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Denton’s Texas Storytelling Festival: Explore a World of Personal Narratives, Ghostly Tales, and Timeless Lore.

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Listen to Story

If you want to hear stories from all walks of life, swap stories with others, and work on your own storytelling abilities, then you should not miss the 38th Annual Texas Storytelling Festival taking place at the Denton Civic Center from March 9-12, 2023.

“We swim in an ocean of story every day,” explains Elizabeth Ellis, a featured teller at this year’s event. “The festival features stories of all different kinds for all different types of people, from the very young to the very old and everything in between. Whether you’re a history buff or you love stand-up comedy or you love to hear a great lie, (or) you want to be scared to death, we’ve got you covered.”

“You’re going to hear personal stories, ghost stories, a liars’ contest, sacred tales, youth activities, a story slam, poetry slam, music, and so much more,” adds Vivian Rutherford, this year’s artistic director of the festival. “In addition, participants will be able to attend workshops to hone in their own storytelling skills.”

Featured Tellers

One of the main attractions of the Texas Storytelling Festival are the five featured storytellers, of which Ellis is one. “My role as a featured teller is to make sure that people go home with their hearts full of stories,” she explains. “I tell personal experience stories, stories from Texas history, and a lot of stories from women’s history.”

In addition to herself, Ellis says other featured storytellers are Sheila Arnold, who is an African American teller deeply rooted in historical interpretation from Colonial Williamsburg, and Colin Urwin from Northern Ireland. “He is a keeper of the old Irish traditions, as well as being a singer and a songwriter,” Ellis says.

Rounding out the featured tellers is Joe Hayes, a bilingual storyteller from New Mexico who focuses on stories from Hispanic cultures and stories of the Southwest. And Bernadette Nason is from the U.K. and currently lives in Austin. “She’s traveled widely, and her stories are quite exceptional about her experiences as a traveler and resident of different countries,” Ellis adds.

The five featured storytellers present during the Featured Tellers concerts on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — which will all be ASL interpreted — as well as for other special workshops, master classes, and presentations, which can be seen on the event schedule.

Workshops & Master Classes

Another draw at this year’s Texas Storytelling Festival are the workshops and master classes available.

“Workshops (are) on different kinds of topics that might be of interest to people who are wanting to know more about storytelling, how to get started, or how to tell stories in their own family or to their own children or grandchildren,” Ellis explains.

Scheduled workshop titles include “Collecting and Sharing Family Stories” from 9:00 am to 10:30 am on Friday, March 10th, and “Starting From Scratch — Getting Started Telling Stories” from 9:00 am to 10:30 am on Saturday, March 11th. 

Ellis says the master classes are really intended for people who have a serious interest in storytelling and perhaps want to tell themselves in public places. “Those people who want to go beyond their own families and friends to tell,” she adds.

There are two master classes scheduled for Sunday, March 12 — “Something Old — Something New: A Story-Making Workshop” and “Exploring Memoir: Telling Your Own Tales.”

Other VOD Stories

Workshops are included in the ticket price for the weekend, but there is an extra charge for master classes.

And Rutherford says teachers who attend workshops and master classes will receive continuing education credit.

Stories For All Ages

In addition to its programming at the Denton Civic Center, the Texas Storytelling Festival offers a variety of free youth events at the Emily Fowler Library on Friday, March 10th, and Saturday, March 11th. Scheduled events include a family storytime, Youth Storytelling Concert, and an Original Digital Storytelling workshop for grades 3 through 12. 

And older kids can participate for free in the Young Adult Story Swap and Story and Poetry Slams at the Denton Woman’s Club Building on Saturday, March 11th.

“This is a way to bring in the next generation of storytellers,” Rutherford says.

Not Just Stories

In addition to all the stories that will be told, the Texas Storytelling Festival will also feature music, including a concert by Sleepy Creek on Friday, March 10th, and musical duo Adler and Hearne on Saturday, March 11th.

ADLER & HEARNE Credit: adlerandhearne.com

Festival-goers also have the option to take part in the Talespinner Dinner and Silent Auction on the evening of Saturday, March 11th, which is a fundraiser for the Tejas Storytelling Association — the nonprofit that runs the storytelling festival.

Ellis says the dinner will once again be catered by Juicy Pig Barbecue in Denton and there will be vegetarian options as well.

And the festival will also feature a Story Store. “The Story Store is an opportunity for people to buy resources that they might want to take home, either to enjoy with their family or to use to become better storytellers,” Ellis explains. “All the featured tellers will have products for sale — books or CDs of stories. There will be puppets, musical instruments, and other things that people might use in their storytelling. We pride ourselves on having quite an array of storytelling resources for people to buy.”

A Joyful Experience

For those interested in helping out at this year’s festival, they are still in need of volunteers to help with registration, concessions, the silent auction, and packing up on Sunday when the festival ends. “There’s a number of volunteer opportunities that are two-hour shifts, so nobody has to spend a huge amount of time,” Ellis says.

And for those who have yet to attend the Texas Storytelling Festival right here in Denton, Ellis says what are you waiting for?

“My experience has been (that) it’s hard to get adults to their first storytelling event, but once they try it, nearly everyone enjoys it and wants to come back,” she says. “There’s so much going on in the world that is depressing and frustrating and makes you angry. It’s such a joy to relax and listen to stories that are uplifting, heartwarming, (and) positive. Even those things that are about negative things that may have happened in the past educate us and help us move forward as a people.”

The 38th Annual Texas Storytelling Festival will take place March 9-12, 2023 at the Denton Civic Center. Please note some additional events also take place at the Emily Fowler Library and Denton Woman’s Club Building. Some events require tickets and others are free.

Click here to view the full event schedule and here to purchase tickets.

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