Twelve students from Fairmont State University traveled to Jonesborough, Tenn., for the National Storytelling Festival the first weekend of October. These students are enrolled in “The Art of Storytelling,” a class that is cross-listed as a course in theatre, communication and folklore.
In this course, students tell folktales, fairytales, ghost stories and original stories based on personal experiences. The trip to the National Storytelling Festival is a course requirement. Participating students were Emily Robbins, Leah Yoho, Anita Rosser, Pamela Chatman, Jennifer Secure, Rachel Ball, Jared Moats, Daniel Forrest, Jordan Armstrong, Coty Sheme, Anthony Black and Thomas Zweyer.
“This was a particularly special year at the festival,” said Dr. Francene Kirk, the course instructor. “One of the new voices at the Festival was Adam Booth. Adam is from West Virginia and has been on our campus recently as a member of the faculty of the Governor’s Honors Academy. Several of the students know him.
Adam is a tall-tale teller. At the Festival, he told story about hooking up a church organ to an oven in Tudor’s Biscuit World. The audience was crazy with laughter. It was a great opportunity for our students to see where one can go in the storytelling world.”
This is not the first time Kirk has taken students to the Festival.
“I took my Honors Communication class about 10 years ago. The students loved it. This got the communication and theatre faculty talking about putting a storytelling class into the curriculum. Fairmont State has a long-standing storytelling tradition. Now that Dr. Ruth Ann Musick’s collection is housed in the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center on campus, it just made sense to cross-list the class with Folklore. This is the fifth year for the class,” Kirk said.
“The Art of Storytelling” is part of the “performance communication” track in the recently revised B.A. degree in Communication Arts. Storytelling is a logical fit with the program that already emphasizes public speaking and debate. However, the new program also has tracks in areas outside public performance. For example, the track in “media communication” emphasizes journalism, while the track in “visual communication” emphasizes electronic art.
“The goal of the program change is to help students understand what they might do with a degree in communication in the world of work,” Kirk said.
Several students in the class are majoring in communication. Two of the students are getting minors in folklore. However, most of the students are enrolled because they really enjoy telling and listening to stories.
“It is a great opportunity for students to get on their feet and work on their storytelling skills. We run the class like a workshop. Students tell a story. The class offers feedback. Then, the students tell again,” Kirk said.
Daniel Forrest is from Maryland and is majoring in Spanish Education. “I just wanted to hone my
presentation skills,” he said.
Anita Rosser is a non-traditional student who teaches part-time in a preschool. “My students love stories. I thought this class would help me better connect with my preschoolers,” Rosser said.
The class is giving a public performance at the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center on Monday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. The storytelling performance will be a mix of different kinds of tales. The performance is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted for the Folklife Center.
For additional information about “The Art of Storytelling” class, the storytelling performance, or the Communication Arts Program, contact Dr. Francene Kirk at (304) 367-4170.
*From our friends at Fairmont State University