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The Big Why Panel Series

Enjoy this academic series held virtually once a year that delves into different genres and types of storytelling and its relation to the Humanities. Free and open to all.

This playlist INCLUDES what we streamed on Saturday, June 11, 2022 of “Star Stories meet Humanities.” We had Dr. Brian Sturm and Dr. Amy Sayle deep dive into star story multicultural comparisons and reflections. Dr. Brian Sturm is Associate Dean for Academics School of Information and Library Science. Dr. Amy Sayle is the North Carolina Statewide Star Party Founder and Coordinator with the NC Science Festival. Both are with University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and have collaborated 8+ years with star programming. We are thankful for funding through Utah Humanities / National Endowment for the Humanities / American Rescue Plan.

Next One: June 2023, 9:00am-10:30am MDT (UTC -6) – more details TBA

Streamed through Story Crossroads YouTube Channel

From our December 11, 2021 – Contemporary Folktales meet Humanities

Panelists: Dr. Janice Del Negro and Megan Wells, MFA

Photo Credit: Joe Mazza from BraveLux Photography


Our inaugural was on historical storytelling on June 20, 2020 and can still be watched (see below).

You can still enjoy this panel that we multi-streamed on June 20, 2020.
You can watch one of two ways:



Donations are welcomed.
Please complete this Online Feedback Form after experiencing The Big Why Panel, live or later on.
Download Extra Questions/Answers and Upcoming Events of Panelists as pdf or scroll to bottom of page.
7-part Blog Series on Connections between Storytelling and Humanities:
Historical storytelling and presentations were part of a movement starting in the 1870s, not long after the Civil War when the nation was divided.  People needed a way to connect and be unified again by seeing and hearing people’s stories that may or may not share the same views.  We would then compare to how popular this method is today and what we can expect of this in the future.  How will we be able to “walk in their shoes” as is the meaning of Chautauqua storytelling?
This Panel would delve into the “whys” of this method of connecting as human beings of historical presentations.  Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed is well-versed in the storytelling scene and has degrees in Social Studies and African American Studies that weaves with the experience of the other three panelists:  Sheila Arnold, Darci Tucker, and Brian “Fox” Ellis.  These three have decades worth of experience in performing historical stories through 60+ characters from colonial days to yesterday.
Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed

Curriculum Vitae

Sheila Arnold


Darci Tucker


Brian “Fox” Ellis


Beyond the Panel, Resources & Answers
Book Referenced by Dr. Reed in the Panel:

Dr. Reed: The book referenced in the panel is “ The Most American Thing in America: Circuit Chautauqua: as Performance” by Charlotte Channing. In the book, she mentions a movie with Elvis Presley. I believe the title is “ The Trouble With Girls” and it depicts an old time Chautauqua. I watched it and was impressed with the level of detail included. 

Extra Questions from Registrants/Attendees:

Do you incorporate Q & A as the characters? – from Live-stream Chat

Darci Tucker: Absolutely!  I usually have a brief introduction and conclusion, but the majority of the time I’m in character.  For some presentations I do as much as an hour of Q&A in character.    

I’m always interested in how folks approach research for the story and character(s). Thanks. – Sara Armstrong, Registrant

Brian “Fox Ellis:  I think in three levels. I often start with children’s books because they both condense the main stories and give you a bibliography. I always try to find first person, autobiographical material &/or period commentary from the horse’s mouth as it were, and then I read contextually, what was going on in that time and place. Not always possible, but I also love on the ground research hiking, canoeing or traveling in the places they lived and worked.

Darci Tucker:  Sara, please see my reply to Allen, below.  Thanks.

What are the most accurate sources for researching historical events or people? Is lots of research done in proving that a source used is accurate? If possible, are finding relatives of historical people or family members of events part of normal research? – Allen R. DeBey, Registrant

Brian “Fox” Ellis:  Allen, read above, and yes, if you can talk to descendants you will get the scoop left out of the history books. I remember one time an older gentleman came up to me before a show and said, “I have been waiting to meet you my whole life! YOU are my great-great-grandpa!”

Darci Tucker: I use a combination of primary sources, contemporary sources and well-researched secondary sources.  I don’t have time to do a lot of original research, so I depend on scholars who have spent years of their lives on that single topic.  Good clues for a well-researched book are an index (very useful as I’m learning the information) and extensive footnotes (these give context and additional information).  In addition, I use reputable museum websites, like Smithsonian, National Geographic, etc.   I have not attempted to find relatives or family members, although I have encountered a few, who were delighted to see their ancestors portrayed. 

Do you find that is often necessary to talk about your clothing to help the audience acclimate? – Tim Lowry, from Live-Stream Chat

Brian “Fox” Ellis:  Good question, Tim, it depends on the age level, but yes, sometimes in an educational setting when changing clothes in front of them, it is a nice bridge to bring the audience back in time.

Darci Tucker: Hi Tim!  : )   I have rarely found that necessary, since in my introductions I always explain that we are going back in time to the year XXXX.  I only occasionally get questions about my clothing. 

Do you believe that historical dates and statues are being torn down, thrown away, because there are not enough people like yourself sharing interesting facts and stories about our U.S. history? – Nancy Nelson

Brian “Fox” Ellis:  Actually, Nancy, like you, I feel strongly about this, but I think we might disagree. I do think if folks learned their history they would save some statues of questionable characters and tear down more of the statues dedicated to so-called heroes. Think about it this way: If you had been an eye witness to your family being murdered by Sadam Hussein or Stalin or, or, or… and you finally won your freedom would you help tear down that statue? Many of these confederate statues were erected in direct response to the Civil Rights Act and the effort to dismantle Jim Crow laws. The confederates were traitors. PERIOD. They attempted to violently overthrow the United States to continue their enslavement of human beings. PERIOD. These are indisputable facts. I have long believed that we need to stop whitewashing history and share history warts and all. Part of this is erasing the inaccurate enobling of violent thugs.

Darci Tucker:  Nancy, I do think that the American public is woefully uninformed about our history, and many hold misconceptions with almost religious fervor.  The monuments question isn’t an easy one.  Those monuments do keep historical events in the public eye, but are the stories that they perpetuate true, or do they perpetuate hurtful mythology?  

Darci Tucker, continued:  In the case of Confederate monuments, does it make sense for a nation to hold monuments to those who fought AGAINST that nation?  I think it’s time to let them go.  Monuments to our nation’s slave owning founders are more complicated for me.  While their slaveholding is abhorrent in our modern view, the world’s view of slavery was different in that pre-industrial age when everything was made by human hands… the founders were products of their own time, and they fought to CREATE our nation rather than to leave it, which puts them in a different category for me.


How significant is the use of storytelling in helping others understand the “true” history of an event. – Jim Luter, Registrant

Darci Tucker:  I think nothing could be more significant.  Facts and figures rarely hold the power of stories, because stories allow the hearers to imagine themselves in a similar situation.  Once something has been imagined as personal, it’s powerful.


To what extent do any of the historical storytellers engage in “trauma-informed” training, so that they are mindful of what the audience is experiencing? – Lisa Overholser, Registrant, Question Formed through Live-Stream

Brian “Fox” Ellis:  WOW, excellent question, Lisa. I have not had formal training, but I do think storytellers as a group are highly empathic. Our art requires that we learn to read the audience and respond to their responses. I do like to ‘go there’ with some of the ugly truth of our Nation’s story, but try to couch it within a strong sense of hope and determination that we can make things better when we better understand these dark moments. AND I like to make old men cry! When I know their tears are helping them face some difficult moments in their life, so I will also always check in with them after the show. And I agree with Bruno Bettleheim’s The Uses of Enchantment, that stories are a safe place to learn coping skills to deal with the real fears that haunt us.

How to Reach the Panelists & Provide Feedback

Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed has a doctorate in Philosophy of African American Studies, has led the National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS), and has double Masters in Library Science and African American Studies, plus Bachelors in Secondary Education. 

Sheila Arnold has performed nationally and internationally with historical/Chautauqua storytelling. She was selected as a George Washington’s Mount Vernon Research Fellow with the paper “New York Presidency: Slaves, Servants, and the Washington Family” in 2019. She has her Bachelors of Arts in African-American & African Studies from University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Darci Tucker has taught at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and schools nationwide, continues to be museum consultant on historical interpretations, and authored “Embodying the Story through Character Interpretation” as well as “Interpreting Leadership.” Her degrees are in Political Science and Sociology.  

Brian “Fox” Ellis has performed since 1982 and has done historical/Chautauqua since 1989. He has published 100+ articles and has published at least four books within two months recently! He continues to be museum consultant on historical presentations. He has his Bachelors of Arts from Wilmington College, Ohio.   

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We are grateful to funding from Utah Humanities. We also thank our funders such as National Endowment for the Arts, Utah Division of Arts and Museums, Western States Arts Federation, Utah Humanities, Zoo, Arts & Parks of Salt Lake County (ZAP), City of Murray, Salt Lake City Arts Council, and many other businesses and individuals.

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