Storytelling festival at Colonial Williamsburg


While growing up in North Carolina, veteran storyteller Donald Davis learned the power of a well-told story. “I discovered that in a story I could safely dream any dream, hope any hope, go anywhere I pleased, fight any foe, win or lose, live or die,” Davis said. “My stories created a safe experimental learning place.”

Davis and seven other nationally acclaimed storytellers – Milbre Burch, Susan Klein, Syd Lieberman, Waddie Mitchell, Bobby Norfolk, Gayle Ross and Valerie Tutson – bring their experiences that cross both cultural and geographical boundaries to Colonial Williamsburg’s fourth annual storytelling festival, “Spinning Stories/Spanning Time: A Weekend of Stories Old and New,” Sept. 19-21.

An internationally known storyteller, award-winning recording artist, published poet, writer and respected teacher of her craft, Milbre Burch is a storyteller in every sense of the word. She is known for the versatility of her repertoire: from family-oriented folktales to sophisticated fantasy and fairy tales for teens to one-woman shows aimed at adults. She has appeared at the National Storytelling Festival seven times since 1984 and received the Circle of Excellence Award from the National Storytelling Network in 1999.

Born in a southern Appalachian mountain world rich in stories, Donald Davis recounts tales learned from a family of traditional storytellers who have lived on the same western North Carolina land since 1781. Davis grew up hearing gentle fairy tales, simple and silly Jack tales, scary mountain lore, ancient Welsh and Scottish folktales, andmost importantlynourishing true-to-life stories of his own neighbors and kin.

A native of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Susan Klein is noted for a variety of presentations involving story. Her substantial repertoire includes selections from the world body of folklore and myth, literary stories, rites of passage and love stories for adults of all ages. Her autobiographical material encompasses growing up on Martha’s Vineyard in the 1950s, waiting tables and teaching school in the 1970s, and her work as an itinerant storyteller in Alaskan Yup’ik Eskimo villages in the 1980s.

An acclaimed international storyteller, award-winning teacher and author, Syd Lieberman boasts a varied repertoire. Some of his stories deal with his personal experience growing up in Chicago and raising a family. Others feature original historical pieces or his signature versions of literary classics, particularly those of Edgar Allan Poe. Lieberman is also one of the country’s leading tellers of Jewish stories.

Twenty-five years as a working cowboy on some of the most desolate spreads in Nevada will give a man time to think. Such is the case for Waddie Mitchell. “All the time I was growing up, we had these old cowboys around. When you live in close proximity with the same folks month after month, one of your duties is to entertain each other, and I suppose that’s where the whole tradition of cowboy poetry started.”

Bobby Norfolk promotes cultural diversity, self-esteem and character education through his performances. His popularity stems from stories rich in creativity, lively sound effects, high energy and three-dimensional characters. He combines comedy and drama to magically weave principles that teach valuable lessons into each tale.

A descendant of John Ross, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation during the Trail of Tears, Gayle Ross describes herself as an enrolled member of the Cherokee nation and describes her family as a long line of mixed blood Cherokee people.

The Storytelling Festival will take place at Bassett Hall, the Williamsburg home of Colonial Williamsburg benefactor, John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife Abby. Storytellers can be heard in individual venues scattered throughout the grounds.

Family Packages for two adults and up to two youth include day and evening Friday and Saturday programs, day programs on Sunday. Packages purchased between April 21 and Aug. 31 are $175. Packages purchased after Sept. 1 are $210. Some restrictions apply, please call 1-800-HISTORY for more details.