Tellebration! 2010

| 30 Sep 2011 | 08:39

The magical art of storytelling is celebrated Saturday at the Florida Public Library Florida - Once upon a time in the tiny state of Connecticut, an obscure yarn spinner named J.G. Pinkerton had an interesting idea: Pick one night a year and have people in different communities simultaneously gathered together to tell stories. As it turns out, this wasn’t a mythical time or tale. It was really 1988. And it was a dream that has since blossomed into an international event called Tellabration!™ Today it is held at more than 300 venues in 40 states, nine countries and across six continents. Venues occur at performing arts centers, colleges, schools, museums, and even on trains and planes - and of course at the natural place where books and words are celebrated - local libraries. On Saturday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m., the Florida Public Library will host one of hundreds of worldwide Tellebrations taking place at the same time. Storytelling for a cause And it’s a special event that will not only be exciting for its entertainment value - it will also benefit the Lota Library in the Bio Bio region of Chile, south of Santiago. “Chile: Where the Earth Ends” is this year’s theme, and “tellers” will be sharing folklore and superstitions, myths, legends and memories of South America along with other stories as well. As part of the American Library Association’s Adopt-a-Library relief effort, Florida chose to “adopt” this specific library, which along with 200 others were damaged or destroyed by the Feb. 27, 2010, earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Chile. Every year, the event benefits a different cause; past Florida Tellebrations recipients have been the local food pantry and a library in New Orleans ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. “After we moved to our new location in October 2000, we finally had the space to put on a program like this,” said Madelyn Folino, an accomplished storyteller in her own right who has been director of the Florida Public Library since 1998. “After that first one, the Black Dirt Storytelling Guild emerged as a new adult program to keep the tradition going on a monthly basis.” Folino also serves as the New York State liaison for the National Story telling network, based in the discipline’s “mecca,” Jonesborough, Tenn. “What we like to emphasize is that storytelling is an ancient form of entertainment, far superior to watching TV and movies,” Folino said. “It’s a special way to gather with friends and family to kick off the holiday season.” Storytelling as an art form Eileen Stelljes, one of the original “founding mothers” of the guild, agrees. “It’s a hard time of the year to extend your finances, in this economy with the holidays coming up - but it’s also the best time ... because this is about doing something special with your extended family, friends and your community.” Stelljes, now a freelance storyteller program provider, spent 18 years as children’s librarian at the Walden Library. “Storytelling as an art form is on an upsurge,” she said. “People are getting back into their roots and they are realizing that this isn’t something that’s just for children. It’s always a surprise when the adults remain with the children and discover they are just as delighted by the storytelling.” Stelljes also appreciates the personal interaction between teller and listener that happen in the intimate setting of storytelling. “I like to see the expressions on the faces of the audience as I tell a story,” said Stelljes who gets “inside” a story by figuring out what it is about the story that touches her. Then, she taps into that special well of emotion and translates it through oral interpretation. “The storyteller puts their own emphasis on the details that mean something to you and that makes the telling unique.” A history lover, Stelljes also performs as a Revolutionary War re-enactor and for some stories, she will wear the appropriate historical costume to bring the performance to life. “I first was afraid adults might feel they were too sophisticated for folktales,” said Anne Hanson, another of the original guild members, “but I was wrong. The adults were mesmerized and I think it is because we all have that inner child.” Hanson, a former graphic artist and physical therapist, has sometimes used music as a way to enhance her stories. Although she is now turning her focus to poetry, she has enjoyed the reward that being a storyteller has given her. Storytelling invites people into your world “We all have busy lives,” says Hanson. “There are always 25 things to say no to - but storytelling invites people into your world and they know you’ll make it a safe place for them.” Hanson admits that she was once shy but being a storyteller has prompted self-discovery: “I am really a drama queen and I enjoy personifying tricksters, mourning wives and old hunters from Appalachia!” As opposed to “readers” who would have the text in front of them, or have stories memorized line for line from a script, Tellebration! storytellers will be doing just that - simply telling the story. By doing so they hope to stimulate listeners to share their own stories around their holiday dinner tables and throughout the year. “Storytelling reaches around the world and across all generations, reminding us of our common humanity,” wrote Pinkerton. “I know storytelling creates experiences and shared experiences are the basis of all relationships.” So for everyone who comes home from work, school, or a day at the races and says: “Guess what happened to me today?” - and then goes on to tell that story - they are in fact a storyteller who can share, inspire and simply help the people they love live happily ever after. Essential information Tellabration! 2011 will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20, at the Florida Public Library, 4 Cohen Circle, Florida. Tellabration! will be presented in a candlelit café format with free coffee and dessert. Attentive listeners age 5 and up are invited to attend. All children must be accompanied by parents. The suggested donation is $5 per person or $10 per family with all proceeds earmarked for the Chilean library. In addition, adults over the age of 16 are invited to attend monthly Black Dirt Storytelling Guild meetings to tell a story or just listen. Meetings are held on the second Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. For more information about the event or the guild, call the Florida Public Library at 845-651-7659 or visit . Donations for Chile’s libraries can be made at any time, by To learn more about the history of Tellabration!, visit and for information on storytelling in general, go to Special guest storytellers Although many of the event’s stories will revolve around a South American theme, some may be just “grab bag” tales that will captivate the audience regardless of their origin. In addition to Black Dirt Storytelling Guild members Madelyn Folino, Eileen Stelljes and Anne Hanson, the following will also be weaving their tales: Florida resident Debra Weber, also a “founding mother” of the guild,. A costume stylist who works on TV and film sets in New York City, Weber enjoys tapping into her Russian heritage. Miguel Sepulveda is a ten-year area resident and a native of Chile. A translator will also be on hand to interpret. Sepulveda, a former high school teacher in his country, is head teacher at the Florida ABCD Head Start facility which serves the migrant community. Poet and novelist Elaine Knight of Amity is the only professional actress in the group. Although being a storyteller does not require acting ability, Knight feels it probably does foster a lot of the vocal and artistic ability required. “For me, it will be a definite benefit to be an actress and I’ve also done a lot of public poetry readings,” said Knight, whose career began in Los Angeles. She eventually headed to New York, working Off-Broadway, in summer stock and later the Greer Garson Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “I love traveling because you do collect a lot of wonderful stories and you have a lot to converse about with your friends,” she said. Her Tellebration! story will revolve around some very unusual details from her past summer’s sojourn in Costa Rica. Kathleen Wilson is an S.S. Seward senior who got the storytelling bug in 2003 after the Black Dirt Storytelling Guild offered an interactive presentation at Florida’s Golden Hill Elementary School. Wilson, then a fifth grader, read “Raven’s Great Adventure, a Native American tale from Alaska. Now heading into her eighth consecutive appearance, Wilson will be capping her streak with a story she still has to choose. “I’ll look for something on the internet, print it out, read it five times and then just put it away,” says Wilson. “The trick,” she adds, “is not to over analyze it, just find something that strikes you.” Wilson is currently immersed in the intense college application process. And although the future bio-chemistry major acted in last year’s school play, there’s a big difference between acting and storytelling. “I’m more comfortable up on stage,” Wilson said. “When I look out, it’s a sea of people that I don’t recognize. With storytelling it’s a little more intimidating and at first, I kept backing up, trying to put more space between me and the audience. “Being a storyteller,” she added, “has really helped me when it comes to writing essays. It helps me weave the narrative of a story in my mind.”