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Let's Celebrate Storytelling! Share and Listen at TELLABRATION!

by Chris King


What do you call an event that is a worldwide celebration of storytelling taking place at the same time on the same weekend? Why TELLABRATION!, of course. J. G. Pinkerton, a Connecticut yarn spinner, originated this international event as a means of building community support for storytelling. He formed the idea in 1987 and by the fall of 1988, the event was launched by the Connecticut Storytelling Center in six locations across the state. The volunteer network of 14 producers, 35 storytellers, and 102 production staffers worked together to give more than 1,000 story listeners a night to remember. And that was just the beginning. In this article you will read all about it.


What is Tellabration? Tellabration features an evening of benefit storytelling that creates a network of storytelling enthusiasts - listeners, tellers, and lovers of stories - bonding together in spirit. Traditionally held on the Saturday night before Thanksgiving - this year on November 20th, Tellabration has grown in some areas to encompass several days and evenings of storytelling during the week before and after this special Saturday. Also, the program has evolved at many of the sites from a showcase for storytelling into a community-support project. Funds from TELLABRATION! Events now go to support schools, libraries, shelters for the homeless, Habitats for Humanity, Food Banks, and Crisis Centers.

How has Tellabration grown to become such a huge success? In 1989, Texas and Missouri joined Connecticut in a dedicated evening of story-celebration. Nineteen communities entertained a total of 3,000 audience members. Then in 1990, J. G. collaborated with the National Storytelling Association (NSA), now the National Storytelling Network (NSN), to make the evening into a nationwide event. J. G., a former corporate executive and arts producer, provided the necessary vision and timing, while NSA furnished its networking and administrative skills. Together, they succeeded in firmly establishing TELLABRATION! as a coast-to-coast celebration.

In 1995 there was a Tellabration in Japan, brought there by Japanese storyteller Masako Sueyoshi, who had been a part of Tellabration when she lived in Connecticut. Now, sites from all over the world participate. For example, in 1999, 333 sites, 400 producers, and 6700 production staffers spun stories to a combined audience of more than 34,000.

How do I find a Tellabration in my area? If you visit the special Tellabration website at: http://www.tellabration.org, you will find information about the events in your area. If you can’t attend one this year, at least you will find the name of a contact person to call about other storytelling happenings in your community. Most of the people involved with Tellabration are active storytellers, and a good number are members of NSN, the organization that serves as a facilitator to producers and also as a clearinghouse for information.

If there isn’t a Tellabration in my community, what should I do? If your area doesn’t host a Tellabration, this would be the perfect opportunity for you and others interested in producing a Tellabration of your own. Anyone can produce a Tellabration event: storytelling organizations and centers, schools, libraries, colleges, museums, performing-arts centers, story-swap groups, story enthusiasts, and others. NSN not only helps new sites with a Manual and Guidebook for only $25, but also by publicizing Tellabration events worldwide. In addition, they offer an updated, camera-ready, Promotional Kit for $15. To find out more information you may visit the NSN website at: http://www.Storynet.org or call them at 1-800-525-4514.

Sam Yada Cannarozzi from near Lyons, writes of his Tellabration experience in Valojoulx: “19,000 years ago, people perhaps were telling stories on a rainy November 18th evening right near the village where I told in 2000. Valojoulx is a small village of some 800 souls and is just 6 km up the road from Lascaux. This prehistoric site boasts the world’s most astonishing cave drawings that date back to the Magdalenian era. …The performance, including dessert, lasted about an hour and a half and I think the most satisfying comment I heard was from a pharmaceutical salesman who said to me, `How impressive it was to hear the name of our little village mentioned in a worldwide storytelling Proclamation!’ And I thought, who knows, maybe 19,000 years hence, that same Proclamation might read, `From Miami to Mombassa, from Texas to Taiwan, and from Valojoulx to – Mars, life forms from all over are gathered together tonight in the joy and anticipation of story!!”

The Proclamation: In the name of storytelling, (the date) is hereby proclaimed to be Tellabration! The Event of Storytelling. At this moment in 40 states and nine countries across six continents from Miami to Mumbai; Perth to Peoria; Texas to Thailand; to (your site), hundreds of audiences are gathered for this Special Event of Storytelling. Therefore, in joy and anticipation … Let the stories begin!

I hope you can attend a Tellabration this year, but if not, consider hosting a “Drop In” or “Home Party” Tellabration. Just be sure to fill it with stories!

 

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