On October 9-11, the Evanston Public Library will host its first annual Storytelling Festival, featuring a wide array of free events, including storytelling for all ages, panels, workshops, and spoken-word poetry, held at the library, the Celtic Knot Public House, the Woman’s Club of Evanston, and an outdoor family tent.
This event is the brainchild of founder and co-director Susan Stone, a professional storyteller of thirty years, who is “hoping that the festival brings new faces to the library—people who otherwise would not come or have not seen the incredible offerings of this institution.”
Karen Danczak Lyons, Evanston Public Library director and festival co-director, says the inaugural year boasts a diverse lineup. “We’re bringing nationally… recognized professional storytellers to share their craft with us,” Lyons explains, “but I also wanted it to be an opportunity for our students to share their storytelling ability as they learn.” The festival will feature student storytellers from Northwestern University and local public schools.
Aspiring storytellers will have a chance to share at the “Do Not Submit: A Storytelling Open Mic” at the Celtic Knot Sunday evening, co-hosted by Jill Schacter and Scott Whitehair. Whitehair will also appear on Saturday in his program “This Much Is True.”
Whitehair says he is “excited to see Evanston get the spotlight.” He also shares what makes the festival unique: “The level of talent… on stage here could rightfully demand a hefty admission price, but the library has chosen to give it away as a gift to the people of Evanston. There is no good reason to miss this, and no one should.”
Schacter, also the marketing communications coordinator at the library, wants us to know that storytelling isn’t just for children: “Our festival will have something for all ages from preschool children to late night fringe stories and everything in between.”
Liz Bartlow Breslin, the co-owner of the Celtic Knot Public House, says she’s “seen storytelling change people’s lives.” The pub hosts monthly storytelling nights, and to Breslin, participating in the festival was only “natural.”
Featured performer Beth Horner is most looking forward to the “Symphony of Stories,” a showcase of stories honoring celebrated Evanston storyteller Syd Lieberman, who passed away earlier this year. An Evanston resident of thirty-two years, Horner thinks it’s significant that so many of the tellers are from Evanston: “it shows you how much regard and respect we have for the Evanston Public Library and what they are doing with this festival, that we all want to be a part of it.”
The festival will be a welcome addition to the vibrant local storytelling scene. Festival committee member Jane Stenson, a storyteller, author and educator, describes Evanston as “a fabulous place for storytelling.”
Horner and the other headlining artists–Jasmin Cardenas, In the Spirit, Oba William King, and internationally touring storyteller Antonio Sacre–will open the festival Friday night, and perform throughout the weekend.
“Aren’t we lucky in the rich environment of Evanston to have so many stories told in so many ways?” Stenson tells me, “Every voice will be heard. We have only to learn to listen well.” (Catlyne Lasser)
October 9-October 11, Friday 7pm-9pm, Saturday 9:30am-10:30pm, Sunday 10am-8pm, Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue. Free and open to the public. Festival schedule at epl.org/storyfestival.