The Tale Tellers of St. Augustine
Surviving and Thriving in the Year of COVID
by Debra Weller, President
Can a storytelling guild exist for twenty-eight years? Yes, it can!
The Tale Tellers of St. Augustine is a performing guild of talented storytellers, poets and actors who devote themselves to storytelling as both an art form and entertainment medium. We are comprised of thirty members, some love to perform and some are story enthusiasts and supporters. TTSA is an example of what a small, local non-profit organization can accomplish. We have had a local, state and national presence in St. Augustine and beyond since 1993.
In collaboration with local groups and service clubs, we have been able to have benefit performances on behalf of many local charities. This past year Chris Kastle and Debra Weller were able to return to some schools in the spring semester to continue our Art in Stories performances for the Crisp-Ellert Grant.
The storytellers told a story in classroom in the St. Augustine Schools and the children created complementary art projects which were displayed at our May Family Story Fest. In the past we have partnered with The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and the St. Johns County Public Library. Many of our tellers have participated in the Romanza Festivale and the Celtic Festival. We are hoping to revive our Theater of the Mind: Storytelling presentations at the Limelight Theater in the winter of 2022. Tellabration and Gory Stories are on the fall line- up.
How did we survive Pandemic restrictions? At first, we were in the stunned state trying to pivot into new safe, virtual formats like Zoom. We lost out on using the St. John’s Public Library, the Limelight Theater and using a local church for meeting and performance space. Our Board of Directors met outside when the weather permitted as we enjoyed seeing one another with social distancing precautions. Then we began holding our second Monday of the month meetings on Zoom. It took a few meetings to get everyone familiar with the Zoom set up. It was a saving grace allowing us to conduct business meetings, hold discussions and of course tell stories!
In January of 2021 we were able to secure a space on an outdoor stage in Vilano Beach. We scheduled four performances, Eddie and Robin Mahonen, in February, XX Marks the Spot, Celebrating Women’s History Month in March, Pirates, Crackers and Spanish Dons in April and a Family Story Festival in May. Mother Nature caused us to postpone and reschedule two of the events but we prevailed and had nice sized audiences. There are some perils in outdoor events.
Audiences turned out for The Tale Tellers new location in Vilano Beach
Our members are quite active on the state, national, and international stages. Debra Weller and Margaret Kaler serve on Board of Directors for the Florida Storytelling Festival. Many of our members have served FSA in the past and have received awards for service. We participate in the annual Florida Folk Festival. In this Pandemic year Debra Weller and Chris Kastle have participated in storytelling festivals on Zoom with audiences in India. Many members have been telling on virtual stages for NSN and other national and international programs. Storytelling has stood the test of time and has weathered the storm!
The guild was formed in 1990 when a small group of story enthusiasts worked with the renowned Florida storyteller, Gamble Rogers to produce the first St. Augustine Storytelling Festival. After his death in 1993, the people of the town requested more stories. This tiny group joined with energy, mind and spirit to form the Tale Tellers of St. Augustine to honor one man’s simple dream of having storytelling in his hometown. We continue to honor that legacy.
You can join the Tale Tellers of St. Augustine or support our mission by visiting our web site, www.taletelers.org.