"To be a person is to have a story to tell." - Isak Dinesen
Meet some of our featured national tellers:
Charlotte Blake Alston
Charlotte Blake Alston is a storyteller, narrator, instrumentalist and singer who breathes life into traditional and contemporary stories from African and African-American history. In this electronic age, Alston uses stories to engage the imagination, underscore human commonalities and reiterate life lessons gained from centuries of human experience. Her melodic voice mesmerizes audiences, and she incorporates traditional instruments into performances. Alston is a recipient of the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, the "Circle of Excellence" Award from the National Storytelling Association and the Zora Neale Hurston Award, the highest award bestowed by the National Association of Black Storytellers.
Michael Reno Harrell is an award-winning songwriter and storyteller from the southern Appalachian Mountains whose recordings top the American Music Association charts year after year. Known for original songs and stories described as "Appalachian grit and wit," Harrell has earned praise from music, literary and storytelling communities both nationally and abroad. A featured teller at the National Storytelling Festival, a Teller in Residence at the International Storytelling Center and a featured performer at MerleFest and the Walnut Valley Festival, Harrell's stories have been likened to a grandfather's pocket knife: well-worn and familiar-feeling, while razor sharp and with a point.
Bil Lepp 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, Lepp's outrageously humorous tall-tales and witty stories have earned the appreciation of listeners of all ages and from all walks of life. Lepp has been featured 13 times at the National Storytelling Festival, performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and at Comedy Central's Stage in Los Angeles. The author of three books of tall tales, 10 audio collections, a non-fiction book and a novel, Lepp received the National Storytelling Network's Circle of Excellence Award in 2011.
Corinne Stavish credits her father with instilling in her a love of justice, a passion for history, a wicked sense of humor and a drive to share stories. She uses her degrees in theatre, literature and performing arts to great advantage as she shapes personal and public history into powerful narratives. Stavish's life experiences in New York, Oklahoma, Illinois and Michigan introduced her to a variety of characters with recognizable accents and situations that populate her stories. Featured at the National Storytelling Festival and the 2005 Nationally Storytelling Conference, Stavish sits on the Board of Governors for the International Storytelling Center and is a humanities professor at Lawrence Technological University.
Meet some of our featured local and regional tellers:
Adam Booth is an award-winning storyteller from a family tree with Appalachian and Jewish storytelling roots that are generations deep. A four-time champion of the West Virginia Liars Contest and winner of storytelling competitions in three states, Booth shares captivating family narratives, original tall tales, traditional Appalachian stories and new works created in the style of traditional Appalachian folklore.
Known as "the Gullah Lady," Sharon Cooper-Murray's affinity for the indigenous Lowcountry culture is manifested through the tales she tells. After hearing the Creole language for the first time during a post-college trip to Wadmalaw Island, Sharon devoted herself to decades of preserving, conserving and developing the Gullah way of life through language, music, arts and crafts.
Veronica Gaillard is a Charleston native known for her animated Gullah performances that feature her natural flair and charisma. A former drama instructor, she is artist-in-residence for the Weed and Seed North Charleston Cultural Arts Program and the Storefront School of the Arts at the Septima Clark/Housing Authority.
Storyteller, documentary filmmaker and percussionist Julian Gooding uses drumming and oral traditions of West Africa to open and engage the creative mind and spirit of a child. His interactive storytelling style encourages both children and adults to take part in each story and become the characters or create mood and imagery with props and world percussion.
Aunt Pearlie Sue
Aunt Pearlie Sue has entertained audiences with Gullah-flavored folktales for more than 10 years. Portrayed by Anita Singleton-Prather, she created the Aunt Pearlie Sue character in honor of her grandmother. In addition to being a storyteller, Singleton-Prather is an educator, singer, actress and historian. She has performed at numerous festivals, including Spoleto Festival USA, and has appeared in Forrest Gump and on Christmas Across America on the Food Network Channel. A native of the Sea Islands in Beaufort County, Singleton-Prather is a founder and performer with the Gullah Kinfolk musical group. She uses her heritage to creatively entertain and educate audiences of all ages about the African experience in America.