The Art of Storytelling Is Celebrated This Month With Two Big Events


Ann Arbor Storytellers Guild

The Ann Arbor Storytellers' Guild cracks up during its monthly meeting at Crazy Wisdom.

When we think of storytellers, we think of "olden times," before electricity, even before paper. The oral tradition is like an ancient audiobook -- but pre-dating actual books.

But Steve Daut and the Ann Arbor Storytellers' Guild beg to differ. For the past 25 years, this group has met monthly -- most recently at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tearoom -- to engage in the still au courant art of reciting verbal tales that run the gamut, from funny to high falutin'.

"For instance, at the last Crazy Wisdom event we had three personal stories, one traditional Russian folk tale, and one literary story from Mark Twain," Daut said. "Three of the stories were very funny, one was thought-provoking, and the other was just a warm and human tale. If you come to a regular Guild meeting, you can just listen or try your hand at telling, and everyone will be very supportive with tips and suggestions if you request it."

Ann Arbor has had a long love affair with storytellers, and The Ark's Ann Arbor Folk Festival has often been booked them as prominent guests -- right alongside the rock, bluegrass, and country musicians.

"Folk songs are a storytelling form," Daut said. "Think of the bards and minstrels of earlier times. I think Ann Arbor has tapped into that shared heritage."

And it's not just at the Folk Fest where The Ark supports storytellers: The club hosts its 30th Annual Storytelling Festival on Friday, February 25.

But before The Ark's party, the library is hosting a special anniversary event on Thursday, February 16, for another annual storytelling celebration: "Tellabration! 25 Years of Storytelling in Ann Arbor."

"Tellabration! is a worldwide event that was begun by J.G. Pinkerton in 1988," Daut said. "The Ann Arbor Storytellers' Guild produced the event locally as members of the National Storytelling Network."

With all this storytelling action going down around town, perhaps your interest has been piqued? Might you want to try it yourself? Here's what you need to know:

"Stories are memorized, never read," Daut said. "We encourage gestures, becoming the characters in the stories, and vivid descriptions. There is a wide variety of styles, from straight narrative to a lot of acting and movement."

So, if you got the skills, or are interested in developing them, attend a meeting of the Guild. Everybody is welcome to attend the group's monthly Crazy Wisdom events for free. To join the Guild, you'll just need to pay the $20 membership.

"There is no entry requirement," Daut said, "except a love of storytelling."

Christopher Porter is a Library Technician and editor of Pulp.

"Tellabration! 25 Years of Storytelling in Ann Arbor" happens Thursday, February 16, 7-8:30 pm at the Downtown Library's multipurpose room. The next Crazy Wisdom Story Night is Thursday, March 9, 7-9 pm. Both events are free. "The Ark's 30th Annual Storytelling Festival" is Saturday, February 25, 7 pm; cost is $20. For more info on the Ann Arbor Storytellers Guild, visit