CHESAPEAKE STORYTELLING FESTIVAL: MEET THE STORYTELLERS

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The 2nd annual Chesapeake Storytelling Festival is this Saturday, September 16, at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, MD, and there’s still time to purchase tickets!

This event keeps getting better:

Internationally Known Storytellers! Living History Reenactors! Plus children’s activities, music, and local storytelling panels like the Watermen’s Story Swap, once again moderated by yours truly!

Here are this year’s storytellers:

Andy Offutt Irwin

Bil Lepp (2017)  

Growing up in a family where the truth was fluid, Bil Lepp became adept at spinning tales and exaggerating circumstances at an early age. A nationally renowned storyteller and five time champion of the West Virginia Liars’ Contest, Bil’s outrageous, humorous tall-tales and witty stories have earned the appreciation of listeners of all ages and from all walks of life. Though a champion liar, his stories often contain morsels of truth which shed light on universal themes. Be it a hunting trip, a funeral, or a visit to the dentist, Bil can find the humor in any situation. Lepp explains that while his stories may not be completely true, they are always honest.

“…Lepp, a cross between Dr. Seuss and…film noir….” – Charleston Gazette

Bil is the author of six books and sixteen audio collections. His first children’s book, The King of Little Things, won the PEN Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing, received a Kirkus Starred review, and favorable reviews from The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, The School Library Journal, and other publications. It also won the Zena Sutherland Award, the Parent’s Choice Gold Award, was a finalist for the Irma Black Award, and was chosen to be West Virginia’s book at the National Book Festival.

A storyteller, author, and recording artist, Lepp’s works have received awards and recognition from The Parents’ Choice Foundation, The National Parenting Publications Assoc., and the Public Library Assoc. In 2011, Bil was awarded the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award. Lepp has been featured 16 times at the National Storytelling Festival, and performed at major storytelling festivals, at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and at corporate events and functions across the country. He performed at Comedy Central’s Stage on Hudson in Los Angeles, CA.  Bil lives in Charleston, WV with his wife and two children.


Kim Weitkamp

Kim Weitkamp (2017 & 2016)

As the redheaded child of exhausted parents, Kim grew up enjoying the role
 of the middle child. Allowed to roam free in the heart of Amish Country, her imagination was ripened by a life lived outdoors. Now she enjoys the role of being one of the most sought after storytellers and
speakers in the country.

One reviewer stated, “Kim is a master at seamlessly building bridges from story, to song, to story. Like all good storytellers she evokes both laughter and tears, but her smooth silky voice, impeccable timing, and dead-on anticipation of her listeners’ needs place her at the pinnacle
of her craft.”

In her work as a humorist, storyteller, singer, and songwriter, she has taken home a full armload of awards and recognitions. She has worked on and created successful peace projects including the Peace by Piece Project in collaboration with the Taubman Museum of Fine Arts.

Kim currently has eight audio collections, the latest two being, A Wandering Mind, a recent 2015 Storytelling Award Winner, and a folk operetta, The Ballad of Ronnie Calloway, which was recorded live in front of 800 people at the National Storytelling Festival. It has received high praise from the world of storytelling and from the Folk/Americana music world.

The Oregonian stated, “Kim studs her storytelling performances with bits of musical Americana that match the sweet and gentle tones of her narrative.” Her material is played regularly on NPR affiliate stations and on SiriusXM Radio. Kim travels the continent full time performing at theaters and festivals. She has made numerous television appearances, hosted a successful morning show, and has keynoted for some of Forbes most recognized companies and high profile national non-profits.


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Tim Lowry (2017 & Spring 2015)

Tim Lowry has been telling stories of the People, by the People, and for the People for 15 years. Telling a variety of Folk Tales and Stories from American History, Tim has presented thousands of educational programs for schools across the country. At festivals, Tim entertains audiences with a mixture of Folk Tales and Personal Narrative. He also presents storytelling/communication workshops at corporate retreats. When Tim is not on the road, he makes his home in Summerville, SC, where he often performs stories of southern culture and history from the “Sweet Tea Trail.”

Tim grew up in southeastern Kentucky where he learned the art of storytelling from Appalachian folk who spun yarns and told tales to entertain, teach morals, and pass along local history. He studied drama in high school and toured the East Coast in 1987 with a drama school from Greenville, SC. After earning a degree in Theater, Tim taught English language arts for five years. He left the classroom in 2000 to become a full-time professional performer. He has made several television appearances, recorded a number of storytelling CDs, filmed a DVD, and written a storytelling handbook.


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Megan Hicks (2017)

Storyteller Megan Hicks has a way with words.

Add her warm sense of humor and deep respect for anybody who is now or ever was a kid, and you’ve got an award-winning performer who captivates audiences of all ages and from all walks of life.

The lack of a paying audience didn’t keep her from pursuing her career goals early: Megan belted out songs with her TV friends on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” penned poems about her pet lizard, and started repurposing found objects to fashion toys that suited her imagination.

There was no where to go but up, and by the time she was 20, Megan was in the money, living in Australia and singing for tips with a group of local musicians. “You have to start somewhere,” she points out. Her first paid writing gig was in 1986, when she penned a feature for the State Fair insert of The Daily Oklahoman, and at about the same time she started making origami jewelry for a local gallery.

Today, Megan has earned an enviable reputation as a professional storyteller. She was featured as a New Voice at the National Storytelling Festival in 2011, and her credits range from small venues in rural America, to regional stages throughout the United States, and international programs on three continents.  Her awards include a Parents’ Choice® Silver for the CD, “What Was Civil About That War…” which was also a 2005 Finalist for an Audies® award in the category of Best Original Work. She received the Parents’ Guide to Children’s Media Award for “Groundhogs Meet Grimm,” a collection of her original parodies that was also tapped for Honors by NAPPA.

Megan is a sought-after workshop presenter and seminar leader, with credits at Florida StoryCamp, the Northlands Storytelling Conference, Sharing the Fire, the National Storytelling Conference, the Virginia Library Association, and ElderStudy, among others.  Her performance and presentation draw praises wherever she goes, and she takes her love of whimsy with her as she creates new stories and adaptations, and discovers new purposes for the “found objects” that continue to inspire her ingenuity.”


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Gwendolyn Briley-Strand (2017 & 2016)

Gwendolyn Briley-Strand holds a BA degree in Theatre from Fordham University and has performed as a professional actor on stage, TV, and in film for over thirty years. Her TV credits include 2008 National Commercial for Coca Cola, HBO Productions, MGM pictures, NBC Television, and PBS-TV, and Netflix original series “House of Cards.” Her video Harriet Tubman: The Chosen One won the ITVA-DC 2003 Peer Award at the National Press Radio Club in Washington, D.C. for independent feature.

Harriet Tubman: The Chosen One show has been performed for thousands of schools, and organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada. Harriet Tubman: The Chosen One has also been presented at the J.F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and The Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC. In 2004, Harriet Tubman: The Chosen One opened the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Ms. Briley-Strand is also a voiceover artist for several major corporations throughout the U.S.  She is the President & CEO of See The Fruits, Inc., a company which uses the Arts to teach American History.  For our 2017 festival, she also brings us Rosa Parks, Such a Time.


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Brian Patrick Mulligan (2017)

Historian and TV actor, Brian Patrick Mulligan, has performed around the country portraying Ben Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt for over 25 years. As an actor, he has also guest starred on Scandal, The Office, Castle, Hannah Montana, and more.

BEN FRANKLIN and the Great American Experiment –  Journey back to Colonial Days with Ben Franklin in this interactive and entertaining chronicle of everyones’ favorite founding father.  This presentation covers topics from Ben’s many inventions to the signing of The Declaration of Independence!  HUZZAH!

TEDDY ROOSEVELT: from Rough Rider to President –  Brian’s Teddy shares stories full of great adventure, humor, and a positive message.  At the Chesapeake Storytelling Festival, hear the incredible stories of the frail, young boy who built up his body and dedicated himself to the vigorous life, conservation, and the Square Deal!


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Pat Jordan (2017)

Ms. Jordan is a professional singer-actor, playwright, and director who has appeared in scores of productions.  Her passion for famous American women in history brings her to our festival to portray Clarissa “Clara” Harlowe Barton (1821 – 1912), a pioneering nurse who founded the American Red Cross.  Clara was a hospital nurse in the Civil War and is noted for her humanitarian work at a time when few women worked outside of their home.

In addition, Pat has portrayed Betsy Ross, Amelia Earhart, Louisa May Alcott, and Mary Todd Lincoln at many different venues.  She delivered the welcoming speech as Deborah Franklin at the University of Pennsylvania’s First  Annual Benjamin Franklin Leadership Symposium. She premiered The Women of Washington’s Household at the Independence Visitors’ Center for Welcome America’s 4th of July Celebration and  My Dear Mrs. Lincoln for the Lincoln 2000 event in Philadelphia for American Historical Theatre.  The NJ Humanities council has underwritten Pat’s performances as Martha Washington, Amelia Earhart and Clara Barton in which she presents as an historical expert as well as an actor-interpreter.  She has also been seen in principal roles in films.

Ms. Jordan is a graduate of Villanova University (cum laude, BA in Theatre and Communication Arts) and has studied at the HB Studio in NY and accredited venues such as Juilliard’s Opera Workshop with Vincent LaSelva, and Rutgers-Camden Summer Theatre Production Program.   She has performed at the 42nd Street and Clurman Theatres in New York, Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, and in historical films such as Eyewitness to History, and History of the American Flag. 


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Gary Crawford (2017)

Gary Crawford has been a guest speaker at the Easton Free Library, the Phillips Wharf  Environmental Center “Winter Wednesday” program series, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Easton Club East, Tilghman on Chesapeake, and the Retired Civil Servants Association, among other venues and events. His narrated slide show on the history of Tilghman’s Island is a popular presentation, as are the video slide-shows, “The 75-Ton Catch” and “A Conversation with Sam Cummings.”

Gary and his wife Susan live on Tilghman’s Island, where they have been operating a unique and curious bookstore, the Book Bank, since 1993. The store specialize in books about water—yachting, tall ships, naval, maritime history, pirates, wrecks, and so on. They also carry books about the Eastern Shore, some that Gary has written.

In 2000, Gary began self-publishing a bi-monthly newsletter called the “Fairbank Gazette.”  A more ambitious project was the Island Flyer devoted to Tilghman’s Island events past, current, and upcoming. For the past four years, Gary has been writing a monthly article for the Tidewater Times, a local magazine with a long and distinguished history.


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Jackie McCabe (2017)

Jackie McCabe is a childrens’ entertainer and librarian. At our festival, Miss Jackie shares some of her favorite interactive storybooks and songs accompanied by her autoharp and guitar.

Ms. McCabe has been an assistant childrens’ librarian at the Dover Public Library for over twenty-two years where she is now delighting second generations with her story-times.  Considering her profession is to promote books, she calls herself a “story reader” as opposed to a “story teller.”  Jackie has also taught nursery, preschool and kindergarten music at “the little school” in Dover, DE, for twenty-four years sharing and encouraging a love of music.  As a respite from children’s music, she also performs  a program entitled “Miss Jackie Sings For Adults Only” that includes comedic and slightly bawdy songs.  She and her husband, Mike, are colonial demonstration dancers with the Dover English Country Dancers.


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Tom McHugh (2017 & 2016)

Tom is locally known as the founder & executive director of The Mainstay in Rock Hall, MD.  He has been a teacher all of his life…teenage camp counselor, boarding school house parent, middle and high school teacher, and college professor. With undergraduate and graduate degrees from Temple University and The University of Pennsylvania, (BS,Ed; M.ED. and Ph.D) he started his college teaching career at Washington College, Chestertown Maryland.  He then moved to Vassar College as Chair of The Department of Education and a member of the American Culture Program faculty. Vassar became his career position, and he retired in the early nineties as a full professor. He moved back to Rock Hall to raise his girls in the Eastern Shore setting and started the Mainstay.  Tom credits his teaching experience and his lifelong work as a musician (banjo, voice, blues harp, Native American flute, and a mean kazoo) for his success at The Mainstay.  Tom brings a program of Chesapeake songs of classic waterman and boating tunes to the festival.


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Ed Okonowicz (2017 & 2016)

Ed Okonowicz is the author of more than two dozen books on Delmarva and Maryland folklore, oral history, regional culture, crime and ghost stories. A Delaware native, he presents storytelling programs throughout the Mid-Atlantic region at conventions, libraries, private and public events, and in schools and colleges. With Elkton, Maryland, historian Mike Dixon, he offers cemetery walks and tours at historic sites, including the annual fall presenation of “Ghosts (and History) on the Green”—and evening tour through the University of Delaware’s Newark campus during Parents’ and Family Weekend.

As a freelance writer, he wrote feature stories for numerous newspapers and magazines, and was named best local author in the Delaware Today magazine’s Readers’ Poll in 2005. He retired from the University of Delaware, where he worked as an editor, and for many years he taught courses in folklore, storytelling, talk radio, and feature writing. He continues to write for Stackpole Books, a Pennsylvania publisher, and he presents programs on a wide range of topics throughout the year.


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Steve Hazzard (2017)

Steve Hazzard appeared at Church Hill Theatre in How The Other Half Loves, Accidentally Wealthy, and most recently played Captain Joe in St. George’s Blues. He has acted in many roles in Michigan theatre productions and emceed community events in Michigan’s Tecumseh Civic Theatre. Steve has been a broadcast DJ and commercial spokesman. He currently emcees Thursday Night At the Creamery in Centreville, MD.

Steve was born in Washington, DC and lived in Michigan before relocating to the Eastern Shore of Maryland where he lives aboard his sailboat on Kent Island. He is a graduate of Michigan State University and the father of two boys, ages 17 and 27.
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Barbara Parker and Ben Bennington (2017)

Singer/songwriter Barbara Parker finds inspiration in everyday life for a wide selection of musical styles.  Focusing on her own music, she has a way with lyrics that reflects her desire to express universal emotions.

Barbara has performed at Women Helping Women in Chestertown, MD, near her home, at The Mainstay in Rock Hall, MD, both in a solo show, as part of Joe Holt’s “Mainstay Monday” series, and with Brazilian guitarist Camilo Carrara in The National Music Festival.  She has also performed in various venues across the county, and in Europe.

Her latest CD, “A Little Out of Focus” is available directly from her, or digitally on cdbaby.com or amazon.com (search for Barbara Parker).  bhparker235@gmail.com

Ben Bennington, musician, engineer, and poet, has played guitar since he was a teenager in England.  He has played with jazz, rock, and folk bands over the years and, in addition to accompanying Barbara Parker, currently plays with “Harp and Soul”, a Celtic quartet, and “BFD,” a trio devoted to post ‘70s pop.

Together, Barbara and Ben play a mix of original, Celtic and pop music that is a solid mix of the new and the familiar.
SoundCloud:  https://soundcloud.com/userbp4063578
FaceBook:  https://www.facebook.com/createeachday/BarbaraParker


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Brent Lewis (2017 & 2016)​

Brent Lewis is a native Eastern Shoreman with local roots going back for generations. For over a decade, Brent conducted an oral history program under the auspices of the Kent Island Heritage Society, and he has written two nonfiction books, Remembering Kent Island: Stories from the Chesapeake and A History of the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department. Brent self-published his novel Bloody Point: 1976 in 2015, and in 2016 moderated the Watermen’s Story Swap at the first Chesapeake Storytelling Festival.  Brent returns to again moderate the Watermen’s Story Swap.

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Bailey Harper & Fred McNeil (2017)

Bailey Harper is a middle school student from Cambridge, MD.   She is the granddaughter of Fred McNeil (Centerville, MD) and is an avid reader who loves Harry Potter, and always has a book in her hand.  Fred is a retired educator and enjoys telling stories to children.  He has fond memories of sitting on the front porch listening to his father and grandfather tell stories of World Wars I and II.  Join Bailey and Fred in the Children’s Tent for Three Traditions of Storytelling.  ​


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Jenny Rhodes (2017)

Jenny Rhodes is a chicken grower who, along with her sons Chris and Ryan, raises 500,000 broiler chickens each year for Allen Harim Foods. She is also a University of Maryland Extension educator who helps other farmers solve problems on their farms, and is a past president of Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., a trade association for the chicken industry. Rhodes also has leadership roles for MidAtlantic Farm Credit, the Maryland Farm Bureau, and Queen Anne’s Soil Conservation District. She is a lifelong resident of Queen Anne’s County.  Jenny will moderate the Poultry Farmers Story Swap.

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Hu La La Polynesian Arts (2017)

Hu La Hu Polynesian Arts is a popular luau entertainment company serving the mid-Atlantic area.  The Hu La La Wahine are trained in various forms of Polynesian dance, including hula, Tahitian, and Maori.  Listen and watch as stories unfold through music and dance.


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Chestertown Ukulele Club

The Chestertown Ukulele Club began in 2013 playing their first gig at Open Mic at the Garfield Center for the Arts (previously the Prince Theatre in Chestertown).  Since 2013, the club, under the direction of Ford Schumann, regularly entertains audiences at the Garfield Center for the Arts and has become a local Kent County favorite group.  The club continues to grow and welcomes anyone to join them.  The club founder, Jamie Hurley, states: “The beauty of playing the ukulele is that it is easy to learn and hard not to smile while playing it.”


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Keri Anthony

A professional, dedicated musician, Keri Anthony’s vast repertoire of songs from the 40’s through today continues to delight and entertain audiences nationwide.  Recently, Keri and her guitar have been singing and playing the Delaware and Maryland beaches and inland on Kent Island.


 

 

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