Storytelling festival coming to Mount Airy

Staff Report

For fans of live storytelling, a treat is coming to Mount Airy just a few days after Halloween.

That’s because the 2017 Tarheel Tellers Storytelling Festival will be held at the Andy Griffith Playhouse on Nov. 3-4.

“It is a perfect fit,” said ex-officio president Terri Ingalls, known widely among local fans of live storytelling.

“We have a long tradition of storytelling here in Mount Airy and some wonderful storytellers, including, of course, the late Andy Griffith,” she said.

“We are extremely grateful … of the Surry Arts Council for their assistance and support, which includes a grant to help offset the cost of the festival,” added Elena Miller, current president of the North Carolina Storytelling Guild.

Six storytellers from all over the state will be featured in the gathering, which will include a concert the first night, Nov. 3, then a workshop and two concerts the next day.

The Friday night concert will be an Olio, a collection of short performances by all six tellers. The Saturday afternoon concert will be family friendly. Children are encouraged to bring their parents to the Saturday afternoon.

Saturday night is, according to Ingalls, more for the grown-ups.

“The stories will be universal, but the story ideas and vocabulary will be targeted more towards adults,” she said.

The storytelling festival features the following tellers:

• Alan Hoal, from Cary, who the group described as “a highly energetic and animated storyteller, who has won numerous storytelling awards.”

Hoal travels throughout the United States telling stories at festivals and retreats; colleges and secondary schools; churches; corporate and civic events. He is also the founder and artistic director of the Sounds of the Mountains Music and Storytelling Festival at Camp Bethel, Virginia, near Roanoke.

• Becky Stone, a native of Philadelphia who has lived in Fairview for the past 38 years. She earned a BA in drama from Vassar College and has a long list of theater credits in acting, singing, and teaching. She has told stories and taught workshops throughout Western North Carolina at schools, universities, in festivals and at the Biltmore House.

“She applies her acting and storytelling skills as a Chautauquan in North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado and Ohio with her interactive, costumed presentations of Maya Angelou, Pauli Murray, Rosa Parks and Harriett Tubman,” the guild said.

• Lona Bartlett grew up on a farm in the Catskill Mountains and combines traditional storytelling, puppetry and music.

“Her degree in education helps her weave storytelling and teaching with her puppet creations and scripts. She brings excitement to American History as well as traditional stories and family stories. Her Celtic tales and her life with her parents, who were born in the early 1900s, gives her a special insight on years past,” festival organizers said.

• Willa Brigham brings to Mount Airy “the wonderful, wacky world of storyteller, inspirational speaker, performing artist, writer and two-time Emmy Award winner.” She has five award-winning CDs of stories, songs and poems. She has told stories at festivals, on cruise lines in the Caribbean, to preschoolers, and at senior living facilities.

“She has a passion for bringing laughter and entertainment to audiences of all ages.”

• Joan Leotta is an award-winning storyteller and author. She tells stories based on folklore or personal experiences and performs stories on women in history for audiences of all ages. Her one-woman shows include stories about an indentured servant in the Lower Cape Fear, a Confederate spy, a nurse during the Civil War, and stories of World War II in Lower Cape Fear. She speaks on writing and trains business groups in speaking skills and business writing.

• Jon Sundell, storyteller and folk musician, has performed throughout the U.S. and in several countries in Europe and Latin America using both the Spanish and English language. His bilingual, multicultural repertoire runs the gamut from tall tales, legends and myths to animal tales, wisdom and wonder tales and fables. Many stories are interwoven with songs as he plays guitar, banjo, autoharp, and mountain dulcimer.

• Elena Diana Miller, president of the North Carolina Storytelling Guild and emcee of the Mount Airy event, has performed in various media of storytelling in theater, film, radio and television. She taught high school drama and English before becoming a career National Park Service Interpretive Ranger presenting stories and playing folk music in several national parks.

She founded the Carl Sandburg Home NHS annual Folk Music and Storytelling Festival that has been going for 30 years.

Tickets for the full festival are $35 in advance, $40 at time of event, and includes all three concerts and a storytelling workshop on Saturday morning.

Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets (, or by sending a check made out to NCSG and mailed to NCSG, PO Box 1312, Newton, NC 2865. Tickets for individual concerts are $10 and available only at the door. For more information contact 336-351-3806; or 828-684-0481.

Staff Report

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