Meet the storytellers
2017 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.
2017 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.