For many generations, storytelling has been a useful and entertaining art form for passing information, wisdom and knowledge to people of all ages. On March 24, Doug Elliott will be sharing his expertise of storytelling with the Pee Dee community at Francis Marion University’s 30th-annual Art’s Alive festival.
Elliott has performed programs at festivals, museums and schools across the country, including presenting workshops at the Smithsonian Institute, Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and American Museum of Natural History in New York. He has also led ranger training sessions and guided tours for the National Park Service, published four books and recorded a number of award-winning albums of stories and songs.
“Storytelling is how we make sense of our lives. It’s one of the best ways to convey information,” said Elliott, who began telling stories professionally nearly 20 years ago. “We humans love narratives. That’s why most of us are glued to a television for much of our lives; it’s just one story after another, and we are hooked.”
Before Elliott began telling stories professionally, he earned his living as a traveling herbalist collecting and selling herbs, teas and healing plants. During these years, he talked to elders from various cultures and learned about the history, medicinal properties and food value of plants. Elliott said that his passion for botany gives him constant inspiration for his storytelling.
“The natural world and our relation to nature is an unending source of stories,” Elliott said. “My stories often come from something I’m curious about or something that has happened to me,” he said.
Elliott’s nature-based storytelling has also led him to perform at many herb conferences and botanical gardens.
In addition to tying his love of plants and nature in with his stories, Elliott’s stories also feature musical performances. Elliott plays the harmonica, and his 14-year-old son Todd is a fiddler and travels with him, performing fiddle tricks and adding to the aesthetic effect of Elliott’s stories. Elliott uses music, along with poems, riddles and traditional folklore, to develop his audience’s understanding of nature.
Elliott notes that even though many people associate storytelling as an activity for children, only a small part of his repertoire is exclusively for youngsters.
“I hope anyone who listens to my stories will have fun, get lots of laughs and have a deeper appreciation of people and nature,” he said.
In addition to Elliott’s storytelling, several other performers will present entertaining programs for youngsters and adults at the Art’s Alive festival. Kenny Mikey and Riley Roam of Page Turner Adventures will perform fairy tales for children, and the Society for Creative Anachronism will present Middle Ages and Renaissance exhibits for the whole family. Children will also be able to make medieval style crafts and artwork with this group.
Other performers include The Florence Little Theatre Schoolhouse Players, comedy showman Wade Henry, mime artist Willie Shaw and an FMU Student Art Guild sidewalk chalk art competition. Admission to Art’s Alive is free and all are welcome.
For more information, contact Libby Cooper, director of community relations at FMU at (843) 661-1221.
This project is funded in part by the Florence Regional Arts Alliance and the South Carolina Arts Commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a generous award from the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina.
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