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‘Bug Girl’ featured in July Speak Story Series

By Staff | Jul 19, 2019

Elisabeth Staro, left, of Shepherdstown, talks with storyteller Judith Black, as her twin grandchildren Max and Maya Bosse, of Washington, D.C., listen in the Storer Ballroom on July 9. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — As a storyteller, Judith Black stands out from her peers, thanks to her strong acting skills. On July 9 in the Storer Ballroom, Speak Story Series attendees sat back in their chairs, only to be swept up in the emotion of Black’s portrayals of her three stories about the environment and her son.

With her story, “Oh God,” Black kicked off the evening with a humorous account of her attempts to persuade a friend to be concerned about protecting the environment.

“I realized, I am Cassandra, the Greek goddess of bad news, and she doesn’t want to hear my bad news. No one wants to hear me,” Black said. “Trying to get people to change the way they live, is like pushing a fat drunk up the stairs. You can only do it, one at a time.”

According to Black, “it’s really hard to make climate jokes,” but she did a good job of filling her two stories about the environment with irony and humor. But before she told her second story about the environment, Black recounted her personal experience in “How I Learned to Love Football.”

“When you want one thing and your child wants something else, who has more time and perseverance?” Black said, with a laugh, when talking about her son persuaded her to let him play football. “I looked at this kid, my cherub-cheeked round-bottomed child, and said, ‘This is not the body of a football player. This is a kid who, in fourth grade, his two favorite subjects in school were lunch and recess.’ So I signed his permission slip, thinking he would only do it for a couple of days.”

Storyteller Judith Black portrays a professor talking on the phone to the "Bug Girl" in her final story in the Storer Ballroom on July 9. Tabitha Johnston

Much to Black’s surprise, her son ended up loving the sport, and worked so hard at it that he became his high school’s football team captain. Black herself overcame her reservations about the sport and eventually became an announcer during her son’s games.

Finally, Black arrived at her final story, “Bug Girl,” about a girl who overcame being orphaned and maimed with the help of her brother, his family and the natural world. While Black had made up the story, the facts she shared about insects and the natural world were carefully researched.

“I worked with three different entomologists on this story,” Black said, mentioning that the story, which discussed an outbreak of the Zika virus, was a very present worry for the entomologists. “I was talking with one of them on the phone, and she said she had to go, because there was a Zika outbreak in Florida. It’s a real concern.”

And for Black, that concern is one of many she feels burdened to share with her audiences around the nation.

“A lot of scientists tell me it will be an unlivable climate very soon. This is all because of what we’re doing to our world,” Black said. “Storytelling keeps people’s hearts and minds open, so they aren’t afraid to learn and make changes in how they’re treating the environment.”

To learn more about Black, visit storiesalive.com.