Storytellers

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Featured storytellers

Noa Baum

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.
http://noabaum.com

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!
http://www.trixbruce.com/

Diane Ferlatte

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.
http://www.dianeferlatte.com

Bill Harley

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.
http://www.billharley.com

Bil Lepp

“…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.
https://www.leppstorytelling.com/

Robert Lewis

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

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.
https://motoko.folktales.net/

Liz Weir

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.”
https://www.lizweir.org/

Antonio Sacre

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.
https://www.antoniosacre.com/

Jay O’Callahan

Special guest

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."
https://ocallahan.com