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St. Louis Storytellers Carry On a Long-Standing Tradition
Commentary by: Nancy Kranzberg
Aired February 04, 2011


When Iím giving a tour at the Saint Louis Art Museum, and I feel as if I'm losing the tour groupís attention I often find myself saying, "Let me tell you a story", and they are back with me in an instant. I use the same strategy with my grandchildren and even my friends. Everybody loves a good story.

Before written language was around, we know that stories were told thousands of years ago by aboriginal men in cave paintings. The oldest surviving epic tale on record is Gilgamesh which told of the deeds of a famous Sumerian King.

The Greeks and Romans had their myths as did the people of China, India, and people of Pre-Columbian cultures. Stories became so important and powerful that some regarded myths as gods.

Who would ever think that telling stories could be a career for someone? Well, look at the very lucrative job that Jay Leno has carved out and my Rabbi does pretty well too. And storytelling is alive and well in St Louis.

Annette Harrison, a professional storyteller in town, says that the story transports the listener to a new place and that stories are often universal and show us how alike and sometimes different we are. She has been a dynamic storyteller, educator, performer and author for 29 years. She's written two successful storytelling books and won the Benjamin Franklin Education award for her book, Easy to Tell Stories. For five years she co-hosted Gatortales, a weekly children's television program on CBS.

Storyteller, writer and educator Carole Shelton has performed for audiences for the past 20 years. She is a member of the Black storytellers and Midwest inspirational storytellers. She has performed in a variety of local venues such as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the Missouri Historical Society and the St. Louis Storytelling Festival, as well as ,at numerous locations throughout the Bi-State area.

Lynn Rubright, an internationally acclaimed storyteller, has taught storytelling at Webster University for 36 years and says that the power of generating images through language can be used across the disciplines such as music, theatre, one-person shows and even folk singing. She is currently an artist in residence for COCA.

Bobby Norfolk, who cites Lynn Rubright as his mentor, is an Emmy winning St Louis storyteller who promotes children's theatre, African American literacy, and school and library diversity . He was given the Circle of Excellence Oracle Award, an honor presented by the National Storytelling Network which recognizes the very best storytellers in the country. Bobby says, "Better than T.V. or the VCR, it sits between the ears and itís called imagination. That is the power of storytelling."

These are just a sampling of the multitude of professional storytellers in our area. There are several well known storytelling organizations such as: MOTELL Missouri Storytellers, The Gateway Storytellers and across the river in Illinois, The Riverwinds. There are storytelling festivals all over the country and ours, The St Louis Storytelling Festival, is one of the most important of them all . Our festival will be held May 4-7 at The University of Missouri St Louis. This will be the 31st festival and is offered to people of all ages in the St Louis Metropolitan area. Each year more than 40 regional and 7 featured storytellers and their audiences gather during this 4 day event.

National Story Telling Network has named the St Louis Storytelling Festival and Executive Director Becky Walstrom as the South Central Regional Service and Leadership Award winners as part of their 2010 Oracle Awards. The National Story Telling Network annually presents their Regional Leadership and Service Awards to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to their local or regional storytelling community and have used storytelling to make a significant contribution to the larger community in which they live.

It takes charisma, energy, and often a good imagination to tell a story that packs a wallop, but I think almost all of us can pull several good stories out of our minds to fascinate someone for at least a little while.


(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Nancy Kranzberg

Nancy Kranzberg

Arts Aficionado Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years. She serves on numerous arts affiliated boards, including The St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is the Co-Chair, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and the Sheldon Art Gallery Board, Jazz at the Bistro, The Missouri Mansion Preservation Inc., The Mid American Arts Alliance, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Nancy was named Women of Achievement and was awarded the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University Nancy is a docent at the St. Louis Art Museum and is an honorary docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. At age 60 she became a Jazz singer. She performs with the Second Half which features Chancellor Tom George on the piano.

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