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May 6, 2008

CW's Fourth Annual Storytelling Festival features eight nationally known storytellers

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. 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, and—most importantly—nourishing 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.” In 1984, he helped organize the internationally recognized Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering and gave his first public performance. Since then he has been off and running performing internationally, where his common-sense approach to life and the art of cowboy poetry has delighted and inspired audiences.

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. From keynote speaker to TV host, recording artist to park ranger and stand-up comedian, his unique life is reflected in his trademark animated stories. He has traveled both nationally and internationally including storytelling visits to the United Kingdom, Austria, Ireland, West Africa and Canada.

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. While Ross was growing up in Texas, her grandmother lived with their family, telling Cherokee stories and singing songs handed down from one generation to the next. It is from this Native American heritage that Ross’ stories emerge. Although not from Appalachia, she tells traditional tales that the Cherokee took with them when they were forced to move west from the southeastern mountains that had been their home for hundreds of years.

Having appeared in festivals in Africa, Europe and North America, Valerie Tutson takes her audiences on a vivid journey through songs, stories, movement and details of her adventures. She graduated from Brown University with a master’s in theater arts and a degree in a self-designed major, storytelling as a communication art. Tutson draws her stories from around the world with an emphasis on African traditions. Her repertoire includes myths, folktales, historical pieces, stories and songs she learned in her travels to South Africa and from experiences in West Africa as well as stories from African American history.

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.

Guests also can purchase books or CDs from their favorite storytellers at the festival.

The Story Keepers Project will return to the festival this year. This event allows guests to interview a member of their family about their experiences in another place at another time. Guests can make an appointment for a 20-minute interview and will be given a list of suggested questions to ask. Following the interview, guests will be given a CD copy of the interview to take home.

A variety of festival ticket options are available. For the best value, book early and save 20 percent on weekend passes and family packages and 10 percent on individual event tickets (excluding a wine and cheese event). A Weekend Pass features day and evening Friday and Saturday programs, and day programs on Sunday. Passes purchased between April 21 and Aug. 31 are $75 for adults and $35 for youth ages 6-17. Passes purchased after Sept. 1 are $90 for adults and $42 for youth ages 6-17. Children under 6 are admitted free.

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.

Individual event tickets are available for purchase. Passes for day and evening programs on Friday are $45 for adult and $20 for youth ages 6-17 when purchased between April 21 and Aug. 31 and $49 for adults and $22 for youth ages 6-17 when purchased after Sept. 1. Passes for day and evening programs on Saturday only are $65 for adults and $30 for youth ages 6-17 when purchased between April 21 and Aug. 31 and $71 for adult and $33 for youth ages 6-17 when purchased after Sept. 1. Passes for Sunday programs are $35 for adults and $15 for youth ages 6-17 when purchased between April 21 and Aug. 31 and $38 for adults and $16 for youth ages 6-17 when purchased after Sept. 1. Evening tickets for Friday and Saturday can be purchased after Sept. 1 for $20 for adults and $10 for youth ages 6-17.

A Wine-and-Cheese Storytelling event is planned 6-8 p.m. Saturday night for adults only. The program features adult stories and space is limited. Cost is $35 per person, including a souvenir Colonial Williamsburg Storytelling Festival wine glass.

Guests staying at one of the Colonial Williamsburg’s hotel properties receive 50 percent off the full purchase price of Weekend Passes and individual event tickets.

School groups are invited to attend programs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday at a cost of only $10 for teachers and $5 for students. Stories address portions of the Virginia Standards of Learning – Oral Literature for grades four through six.

For more information or to reserve your tickets, call 1-800-HISTORY or go to

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture — stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic tradespeople research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®” - a daily dramatic live street theater presentation - is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121