2015 Featured Tellers
Charlotte Blake Alston
Charlotte Blake Alston performs in venues throughout North America and abroad. Venues are wide and include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, the Kimmel Center, the Women of the World Festival in Cape Town, South Africa, prisons, detention centers and a refugee camp in northern Senegal.
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. In 1999, Charlotte began studying the kora and the West African history-telling traditions of Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. Her teacher was the highly respected Senegalese griot (jali), the late Djimo Kouyate. She has recently resumed her studies with Malian Virtuoso Yacouba Sissoko.
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.
Jim was born in Spring Grove, Illinois where his ancestors first settled in the 1840’s. Raised in this small German-Catholic farming community, his stories resonate with the rural voices of the Illinois prairie. His relatives spent time “visiting” and telling stories as an integral part of daily life–a means of weaving the social fabric of the community.
As an emmy award-winning storyteller and author, Jim seeks to reestablish live storytelling as an art form, ideal not only for entertainment and education, but also for the grounding and healing that is needed in complex, modern times.
Jim May’s stories have taken him across the United States and Europe. He has told at schools, corporations, professional groups, and festivals across the land. Chicagoans know him from his appearances on WGN’s Roy Leonard Show and from the Studs Terkel radio show on WFMT-FM. He received a 1989 Chicago Emmy award for a WTTW-Channel 11 production of his original story, “A Bell For Shorty.”
Megan Wells is a story artist and a theater artist. She creates the warm intimacy of storytelling, and more. Megan infuses characters with living souls, and delivers the experience with delicious theatrical timing. Author and Professor Rives Collins says it best,”Megan Wells is both intimate and epic in equal measure.”
An award-winning storyteller, Megan performs in museums and symphonies, enhances education for thousands of children, entertains families in festivals and libraries, and helps executives, actors and storytellers craft powerful stories to effect change. With over forty years experience, Megan has a vast repertoire. She tells traditional tales, multi-cultural myths, historical events, as well as personal and true stories.
Megan is also among the top literary storytellers in America. As the Artistic Director of the Ray Bradbury Storytelling Festival, Ray granted Megan permission to perform his works. She is equally comfortable in the jazzier domains of Chicago’s current spoken word explosion.