2017 National Storytellers
Growing up in a family where the truth was fluid, Bil Lepp became adept at spinning tales and exaggerating circumstances at an early age. A nationally renowned storyteller and five time champion of the West Virginia Liars’ Contest, Bil’s outrageous, humorous tall-tales and witty stories have earned the appreciation of listeners of all ages and from all walks of life. Though a champion liar, his stories often contain morsels of truth which shed light on universal themes. Be it a hunting trip, a funeral, or a visit to the dentist, Bil can find the humor in any situation. Lepp explains that while his stories may not be completely true, they are always honest. “…Lepp, a cross between Dr. Seuss and…film noir....” -Charleston Gazette Bil is the author of six books and sixteen audio collections. His first children’s book, The King of Little Things, won the PEN Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing, received a Kirkus Starred review, and favorable reviews from The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, The School Library Journal and other publications. It also won the Zena Sutherland Award, the Parent’s Choice Gold Award, was a finalist for the Irma Black Award, and was chosen to be West Virginia's book at the National Book Festival. A storyteller, author, and recording artist, Lepp’s works have received awards and recognition from The Parents’ Choice Foundation, The National Parenting Publications Assoc., and the Public Library Assoc. In 2011, Bil was awarded the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award. Lepp has been featured 15 times at the National Storytelling Festival, and performed at major storytelling festivals, at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and at corporate events and functions across the country. He performed at Comedy Central’s Stage on Hudson in Los Angeles, CA. Bil lives in Charleston, WV with his wife and two children.
Charlotte Blake Alston
Charlotte Blake Alston performs in venues throughout North America and abroad. She breathes life into traditional and contemporary stories from African and African American oral and cultural traditions. Her solo performances are often enhanced with traditional instruments such as djembe, mbira, shekere or the 21-stringed kora. She brings her stories and songs to national and regional festivals, schools, universities, museums, libraries and performing arts centers throughout the United States and Canada, as well as local and national radio and television. Her repertoire is wide and programs are adapted to any grade level or age group.
Ms. Alston has been a featured narrator for several orchestras and conductors including The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Orchestra of St. Luke’s, The Cleveland Orchestra, the Saint Louis Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She represented Carnegie Hall in 2003 when she hosted a series of concerts in Miyazaki, Japan with the Eddie Arron String Quartet and fellow storyteller, Motoko. Currently, she performs as both pre-concert artist and host of Carnegie Hall’s Family and Education Concert Series.
Charlotte was one of four Americans selected to perform and present at the first International Storytelling Field Conference in Ghana and was a featured artist at the Second Int’l Festival in Cape Town, South Africa. In the summer of 2005, she was the sole American selected to perform on a main stage at the STIMMEN: Voices Festival in Basel, Switzerland and The Cape Clear Island Festival in Ireland. She was the Director of “In the Tradition…” the 14th National Festival of Black Storytelling. She is a recipient of the Zora Neale Hurston Award, the highest award bestowed by the National Association of Black Storytellers.
Andy Offut Irwin
With a silly putty voice, hilarious heart-filled stories, and amazing mouth noises (arguably, the greatest whistler in the world) one-person-showman, Andy Offutt Irwin, is equal parts mischievous schoolboy and the Marx Brothers, peppered with a touch of the Southern balladeer. One of the most sought after performing storytellers in the United States, Andy is especially known for relating the adventures of his eighty-five-year-old-widowed-newly-minted-physician-aunt, Marguerite Van Camp, a woman who avoids curmudgeonship by keeping her finger on the pulse of the changing world around her as she seeks to grow – even at her advanced age – in the New South. Marguerite steps lively through this existence, loving as many people as she can.
October of 2015 marked Andy’s sixth year as a Featured Teller at the National Storytelling Festival. He has appeared ten times as Teller in Residence at International Storytelling Center. Among other gigs, Andy has been a Guest Artist at La Guardia High School of Art, Music, and Performing Arts in New York (The “FAME!” School); he has been a Keynote Speaker/Performer at the Library of Congress-Virburnum Foundation Conference on Family Literacy; a Guest Writer Performer with the Georgia Tech Glee Club; and a guest composer with the Amherst College Men’s Double Quartet.
Andy has held a few almost-real-jobs that include: Artist-In-Residence in Theatre at Emory University’s Oxford College from 1991 to 2007. (He continues serving at Oxford from time-to-time as Artist-in-Just-Passing-Through). A very long time ago Andy spent five years as a performer, writer, and director for SAK Theatre at Walt Disney World. Andy is the recipient of many awards, but he is tickled as can be to have received the Oracle 2013 Circle of Excellence from the National Storytelling Network.
Only a few people can say that they earn their living telling stories, but since 1989 Daniel Morden has travelled the world as a professional storyteller visiting arts centres, theatres, libraries, museums and festivals worldwide. He has told Welsh tales in St Donat's and at St David's, from the Arctic to the Pacific to the Caribbean. Daniel says "When I was young, children could walk to school by themselves. Every day as I walked I would make up a story, about myself, or Spiderman, or the Viking God Thor, or some strange character I had invented. When I reached school, if I hadn't finished the story I would walk around the playground, muttering it under my breath. I had to know how the story ended, even though I was making it up." His first book, Weird Tales from the Storyteller, was published by Pont Books in November 2003 and was subsequently nominated for the Tir na N-Og Children's Book Prize. Delighted with his first publication , he said "I wanted to write the kind of book I would have loved to read when I was young. I loved books where I was laughing and shuddering by turns." He is one of the UK's most popular tellers of traditional stories, with a repertoire that ranges from The Iliad and The Odyssey performed with Hugh Lupton to his work for families fusing music and story with Oliver Wilson-Dickson. Daniel Morden and Hugh Lupton were awarded the 2006 Classical Association prize for 'the most significant contribution to the public understanding of the classics'. Daniel has conceived and presented numerous documentaries on storytelling for BBC Radio Wales. In 2007 he won the Tir na n-Og Award for Dark Tales from the Woods. His latest publication is Tree of Leaf and Flame, published by Pont Books in 2012.