Shepherdstown Speaks: Appalachian Storytelling

The second Tuesday of each month will bring together the campus and Shepherdstown community as one university professor starts a live storytelling concert series that encompasses Appalachia and guests from across the United States.

“There is a misconception that professional storytelling is reading a book to preschoolers at a library, and that’s not storytelling at all. That’s storybook reading,” said Adam Booth, Appalachian and folklore professor who created the series.

“Speak: Shepherdstown Story Series” will feature storytellers from around the country in concert for adult audiences with mature children allowed. The Community Club War Memorial Building will host the storyteller series at 7:30 p.m., located near the Shepherdstown library.

“We are trying to work against the idea that Appalachian storytelling is a Eurocentric, white Anglo-Saxon protestant-based storytelling that got trapped in the mountains 300 years ago. That’s an old concept and it is very, very narrow,” Booth said.

The concert series began on Oct. 8 and will continue until May. According to Booth, for the first event, there were almost 40 people present.

“Starting in November, I am going to pair with a local organization so that 10 percent of ticket sales go to that organization,” Booth said. He stated there were a number of community-oriented groups he would like to partner with, such as the Friends of the Library and the Shepherdstown Day Care Center.

On Nov. 12, “Speak” will host Ellouise Schoettler of Maryland. She will present “Finding Gus,” a family genealogical story that uncovers the life of her grandfather, a football hero coached under John Heisman at Clemson University.

Slash Coleman will come from New York City on Dec. 10 as host for the series. He is known for his PBS special “The Neon Man and Me” and also published his first book titled, “The Bohemian Love Diaries.”

In January, an origami and junk artist named Megan Hicks will be coming from Philadelphia. Hicks receives attention for her fairytales and retold fairytales, such as reworking a groundhog into a classic fable every Ground Hog Day.

The idea for the “Speak” series originated from Booth’s multi-award-winning career as a traveling professional storyteller. He intertwined the campus and Shepherdstown community with the craft of storytellers across the world.

Booth has been a professor of Shepherd University since 2006. He currently teaches Appalachian storytelling and folklore, although for the past seven years he has taught mostly music courses. Booth grew up with storytellers and said he didn’t think about it as a treasury being deposited into his life until he came to Shepherd.

“Stories are for human beings and I really like that philosophy,” said Booth, referring to a quote from the late storyteller Jackie Torrence.

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