Storytelling Institute provides oral narrative outlet

The Geneseo Storytelling Institute, founded in spring 2012, is back for a second successful program of workshops and performances.

The institute is run by associate professor of education Sharon Peck, Executive Director of the Information Delivery Services Project Mark Sullivan, and Education and Instructional Design Librarian Michelle Costello. Each brings unique experiences and services to the program, as both Peck and Sullivan have prior storytelling experience. While last year the institute featured only five workshops, it has grown to include eight this semester.

“A bunch of education students wanted to learn to do storytelling because in class they practice story reading which is very different,” Costello said. “But we quickly realized this would go beyond the school of education.”

The institute is a program through which students can learn about the art, craft and history of storytelling in a series of conceptual and rehearsal-oriented workshops. The Institute also brings in other storytellers, like professor of English Tom Greenfield, to perform for the students. While students are welcome to come and go as they please, there is a core group of 10 storytellers, with some students returning from last year.

“[The stories] all have lessons and a little bit of the history of the people and listening to [them] … I was enthralled,” Sullivan said.

According to Peck and Sullivan, the workshop series starts off with the general history and examples of storytelling, read by Peck and Sullivan, and moves forward to include topics such as puppet use and the artistry of storytelling, from writing to the performance.

“Eye contact, vocal variety, gesture, movement, props, puppets and music,” Peck said. “These are all important for honing their stories.”

Peck and Sullivan said the skills learned in workshops can also be put to use in public speaking, acting and improvisation, so people not planning on telling stories to young children can still benefit from the institute’s workshops.

There are five workshops remaining after Feb. 28 before performances go up. Workshops are held in Milne 208 on Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. and new students are welcome to join.

This semester’s eight workshops will culminate with performances on G.R.E.A.T. Day, at the Wadsworth Library and at the Strong National Museum of Play. According to Peck, Sullivan and Costello, the goal in future years is to get a storytelling class started on campus and to reach out more to the community with storytelling efforts.

“There’s just something about somebody [telling] from their heart and their personal experience that just seems a lot more moving,” Costello said.