PINELLAS PARK – Storytelling is one of the world’s oldest art forms.
Before people could read and write, they used storytelling to convey important information, said Deborah Frethem, president of the Tampa Bay Storytellers Guild.
“Before they could do anything as a society, people had to learn how to explain things to each other, and to preserve their history and culture,” added Billie Noakes, a member of the guild and of the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce. “They needed to preserve things in a memorable way and what’s a better or more memorable way than a fun story?”
As people began to rely more on the written word and technology evolved – typewriters and books making way for computers, emails, text messages – the art form of telling stories fell to the wayside. The guild works to keep the art alive in an age of instant communication with the touch of a button. One of its preservation tools is its annual Tellabration! event, this year held on Saturday, Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m.
This year the guild is teaming up with the Chamber to host its annual event, billed as an evening of storytelling for adults, at Park Station, 5851 Park Blvd. “It’s all about celebrating the art of storytelling,” Frethem said.
A fundraiser for the Chamber, this year’s Tellebration! features six area storytellers, local to Pinellas County: Gene and Maureen Belote, Susan Miller and Geneva Nelson, in addition to Noakes and Frethem. Tickets are $5 each or five tickets for $20. There also will be a silent auction.
“The stories range from humorous to heart tugging to scary,” Noakes said. Each will be told in 10 minutes or less before the audience gets too “fidgety,” she added. And while the stories are geared more toward adults, they’re still family-friendly tales that children can enjoy.
The guild’s Tellabration! might be a local event, but it’s really part of a much larger, global movement. It originated with J.G. Pinkerton, who wanted to celebrate local storytellers and share his love of the art, in Connecticut in 1988. By the next year, it had spread to several other states, Frethem said. By 1990, under the umbrella of the National Storytelling Network, Tellabration! expanded nationwide. There are several held in Florida, from Miami to Jacksonville.
The annual event went international in 1995, when Japanese storyteller Masako Sueyoshi, who spent some time in Connecticut and participated in the original Tellabration! gatherings, organized one in her native country. Two years later, these storytelling events were held on every continent but Antarctica. “I guess the penguins don’t like telling stories,” Frethem said.
The Tampa Bay Storytellers Guild has been hosting Tellabration! events since the mid-’90s, Noakes said. Originally, they hosted them at the Pinellas Park Public Library. Around 2005, the guild had to find a new venue and bounced around the Tampa Bay area before bringing the event back to Pinellas Park this year. “It’s a nontraditional venue,” she said, “but should be great.”
Each year, the guild also hosts a youth Tellabration! event for younger storytelling enthusiasts. This year’s Gift of Gab Storytelling Slam was held in Tampa’s Town and Country area at the West Gate Regional Library on Nov. 15.