This is the fifth of seven parts on gleaming from personal experiences as well as experiences of the 100+ youth who have taken the stage – live and virtual – through Story Crossroads since 2016. We support youth beyond the stage through Youth Teller Reunions as well as Live & Virtual Story Camps.
Youth have amazing ideas and we, as adults, need to give them space to test them out.
Not all storytelling events involve youth. Does your event?
Even if you are not a producer of an event, you can invite youth to be with you as an individual artist.
When working with teachers, I always love to have at least a couple youth perform. I can promote youth storytelling in the classroom, but witnessing some youth share their skills can be the difference between a teacher embracing the art or not.
We cannot stop there.
Kevin Cordi and Kathy Palermo both taught storytelling classes for 9th to 12th grade students. When Kevin lived in California, the Lemoore and Hanford high schools combined forces for the annual Tellabration! in November. They made sure that the youth emceed. The youth stumbled here and there and some did better research of the performers than others…but they welcomed and celebrated with the audience.
Kevin and Kathy took it farther. They had the youth create the logos and artwork associated with the events. Every. year. I looked forward to what would be designed next. Some years were hand-drawings while other years had digital versions.
There was ownership. In everything.
Here are some articles of involving youth in planning and the process:
The Salt Lake City Arts Council has helped more than once…including a combination of spoken storytelling with visual and culinary arts from around the world. Then, in 2020, we had big plans to send professional story artists to the Glendale Library, the Blind Center, and two schools in Salt Lake City. Covid-19 happened…and we had to adjust. At least Story Crossroads Spectacular could provide virtual field trips. We wanted to do more. The grant from Salt Lake City Arts Council was the answer. We are thrilled to still work with youth at the International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City with proper distancing.
Flashing back to 2016, we had the privilege of introducing storytelling to 25 youth with “Around the World: The Tellable, Edible Art Project” with collaboration of the Glendale Community Center and Bad Dog Arts including our presenters: Storytellers Janine Nishiguchi and Jan C. Smith, Visual Artist Kirsten Schiel, and Culinary Artist Elizabeth Montoya. The youth were a little shy as storytelling was not an art usually offered. Rather than focusing on individual stories, the facilitators had it be group storytelling that still expressed the structure of story and how engaging the whole experience can be.
Now we look forward to 20 youth with Story Camp led by Storytellers Cherie Davis and Ginger Parkinson. It will be different. We cannot have the youth gather up in a tight circle like before. Instead? We are using hula hoops as a visual reminder to space out for proper distancing. Masks are the new form of camp t-shirts. The fun will be the same.
All these storytelling ventures are possible because of the Salt Lake City Arts Council. They have their own festival every year.
Normally, the Living Traditions Festival takes place immediately after Story Crossroads. We are mid-May Wednesday with outreaches kick off the Monday before and on through Thursday. Living Traditions takes over the Friday through Sunday afterwards. We both spotlight multicultural art.
Due to the dancing and singing cultural groups, Living Traditions was postponed to 2021.
Approximately 30,000 people participate in the Living Traditions Festival each year, including students, families, performers, exhibiting artists, volunteers and attendees. More than 70 different cultural groups are represented each year—from Bosnian stuffed pitas and West African samosas to Chinese dragon dancing and Scottish bagpipes. The sights and flavors of the Festival cannot be found at any other cultural event in Utah.
The Living Traditions Festival is dedicated to preserving Utah’s diverse cultural landscape, by supporting the varied artistic traditions and cultural perspectives that create and sustain a strong and vibrant community. We achieve this mission by collaborating with folk and traditional artists and community members in sharing languages, food, art, dance and educational activities. Through the presentation of both historical and contemporary customs, Living Traditions aims to facilitate thoughtful conversations about the unique qualities of various cultures, and the similarities of the human experience, while creating bonds among community members.
This is the fourth of seven parts on gleaming from personal experiences as well as experiences of the 100+ youth who have taken the stage – live and virtual – through Story Crossroads since 2016. We support youth beyond the stage through Youth Teller Reunions as well as Live & Virtual Story Camps.
Youth have more than one talent, and storytelling is one of many.
When it is the first time for youth to learn storytelling, then focusing only on that talent is best. Though the second, third, fourth, or any other time after that initial instruction needs to be exploring what the youth enjoys beyond the art.
One of my favorite combinations was a youth teller who told a personal story while doing Karate. Obviously, Karate was important to the movement of the plot. He had the right amount of kicks that enhanced rather than distracted from the whole experience. He ended up being one of my top youth tellers for that year of Story Crossroads and moved along to the National Youth Storytelling.
We have plenty of adults that combine other talents with storytelling.
Although coming from an adult, I have always been fascinated by what Dustin Loehr contributed to the storytelling world with merging his tap dancing to the tellings. I could tell you of the time when he flew into Utah, needed a tap board, and I was scrounging and taking pictures of different wood panels to see if they “would pass inspection” the day before performance….
Though once on stage, his way of tip-tapping different sounds and postures to represent different characters was inspiring. We certainly will want him to perform at Story Crossroads again.
Any talent can combine with storytelling.
Music and dance are always brought to mind, though what are different genres and styles?
To get the brain-a-bubblin’, here are some music: Blues, Jazz, Rock and Roll, Country, Soul, Dance Music, Hip Hop.
Notice that dance and music often overlap.
Have you heard of: Enka, Isicathamiya, or Frevo?
Here is a highlight of one of them, and I will let you explore and learn about the other two.
More talents are out there than music and dance. What else could youth combine with storytelling and draw them more so in the art than ever before?
Photography – with big enough pictures, projections on stage, or virtual means – this talent can be amazing with storytelling. Plus, I recently learned about PechaKucha.
Cooking – sometimes the cooking can be shared after the performance – the aromas can enhance the overall experience – or can be shared on screen of making/baking while telling. So many food stories around the world. David Novak had bread baking in an important Gilgamesh scene. Here is an article about it.
Fashion – how can the change of wardrobe help in the telling of a story – can more than one teller take the stage or can this be done solo – Pippa White (interview with her – she admits she did not call herself a storyteller until later) loves to do a simple switch of hats for historical representations while Darci Tucker (interview with her) has been three characters in one performance due to strategic layering. Why cannot youth do this with a twist? Does it always need to be historical…perhaps modern or even futuristic? We had youth tell 1-minute or so stories for the Story Train that stopped to the past, present, and future. The youth had to dress up to match their time period and story. The future ones…were fantastic. Actually, all were wonderful.
And this is only a sneak of talents that can make it to stage or performance in one way or another.
Brainstorm with youth.
Are they great at foreign languages? Can there be bilingual storytelling? What of visual arts beyond photography? Pottery? How can that tell a story?
How can anything truly be used to tell a story?
Yes, teach the basics of storytelling without the combining first…though there is no harm is letting youth know that you love their fill-in-the-blank talent and hint that you would love to see what they do with it for storytelling after learning how to do “pure” storytelling without the embellishments or add-ons.
This is the third of seven parts on gleaming from personal experiences as well as experiences of the 100+ youth who have taken the stage – live and virtual – through Story Crossroads since 2016. We support youth beyond the stage through Youth Teller Reunions as well as Live & Virtual Story Camps.
We have birthdays, unbirthdays…and even storytelling birthdays.
For some of us in the art, we clearly have a year or month in mind. Do you know the exact day? When was it that you considered yourself a storyteller?
Let us be diligent in reminding the youth of their own storytelling birthdays.
We can distinguish between the storytelling birthday to the professional anniversary.
Me? September 7, 1994. This was when I decided to test a story out with my coach as a sophomore high school student–failed miserably–and then decided to not quit despite doubts.
However, this day was not what I count toward being a professional storyteller. Anything with work or paid opportunities tends to be dubbed an anniversary instead of a birthday.
My three years of high school plus four years of college are known as my apprenticeship time. I volunteered my talents as a storyteller through founding the Brigham Young University Storytelling Club.
Interestingly, I have a clear date for my storytelling birthday though only a month and year for the professional time.
Back to the youth in your life.
Help determine each youth’s storytelling birthday. Here are ways you can do that:
Date of first performance
Date of first date of workshop(s)
First date they prepped a story
Educated guess as to the time and allowing the youth to choose a specific date if not known.
If the youth remembers “August 2019” but nothing more, then have the youth choose a favorite number between 1-31.
No matter what date is chosen/determined, then honor it though a certificate of some kind.
Beyond the storytelling birthday, make sure to offer a certificate for any event or workshop they participate. These are important momentos that track and celebrate their storytelling journey.
Yes, encourage the youth to save the program or flier…but a certificate is that “something special.”
If you want to be really thoughtful, then create a Google Sheets or document that tracks the youth you have mentored or helped. You can send storytelling birthday cards in the mail…or at least a postcard…or even an e-birthday card.
When there is a birthday, people are wanting to “live” as long as possible within the art. Youth need to know that people care if they continue on the path of storytelling.
This is the second of seven parts on gleaming from personal experiences as well as experiences of the 100+ youth who have taken the stage – live and virtual – through Story Crossroads since 2016. We support youth beyond the stage through Youth Teller Reunions as well as Live & Virtual Story Camps.
Everyone talks about having adult mentors for youth tellers…when that is the wrong beginning.
Youth first need friends in the art, then listeners, and finally mentors.
When I delved into storytelling as a sophomore in high school, I was not drawn into it because of any adults. I had friends who said I was animated and that needed to do something about it. So I looked into the National Forensics League (NFL – yes, a confusing acronym) and discovered “storytelling” as a category.
It was the adult that made me nervous.
Everyone in the high school knew she was an award-winning coach. How many times had she “scored big” with the team she took to tournaments? Tons! That actually made it more terrified to test out my first story with her. After I stumbled and did almost everything wrong, all the coach said was, “Make sure to sign up for more practices.” This worried me.
“What?!? Was I meant to even take this storytelling path?”
Now think of how some youth could feel with these award-winning and highly-skilled professional storytellers.
The big reason most youth participate in storytelling is somehow linked to friends or the potential to gain friends.
My storytelling team-mates and I had some crazy times. We hung out and laughed as we awaited the results. Ah, my hands are still sore from our Egyptian Rat card games. I cheered on competitors (okay, so my team-mates were also my competition but still benefited our team as a whole). There was one girl known as “The Queen of Storytelling” because any time she competed, she ALWAYS went to trophy round…and probably 1st or 2nd place. So many other youth were inspiring and a hoot.
The only adult I remember in the whole Forensics experience was my coach.
Having Story Camps and residencies gives chances for youth to gather and gain those close-to-their-age friends.
That is not enough.
What happens after? Is there ANY kind of reunion or potential hanging out later?
If you said, “None,” then you are not alone. Even long-standing storytelling festivals with participating youth often do not have Youth Teller Reunions. I have brought up a few times with the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival that–as they usually have 25+ youth each year–it would make sense to have some kind of reunion. I know people with Timpanogos, but that is not my organization so I can only do so much.
At least where I have been connected…that is where I can make changes. The Weber State University Storytelling Festival has reunions at the Dinosaur Park in Ogden, UT. Story Crossroads usually has them at Boondocks – fun and arcades – in Draper, UT.
Are you linked to any storytelling festivals or events? Several? You have the potential to bring this up.
You could say, “But gathering is hard now.” Uh, there is the Internet. Zoom. Google Hangouts. Facebook Rooms. And on and on.
This year, the 5th Annual Story Crossroads Youth Teller Reunion will be done virtually in mid-August. Yes, we have permissions from guardians while being free. We are already receiving registrations for it.
We want to propose to the youth the idea of having them interact with other youth tellers from around the world. Their answers will determine everything.
Remember the first post and the talk of Texas, New York, and Florida? What of India, Singapore, Italy, and Lebanon? Hopefully, we can have a sort of pen pal/story pal thing going on.
Do people even know what having a “pen pal” is anymore? You use “snail mail” and write letters on paper back and forth. Postcards are better.
The virtual version could be an email story pal. But that term won’t work with youth today.
How about “TellTale Friend”? Someone you can share your secrets and fears with storytelling. Hopes and dreams. Ideas and inklings.
Besides, if Facebook can use the word “Friend” the same as any other social media, then at least the word “Friend” works.
Adults, have you thought of doing this?
Supporting a youth teller by being someplace they tell
Finding performing opportunities for youth
Setting up performing opportunities for youth
Showing up and dedicating virtual or in-person time to hear their latest story WITHOUT comments
Showing up and dedicating virtual or in-person time to hear their latest story WITH comments only WITH permission
Sending encouraging texts or links to story videos – again, permission from guardians – could send directly to guardian who then passes along the message
And so much more
See how this works along the proper order of first Friend then Listener and finally Mentor.
We can adjust our thinking and techniques to be more youth-friendly.
Keep in mind that youth can be all three of those roles: Friend, Listener, and Mentor.
Did you ever see Kindergarteners paired with 6th graders for reading to each other back and forth? They are both kids, though the pairing of youth can be done in many ways.
Can we link elementary youth tellers with high school or even fresh-in-college tellers?
Then what else can the adults do? We can be listeners. Only become a mentor or coach IF you have permission from that youth (and guardians, of course).
I often take my kids to the Utah Storytelling Guild Chapter meetings. When it came time for people to comment on stories for the coaching part, I was pleased that my kids felt comfortable in adding to the conversation. There was not an adult/youth hierarchy. They were equals. Their comments were thoughtful and with a fresh perspective.
Open your mind. Keep brainstorming. Then make it happen.