What do you think of when you hear the word storytelling? The ancient art of storytelling, an oral tradition that thrived long before recorded history, is said to be the most powerful means of communicating a message. Studies have shown that stories connect listeners emotionally, influencing attitudes, thoughts, hopes, and values. Stories give us new perspectives on ourselves and on those around us. They allow us to share information about who we are and learn about those around us.

Storytelling is something for everyone! We all tell stories in some way, shape or form in our everyday lives - it's not just for entertainment purposes. Benefits of storytelling are far-reaching. Telling and listening to stories improves our ability to focus on details, enhances our writing and communication skills, and inspires the imagination.

 The Arts Council of Oklahoma City's 34th Annual Oklahoma City Storytelling Festival is happening August 21-23 at the Oklahoma History Center.

Nationally-acclaimed storytellers will delight audiences with workshops and special performances focused on comedy, heroism, navigating life spookiness and more. Named one of the best places to hear or tell a tale, the Storytelling Festival offers performances by some of the nation's best tellers.

 Complete with three entertaining evening performances, a family matinee featuring "Home Fried Tales" with Bil Lepp and Lyn Ford, and professional workshops on Friday and Saturday, you don't want to miss a minute. Also, there's a FREE lunchtime Open Mic Storytelling event with the Territory Tellers on Friday and Saturday, a FREE Poetry Stand every evening featuring Oklahoma City poet Kari Shadid, and a StorySLAM open mic event at Urban Roots on Saturday evening with the theme of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Adulthood."

 This year's featured storytellers include Donald Davis, Elizabeth Ellis, Bil Lepp and Lyn Ford.

  • Donald Davis: A graduate of Duke University Divinity School and a retired Methodist minister, Donald is former chairperson of the Board of Directors for the National Storytelling Association and a featured teller at the Smithsonian Institution. Among an already impressive resume, Donald has also been a guest host for the National Public Radio program, "Good Evening."
  • Elizabeth Ellis:  Also known as the Divine Miss E, Elizabeth grew up in the Appalachian Mountains and was a children's librarian at the Dallas Public Library before becoming a professional storyteller. She is a winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Storytelling Network, as well as a recipient of the John Henry Faulk Award from the Tejas Storytelling Association and the Circle of Excellence Award from the National Storytelling Network.
  • Bil Lepp: A five-time champion of the West Virginia Liars' Contest, Bil has been featured at venues across the nation, including a recent appearance for Comedy Central. His style has been described as a combination of Bill Cosby and Jeff Foxworthy.
  • Lyn Ford: Fourth generation nationally recognized Affrilachian, African American heritage and history from Appalachia, storyteller famous for telling her "Home-Fried" tales. She is also a teaching artist, workshop facilitator, mentor, writer and Laughter Yoga leader, in addition to being a mom and a grandmamma.

Storytelling Festival performance tickets are $10. Workshop passes are $10 or $25 for a whole day, $50 for both Friday and Saturday workshops, and $75 for all festival workshops and performances. The family matinee ticket prices are $5 for adults and $3 for children. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.artscouncilokc.com/events/

More information about the Storytelling Festival can be found at http://www.artscouncilokc.com/content/oklahoma-city-storytelling-festival or by calling (405) 270-4848. Hope to see you there!