It's a Bardic Thing

Let the 25th annual St. Louis Storytelling Festival spin you a good yarn

"Listen, something happened -- went like this..." That's the seedling from whence sprang oaks: anything from Beowulf to Watt to, uh, Happy Days. We've always told stories and always will. Your favorite TV shows, beloved songs, top movies -- even stun-burst commercials that barely register -- all traffic in stories, however tightly compressed. So that 30-second spot for a wireless provider, Mr. Soprano's angst, "Stairway to Heaven"? Can't dodge the narrative line, Homer.

Taste the way tale-spinning went before technology intervened by attending any of the free events comprising the 25th annual St. Louis Storytelling Festival (Wednesday, May 5, through Saturday, May 8, at venues all over the metro region). The festival offers an array of storytelling programs for all ages and features practitioners from these parts and beyond. Sue Hinkel, of Pacific, is a former art teacher who's been a storyteller for more than twenty years. Hinkel believes the oral format trumps the written: "I get to look at the audience; I get energy and feedback from them." Following is a glimpse at just some of what she and her cohorts will get up to.

On Wednesday, May 5, at 10:30 a.m. at the Missouri Historical Society Library & Research Center Auditorium (225 South Skinker Boulevard), storyteller Jim Two Crows Wallen (pictured) discusses how to collect and share family stories. There will be a deaf storytelling program on Thursday, May 6, at 7 p.m. at the University of Missouri-St. Louis' J.C. Penney Conference Center (1 University Boulevard) featuring Vikee Waltrip, who lost her hearing young as a result of chicken pox and is today an inspiration to her hearing-impaired audiences (the proceedings will be interpreted for the hearing). The festival culminates in a grand finale boasting performances from all the featured storytellers (Saturday, May 8, at 7 p.m. in the theater underneath the Gateway Arch). The house will be talkin', so don't bother knockin'. For more information, call the UMSL Office of Continuing Education at 314-516-6677 or visit

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