labeled Harley, a two-time Grammy Award winner and multiple Grammy nominee, “the Mark Twain of contemporary children’s music.” But tagging Harley with the children’s artist label, even of the top-drawer variety, is as deceptive as this gifted artist’s Puckish demeanor. In slice-of-life vignettes about school and family life, Harley uses humor and a fine-tuned sense of the ridiculous to illuminate compassionate truths while inspiring belly laughs.
Adults absorb a Harley performance through a double filter of past and present. Children respond from the immediacy of their own lives, as with rubber-faced abandon he examines human foibles, flaws and embarrassments, common fears and simple pleasures. Harley began his work with children while still in college and released his first album, “Monsters in the Bathroom,” on Round River Records, the label he co-founded with Block in 1984. Twenty-eight albums later, Harley’s work includes song and story collections for adults, and a diverse mix of world music, reggae, blues, folk, rock, jazz, do-wop and more.
In recent years, Harley has authored eight children’s picture books and two novels for grade schoolers. Among his theater projects are “My Sarajevo,” a full-length play set during the Bosnian war, and “Stickeen,” a retelling of stories from the life of naturalist John Muir. Whatever Harley’s forum, it’s always all about story, community and connection.
“…Lepp [is] a cross between Dr. Seuss and…film noir....” -Charleston Gazette
Bil Lepp grew up in a family where the truth was fluid, and became adept at spinning tales and exaggerating circumstances at an early age. A nationally renowned storyteller and five-time champion of the West Virginia Liars’ Contest, Bil’s outrageous, humorous tall tales and witty stories have earned the appreciation of listeners of all ages and from all walks of life. Though a champion liar, his stories often contain morsels of truth which shed light on universal themes. Be it a hunting trip, a funeral, or a visit to the dentist, Bil can find the humor in any situation. He explains that while his stories may not be completely true, they are always honest.
Bil is the author of six books and sixteen audio collections. His first children’s book, The King of Little Things, won the PEN Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing, received a Kirkus starred review and favorable reviews from The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, The School Library Journal and other publications. It also won the Zena Sutherland Award, the Parent’s Choice Gold Award, was a finalist for the Irma Black Award and was chosen to be West Virginia's book at the National Book Festival. A storyteller, author and recording artist, Bil’s works have received awards and recognition from the Parents’ Choice Foundation, National Parenting Publications Association and Public Library Association. In 2011, Bil was awarded the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award.
Bil has been featured 15 times at the National Storytelling Festival, performed at major storytelling festivals, at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and at corporate events and functions across the country. He performed at Comedy Central’s Stage on Hudson in Los Angeles. Bil lives in Charleston, W. Va. with his wife and two children.
Robert Lewis is an award-winning Native storyteller, author and artist of Cherokee, Navaho and Apache descent. He has contributed two forewords to Wisdom Tales books. The first is in Pine and the Winter Sparrow, written by Alexis York Lumbard and illustrated by Beatriz Vidal. His second foreword is to Red Cloud’s War: Brave Eagle’s Account of the Fetterman Fight.
Robert works for the Cherokee Nation as a school and community specialist and conducts outreach classes and services in art, culture and storytelling. He is also adjunct professor of art at Northeastern State University, where he teaches classes in art and native crafts. Robert has appeared on local television and radio programs to share the wisdom and beauty of Native stories. As part of the Cherokee Nation cultural outreach program, he also travels the country to perform before a wide variety of Native, school, college, museum, festival and art market audiences. He is the winner of the Dream Keepers Perry Aunko Indigenous Language Preservation Award and the Cherokee National History Society Seven Star Tradition Bearer Award.
Robert was first introduced to the world of storytelling by his parents. “At the age of seven I heard my first traditional story and it came from my father, Yazzie Lewis, on a family vacation. We had stopped at a rest area and he brought our attention to the night sky and started telling about the creation of the Milky Way and why the stars are scattered across the sky. I had stories read to me by my mother, Lou Aline (Kingfisher) Lewis, from books but to hear an explanation for the universe, while looking at the starry sky was an extraordinary experience and I never forgot it.”
While researching and gathering stories from elders, storytellers, books and magazines, Robert was struck by the richness and variety of traditional knowledge and humor passed on from generation to generation. “The traditional stories are a voice for cultural identity of a particular tribe’s lineage and heritage, a vital link to preserving the rich oral traditions and I find myself fortunate to be one of those storytellers retelling this knowledge and humor that has been passed down through time. I now find myself collecting stories and even creating new ones.”
As a storyteller, Robert involves his audience in a special way: “I interact with the audience and involve them with the story … and I don’t plan any story that I am going to tell. I start speaking and the stories come out. I tell the listeners that ‘a long time ago all the animals would talk to you, tell you stories, tell you why things are the way they are, and in the course of the story someone in the audience may be able to relate the story being told to circumstances in their own life. The driving force behind the traditional story may be an animal, which captures a sense of wonder, pulling the audience into the tale being told, but the undercurrent theme weaving all the spoken images together at the stories end always has a deeper revelation waiting to be heard. I strive to convey this in each story I tell.”
Motoko has enchanted audiences of every age since 1993. She trained with master mime Tony Montanaro (1927-2002) and renowned Appalachian storyteller Elizabeth Ellis. Motoko’s repertoire includes Asian folktales, Rakugo and Zen tales, ghost stories, mime vignettes, as well as oral memoirs from her childhood in Osaka and her life as an immigrant in the U.S.
Motoko has appeared on PBS’ Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and toured Miyazaki, Japan, as part of CarnegieKids in Miyazaki Project, sponsored by Carnegie Hall. She has been featured in festivals and theaters across the U.S., most notably the National Storytelling Festival, Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, Bay Area Storytelling Festival and Provincetown Playhouse at NYU.
As a teaching artist, Motoko has been awarded numerous grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and New York State BOCES. Her story CDs have won a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award, a Storytelling World Award and a National Parenting Publications Award (NAPPA). She is the author of A Year in Japan: Folktales, Songs and Art for the Classroom.
2015 saw the premiere of her storytelling concert, “Rakugo: Comical Tales from Japan” (featuring Masayo Ishigure on koto and shamisen) at the University of Massachusetts. In 2016 Motoko made her fourth featured appearance at the prestigious National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., where she premiered “RADIANT: Stories from Fukushima,” an original one-woman multimedia performance on Japan’s 2011 nuclear power plant meltdown.
Liz Weir is not only a storyteller, or seancha (pronounced shan-uh-kee, Irish for storyteller/historian), but also runs a hostel in Northern Ireland called Ballyeamon. I was lucky enough this summer to visit her hostel located on the Antrim coast near some of Ireland’s most stunning landmarks. Liz met me and my family with a warm smile, helped us get settled into her cozy “camping barn” and then took us to her favorite restaurant in the nearby village of Cushendall. Along the way she told stories about the fairy trees, shared local legends, the famine cemeteries and crystal clear water of the glens of Antrim. Liz’s love of the land, the people and their stories was apparent and her hostel is a direct reflection of that love. Ballyeamon is unique among the many hostels on the Emerald Isle in that there is a session room lined with books and musical instruments where locals and tourists meet regularly to share stories and music. Liz has created a place where people can come together to rest from their weariness and share their stories.
This gifted storyteller and author has been bringing people together since she landed her first job as Children’s Librarian for the City of Belfast in 1976, when the Troubles were at their height. The Troubles refers to the three decades of violence between elements of Northern Ireland’s Irish nationalist community (mainly self-identified as Irish and/or Roman Catholic) and its unionist community (mainly self-identified as British and/or Protestant). This conflict has had terrible consequences, with more than 3,500 deaths since it began. In a recent newspaper article Liz was quoted as saying her work as a librarian “was a great opportunity to work with people of all ages – not just children but their parents, their careers, their teachers, and show them they could be children at a time when life was forcing them to grow up very quickly.”
Antonio Sacre’s tales of growing up bilingually in a Cuban and Irish-American household have inspired children worldwide to gather their own family stories and become storytellers themselves. Sacre was born in Boston, Mass., to an Irish- American mother and Cuban father. He earned a BA in English from Boston College and an MA in theater arts from Northwestern University.
He acted professionally in Chicago in the 1990s and became a member of the Redmoon Theater company. He studied solo performance with Jenny Magnus and Paula Killen and studied storytelling with Jim May and Rives Collins.
As a storyteller, Sacre has performed at the National Book Festival at the Library of Congress, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, National Storytelling Festival, Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, Fabelhaft! International Storytelling Festival as well as at museums, schools and libraries both nationally and internationally. He has also released four storytelling recordings.
In 1994, Sacre started working with teachers and school districts nationwide to foster storytelling culture in schools. In addition to performances for the students that center on drama, storytelling and writing, he conducts teacher in-services and district-wide trainings. He is committed to helping children discover and embrace their own multicultural backgrounds. In 2014 and 2015, Sacre served as the storyteller-in-residence at the UCLA Lab School on the UCLA campus in Westwood, Calif.
Performing “Forged In the Stars” and “Storytelling and Creativity Workshop,” St. Louis April 25 – 30, times TBD
Jay O'Callahan grew up in a section of Brookline, Mass., called Pill Hill because so many doctors lived there. The magical house and grounds were a perfect setting for his parents' parties, filled with singing, drama and conversation - a great atmosphere for a child's imagination to blossom. When Jay was 14, he started telling stories to his little brother and sister at the parties to keep them occupied. It felt so natural, it never occurred to him that it could become a way of life. Jay left Pill Hill to attend the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. "It was there I became close to my uncle (Joseph O'Callahan S.J.) who later inspired the story of 'Father Joe.' I consider it my jazz piece - it's a long riff on peace and war." After graduation, a tour in the Navy took Jay to the Pacific. "I was a supply officer and the Navy survived me."
Returning to Massachusetts, he taught and eventually became dean at the Wyndham School which his parents had founded. "In the summers I'd go off to Vermont or Ireland to write. I also did a lot of acting in amateur theatre, and that's where I met a beautiful woman (Linda McManus) who later became my wife. When we had our first child, I left teaching and became the caretaker of the YWCA in Marshfield, a big old barn on a salt-water marsh. That gave me time to write and to tell stories to my children. When I decided to call myself a storyteller, it was like getting on a rocket."
Within three years, Jay was telling stories in Africa, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and on the public radio program The Spider's Web, which brought his work to national attention. Many of Jay's characters are based on real life. The "Pill Hill Stories" were inspired by people he knew growing up. In 1980, while on vacation in Nova Scotia, he sat on and off for a month in the kitchen of an old man and a blind woman. Out of that kitchen came the story of "The Herring Shed." "I realized then that part of my gift was to sit down with ordinary people where they were comfortable, listen and later weave a story together so that others could enjoy it. The process still amazes me: One year I'm in a kitchen in Nova Scotia and a few years later, I'm performing a story to a thousand people at Lincoln Center."
Storytelling has brought Jay around the earth. "The storyteller of old got on a horse. I get on a plane, parachute into a community and I'm part of its life for a while before moving on to the next one." "The Spirit of the Great Auk," about Richard Wheeler's re-tracing of the migratory journey of this now extinct bird, has taken him from Nantucket to New Zealand. When he isn't on the road, Jay runs a writing workshop at his home. His other interests include reading everything from Walt Whitman and Herman Melville to Flannery O'Connor and Edna St. Vincent Millay. He enjoys listening to jazz, classical music and opera. "I love Maria Callas. Her singing touches a joy that's very deep."
2019 regional storytellers
Mary Lu Bretsch
Brian “Fox” Ellis
Paul O’Neill Norfolk
Daniel “Digger” Romano
Saint Louis Story Stitchers
Jim Two Crows Wallen
Marilyn Sue Warren
Jackie & Papa Wright
SPOKEN WORD STAGE
Sahara Scott (MC Sista S.O.L.S.)
Paul O’Neill Norfolk
2017–18 featured storytellers
Angela Lloyd’s performances are a whimsical braid of poetry, story and song played on washboard, autoharp, tenor guitar, spoon and bell. Born in the U.S., she was raised in Caracas, Venezuela, where she developed her skill in three languages: English, Spanish and music. Her stories are selected from traditional world folktales, the oral tradition, personal experience narratives and children's literature, including Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories, the poetry of A. A. Milne and Naomi Shihab Nye. Her songs are drawn from childhood, contemporary singer/songwriters, folk songs and original compositions based on the poetry of e.e. cummings, A. A. Milne and Pablo Neruda. From 2000 to 2003, Lloyd was a California Arts Council Artist-In-Residence at The Walden School in Pasadena, Calif. She has several award-winning books and recordings to her name, and she has graced the National Storytelling Festival Stage as a featured teller several times. She was a National Storytelling Network Circle of Excellence recipient in 2013.
Dovie Thomason’s style and wit make her storytelling deliciously entertaining, but it is also filled with ancestral wisdom. Through both tellings and recordings, Thomason is known for traditional indigenous tales of her Lakota and Plains Apache heritage, but she is an equally accomplished teller of personal and historical narratives. Using her own life story, she explores issues of identity, family and community. She shines an uncompromising light on the conflicted legacy of the government boarding schools charged with ‘re-educating’ Native American children. These original works are stellar examples of stories in service to social justice. With a Parents’ Choice Award, an NSN Circle of Excellence award and several other accolades, Thomason is a gifted artist, a passionate educator and an irreplaceable voice within the storytelling community.
Tim Lowry has been telling stories of the people, by the people, and for the people for 15 years. Telling a variety of folk tales and stories from American history, he has presented thousands of educational programs for schools across the country. He presents storytelling/communication workshops at corporate retreats. When not on the road, Lowry makes his home in Summerville, S.C., where he often performs stories of southern culture and history from the “Sweet Tea Trail.” Growing up in Kentucky, he learned the art of storytelling from Appalachian folk who spun yarns and told tales to entertain, teach morals and pass along local history. He studied drama in high school, and after earning a college degree in theater, Lowry taught English for five years before leaving to become a full-time professional performer. He’s won several Storytelling World Awards, and 2016 will mark his debut appearance at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival.
Leeny Del Seamonds
Leeny Del Seamonds, Master Story Performer™, is a multi award-winning, internationally acclaimed performer of Hispanic/Latino, original and global stories spiced with exquisite mime, a cornucopia of characters and a love of people. With a twinkle in her eye and fire in her heart, Del Seamonds breathes life into stories, as she masterfully springs from one character to another. A dedicated Teaching Artist, she encourages listeners to feel positive about themselves and rejoice in human and cultural diversity, inviting them to share in her Latin/Cuban-American sense of humor and love of performing. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Del Seamonds graduated magna cum laude from Rowan University and holds a BA in Speech and Theatre/Performing Arts (with a minor in Stage Directing). In New York City, she was trained by and has performed with The Richard Morse Mime Theatre, The Herbert Bergdorf Studio, The Purple Craft Theatre and The Mercer Ballet Company. Although she loves all aspects of theater, Del Seamonds is happiest when performing a tale, which she has done across the stages of many storytelling festivals.
Brian "Fox" Ellis
Brian "Fox" Ellis is an internationally acclaimed author, storyteller, historian and naturalist. He has worked with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Field Museum and dozens of other museums across the country. Ellis has been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences, including the International Wetlands Conservation Conference, National Science Teachers Association Conference and the North American Prairie Conservation Conference. He is also the artistic director for Prairie Folklore Theatre, a unique theater company that celebrates ecology and history through original musical theater productions. He is the author of 16 books, and many of his stories are also available on his 12 CDs.
Donna Washington is a professional author, storyteller and multicultural folklorist who has been sharing stories for more than 28 years. Her amazing vocal pyrotechnics and dynamic physicality make her stories come to life enthralling and delighting audiences ages four to 104. She has been featured at numerous festivals, schools, libraries, theaters and other venues around the world — including Canada, Peru, Argentina and Hong Kong. Washington is a multiple-award winning artist with 9 CDs, and she is an accomplished author of four children's books. She presents a wide variety of tales from many different cultures offering a range of multicultural folktales, personal narratives and stories of her own creation.
For over twenty years Regi Carpenter has been bringing songs and stories to audiences of all ages throughout the world in school, theaters, libraries, at festivals, conferences and in people’s back yards. An award-winning performer, Regi has toured her solo shows and workshops in theaters, festivals and schools, nationally and internationally. Regi is the youngest daughter in a family that pulsates with contradictions: religious and raucous, tender but terrible, unfortunate yet irrepressible. These tales 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.
Gayle Ross is a descendant of John Ross, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation during and after the infamous Trail of Tears, the forced removal of many Southeastern Indians to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in the late 1830s. Her grandmother told stories and it is from this rich heritage that Gayle’s storytelling springs. 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. Gayle has appeared at most major storytelling, folk festivals, concert halls and theaters in the U.S., Canada and Europe, often appearing with some of today’s finest Native American musicians and dancers. She is in demand as a lecturer and visiting artist at college campuses and she continues to mesmerize children at schools and libraries across the country. The National Council for the Traditional Arts has included Gayle in two of their touring shows, “Master Storytellers” and the all-Indian show, “From the Plains to the Pueblos.” She was the only Native American speaker chosen by the White House to appear in the “Millennium on the Mall” celebration in Washington, D.C. Gayle was also a commentator in the Discovery Channel’s award-winning documentary “How the West Was Lost,” and her stories have been featured on the National Public Radio programs “Living on the Earth” and “Mountain Stage.”
2017–18 regional storytellers
Ahrmantti Ambus, one of the festival’s newest regional tellers, is an imaginative storyteller and actor. Currently a student of Harris-Stowe and the president of the HSSU Players, he seeks to be an entertaining and inspiring figure. He performed in the St. Louis Storytelling Festival’s first GHOST Project concert in 2015.
Mike Anderson is one of the most versatile folk entertainers in the Midwest and is well known among central Illinois traditional music fans. 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, and was recognized as an outstanding Illinois educator as a 3rd grade teacher. He was a featured teller at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival in 1991 and 2005.
Kenya Ajanaku is a dynamic storyteller and drummer who captivates audiences with lively songs, high-energy dances and spellbinding words. Formerly a percussionist with the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe, Ajanaku weaves these talents into his storytelling. As founder and executive director of Harambee Institute, he 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.
Diann Joy Bank is recognized as a master storyteller and educator who loves telling multicultural folk tales and tales of her Jewish heritage. Her high-energy performances combine rhythm, song, movements and, most importantly, audience participation. She nurtures the soul with her stories and believes that everyone can be a storyteller. She was a St. Louis Storytelling Festival featured teller in 1995.
Larry Brown, formerly a professor of geography at the University of Missouri, has been a storyteller for more than 25 years. He co-founded the Mid-Missouri Organization for Storytelling (MOST), centered in Columbia, Mo.. He is also on the board of directors of Storytelling in Higher Education, a special interest group of the National Storytelling Network. Brown performs for all ages and is known for his original Jack Tales and ghost stories, as well as personal, Christmas and medieval stories.
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 on the radio in more than 30 states and in several foreign countries, including Ireland. 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. He teaches college-level courses in business, economics and sustainability, and he’s published numerous articles and short stories.
Gladys Coggswell brings to the stage a wonderful blend of tradition and performance through her stories of the African-American experience in Missouri and folk tales. In June 2009, the University of Missouri Press published 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. A four-time master storytelling artist in the Missouri Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program, Coggswell was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2015.
Flavia Everman has been telling stories for the past 20 years or more across the county and internationally. Her focus is on folktales and fairytales as these seem to be the stories that teach a moral or have a specific message for audiences of the past and today. She has told at area schools; festivals, including the St. Louis Renaissance Festival; senior centers; day cares; churches and libraries. She is currently orchestrating a folktale gathering project in Rwanda to help publish and preserve the stories of the country.
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. Warmth, animation and audience participation hallmark her performances. 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 has created two books on storytelling with a third waiting for publishing. She hosted KMOV-TV’s “Gator Tales,” a weekly television program that promotes literacy, personal responsibility and self-esteem through storytelling. Harrison was a St. Louis Storytelling Festival featured teller in 1980, 1988, 1999 and 2009.
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. Hinkel 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.
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. Kinsella has been telling stories since 1981 throughout the Midwest.
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.
Kunama Mtendaji is a native St. Louisan who was influenced by the stories, poems, riddles, rhymes, songs and stories of his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. He considers it a priority to study and promote 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.
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, an honor presented by the National Storytelling Network.
Sherry Norfolk, an internationally acclaimed storyteller and teaching artist, is co-author of 2012’s “Social Studies in the Storytelling Classroom,” as well as the award-winning “The Storytelling Classroom: Applications Across the Curriculum” and “Literacy Development in the Storytelling Classroom.” She is an adjunct professor in the integrated arts in learning program at Lesley University. She was a featured teller at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival in 2000, and she just released a new book called “Science with Storytelling.”
Lynn Rubright 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. Her book “Beyond the Beanstalk: Interdisciplinary Learning Through Storytelling” is an acclaimed resource for teachers and parents.
Dolores Santha, also known as “Grandma Coyote,” is descended from Native American heritage. She has been invited to participate in powwows and gatherings, at schools and educational centers around the country. She has been a police officer, an Indian Center director, an AARP liaison, and has also been a tireless advocate for prisoner rights, having been nominated to be a liaison with Native prisoners in the state of Missouri.
Crom Saunders is a performer, presenter, writer and teacher. An associate professor and Director of Deaf Studies in the ASL Department at Columbia College, Saunders has also appeared at improv events, The Encyclopedia Show, on the ASL Comedy Tour circuit, and in his own one-man show, ‘Cromania’, which has toured internationally. He’s interpreted plays, theaters and musicals, and teaches ASL Linguistics and Theater classes across the nation.
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.
Marideth Sisco is a master Missouri storyteller, veteran journalist, teacher, author, musician and student of folklore, who has participated in the Missouri Folk Arts Program Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program as a storyteller. She currently hosts the public radio show “These Ozark Hills” on KSMU-FM, and she spent 20 years as an investigative and environmental writer for the West Plains Quill. She is also well known for her gardening column “Crosspatch,” on which her new book of gardening stories is based. Some may know her best as a music consultant and featured singer in the award-winning feature film “Winter’s Bone.”
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. Shelton 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.
Perrin Stifel tells stories from the heart. A gifted storyteller known for his unique ability to fill a theater with a magical sense of connection, Stifel 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, he 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!
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.
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, Swanegan was a featured storyteller at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival in 2002.
Sandi Sylver first started learning to be a ventriloquist from a library book at age 55. Now an Illinois Arts Council artist and a CAPS Artist of Fairfax County, Va., she has performed in more than 20 states and was a St. Louis Storytelling Festival featured teller in 2015. Although her performance style has been called “totally wacko” (thank you!), at the core of all she presents is the love of reading, of staying curious and being a kind and honorable person. All of her vent puppets are made of fabric and have soft faces – not a Chuckie-type in the bunch!
Ric Vice has been telling stories to kids for more than 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. Vice 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, Wallen 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. He 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. She 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. Washington has been both an apprentice and a master artist in the Missouri Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program.
Carol Watkins has more than 20 years of 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. Watkins is dramatic and uses many character voices. She 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. For the past twelve years, Watkins has been a professional storyteller for children and adults.
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, and she 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 they have been regional tellers since 1998.
LaRita Wright, from University City, 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. She will delight you with fanciful tales of old and new. Her storytelling features stories, songs and rhymes of animals that are appropriate for young listeners. She enjoys seeing children using their imagination while listening to a story. Wright’s stories are designed appropriately for each audience or based on themes.
Karen Young believes her storytelling appeals to the “young at heart and ancient in spirit.” Her vivid character portrayals from history and folklore, as well as stories told in the voices from many lands and times, entertain and educate all audiences anywhere. A professional storyteller since 1992, Young 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.