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Storyteller Ed Stivender kicks off Speak Story Series

By Staff | Jan 17, 2020

Speak Story Series founder Adam Booth hosts a question and answer session with guest storyteller Ed Stivender, on the right. Toni Milbourne

SHEPHERDSTOWN — The Speak Story Series, now in its eighth season, kicked off Sunday evening with its annual winter fundraising event.

Storyteller Ed Stivender, of Philadelphia, Pa., entertained more than 75 guests with story and song at the War Memorial Building.

Stivender, who has been a storyteller since the late 1970s, visited Shepherdstown during a previous season of Speak and was excited to return.

“I had my first national appearance in Jonesboro, Tennessee in 1980,” Stivender said, mentioning he has spoken at the National Storytelling Festival, the Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival in Ireland, the Graz Festival in Austria and the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

He began the night’s program with a Morris Dance and Mummer’s Play, because he is a member of a Morris Dance group in Philadelphia. He then recounted several stories, including “Jack and the Miller’s Tale,” written by Speak founder Adam Booth.

Stivender concluded his storytelling with an improvisational fairy tale, taking audience suggestions for its completion.

“I am rooted in improv,” Stivender said during a question and answer session with Booth.

At the end of the program, Booth announced the upcoming season’s storytellers, including: Charlotte Blake Austin, Kevin Kling, Laura Packer, Tom Lee, Ann Harding, Donna Washington and Booth.

Ticket sales and grants fund the Speak Story Series program. Sunday evening’s kickoff event raised $3,600 out of a $5,000 goal.

“An anonymous donation brought Ed here,” Booth said. “That way all proceeds from tonight go toward the Series.”

Booth also shared that a special gift was received this year from Shepherd University President Mary Hendrix, which will allow more storytellers to be sent into the public schools to perform free of charge. The public outreach is a strong part of the Speak program. Stivender performed Monday for Shepherdstown Middle School’s sixth graders.

A special auction during the evening’s events had bidders vying for a “House Auction,” which allowed the winning bidder to schedule a private showing for family and friends with Booth and fellow storyteller Sheila Arnold. Scott DeGraf and Phillip Post shared in the winning bid and will schedule their showing with the artists.

For those who wish to know more about the Speak Series, to purchase season tickets or learn more about any of the artists, visit www.speakstoryseries.com.