Kim Weitkamp grew up in York County, Pennsylvania as a kid who always got into trouble for talking and being the class clown. She rarely sat down for lunch but worked the tables telling jokes and tales to whomever would listen. That energy never quit, and today she uses her storytelling skills to make audiences laugh and cry. “Laughter and tears are close relatives,” she said. “They both require trust and openness.” She studied Accounting in college but soon learned that laughter instead of numbers were what really satisfied her. She worked as a youth advocate with at-risk children and teens, never realizing that she had all the gifts of a master storyteller. Not until she visited the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tennessee did she become hooked. She told in schools, libraries and any stage that would have her. She worked several festivals throughout the United States and her efforts paid off. She was asked to perform as a regional teller at one of the main tents at Jonesboro where she received a standing ovation. She has been invited back several times since. In her work as a humorist, storyteller, singer and songwriter, she has taken home a full armload of awards and recognitions. But beware, there’s often a twist at the end of each story that will leave you heaving a sigh as she whips through her stories and leaves the listener with a tear or a smile. You can enjoy an excerpt of Kim’s telling at the 2012 Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.
Adam Booth grew up in West Virginia and has always felt at home telling Appalachian tales, both traditional and contemporary, but he blends those in with traditional fairy tales, tall tales and even a Greek myth to add a variety to his storytelling seldom heard. He is a former student of music composition from the University of South Carolina with a masters in music history from Case Western Reserve University. He has been a student of music theory and studied folk music with many old-time Appalachian musicians. So he often uses musical instruments to tell his stories. He is a four-time winner of the West Virginia Liar’s Competition. He has served as a Teller-In-Residence at the International Storytelling Center and been one of the new voices at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. He has traveled throughout 15 states telling his tales and has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Berea Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship. He not only tells his stories well, but leaves the listener with an education as well. Watch an excerpt from his original childhood tall tale “Roll-a-Rama.”.
Paul Strickland is a songwriter, musician, actor and storyteller and a favorite of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. But he has taken several road to arrive where he is today. Strickland has won numerous for his performances as well as having traveled throughout the United States and Canada. “I firmly believe,” stated Strickland, “that making people laugh at themselves and think in a new way about their world is a good way to help them escape while, hopefully, gaining some perspective on what they’re escaping from…” According to the Cincinnati Enquirer “An hour spent with master storyteller Paul Strickland is an hour well spent and one which you shouldn’t miss.”
SPARKY AND RHONDA RUCKER
James “Sparky” Rucker grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee from a long line of preachers and law enforcement officers. Both instilled in him a sense of justice and a love of singing. At 11 he took up guitar and later joined doo-wop, soul and rock bands.
In the 1950’s he became involved in the Civil Rights movement, becoming an activist for the Poor People’s Campaign and several civil right organizations. Marching and playing freedom songs, he spent years at rallies, marches and sit-ins with other folksingers such as Gary Carawan and Pete Seeger. He worked with the White Southern Appalachian coal miners through the Counsel of the Southern Mountains in the 1970’s.
When he was 42 years old, he married Ronda Hinks from Louisville, Kentucky. She attended medical school, completed her residency and practiced for five years as she raised their son. But the love of history and the pull of music was too strong. In 1989 she joined Sparky on stage and in 2001 they began performing as a family.
Rhonda learned many of the old hymns and gospel songs while attending the Methodist Church. Later she taught herself how to play the guitar. In addition to the piano and guitar, she added the harmonica, clawhammer banjo, rhythmic bones and her voice to harmonize with Sparky. Together they take their audience on an educational and emotional journey that ranges from poignant stories of slavery and war to an amazing rendition of a Brer Rabbit tale.
Sheila Arnold lives in Hampton, Virginia and is the CEO and Lead Performer of History’s Alive. Her major focus is performing, managing and marketing this business. She has given over 600 presentations to schools, churches, professional organizations and museums in 26 states. She also contracts with Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to present Historic Character Interpretation and to teach teachers at their Summer Teachers’ Institute. She tells a variety of stories—“whatever fits good in my mouth”—which includes but is not limited to original stories, folktales, tall tales, African-American tales, multicultural, historical and personal stories. Sheila has been performing since she was eight years old and been writing poems, plays, fiction and songs since 7th grade. She has twice been a featured “regional” storyteller at the Colonial Williamsburg Storytelling Festival and a featured teller at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tennessee. Sheila was one of the favorites at the first Paris Storytelling Festival. You can watch her performance at the 2015 National Storytelling Festival. (HINT: Skip ahead to the 7 minute, 30 second mark of the video to get past all the preliminaries.)