David Schlamb loves storytelling. He and Perrin Stifel were co-founders of MO-TELL,
Missouri Storytelling Inc in 1987.
For me, storytelling began on Saturday nights at bedtime. That’s when my father would tell us a story. My favorite was How Ruddy Raccoon Got His Mask. Dad had learned it as a boy from his father, John Lafayette.
Emily Thatch was responsible for my reintroduction to the genre on a summer afternoon in 1981. I was teaching fifth grade and she was drumming up business for her storytelling workshop. When SHE announced she was going to tell the class Beowulf, I knew we were in trouble. After all, I had been subjected to Beowulf, Lady in the Lake, Last of the Mohicans, and other choice classics. My fears were unfounded.
Instead of a laundry list of who was related to who, Emily had us mesmerized by a monster with eyes of green flickering flames fighting a hero with the strength of 30 men. I signed up for the workshop.
Traditionally, Beowulf begins: We have heard it all before and we rejoice in the retelling. In a preliterate society, you might learn the story by hearing it a number of times. Nowadays we can read the text a number of times to get the story in our brains. And so, I began storytelling days in my classroom. We told ghost stories on Halloween, fairy tales on the day before winter vacation, and folk tales on the day before spring vacation.
398.2 (Folk Tales and Fairy Tales) was not the only section of the library. We also searched the biography shelves for stories about famous Americans of the same gender and race as the students so they could prepare a one-person performance for the end of school.
While all of this was going on, a number of St. Louis storytellers gathered at Perrin Stifel’s house with the intention of starting a storytelling organization. My suggestion of MO-TELL carried the day and paved the way for IL-TELL and KAN- TELL.
And so, storytelling became my passion in the classroom at Old Bonhomme School, I became known as that man who tells stories.