Previous Festivals

Telling Stories Since 1985

Stone Soup 2019

April 26 – 28, 2019

Regi Carpenter 


Tony Marr

Growing up in Sin City, without cable television, Tony cultivated a life of adventure and imagination.These adventures would become the inspiration for stories that would capture the imagination of audiences around the world. A literal Master Storyteller, Tony has spent years captivating audiences with his larger than life tales. As an award winning speaker/storyteller, he has engaged hundreds of audiences with stories of humor, hope, and history. From unbelievable adventures that will have you wondering how he is still alive, to the untold stories of American History and Scripture, Tony immerses his audience in an imagination world that you never want to leave. His writings have been published in numerous publications for print and web. As a vision and story expert, he has spent over a decade helping organizations discover their personal and corporate story. Tony has spoken for colleges, churches, festivals, and fortune 500 companies. From the stage to the sanctuary, and from the classroom to the boardroom, his meaningful narratives leave audiences with a greater appreciation of life and a deeper understanding of themselves.

North Carolina

Sam Pearsall

Sam Pearsall lives in Raleigh, NC and is a professional storyteller whose practice is to tell tall tales and true tales based on my own experiences and those of the people I know. Sam’s stories are intended to carry a bit of joy, a bit of wisdom, or a bit of truth. Sam has told true stories and tall tales all of his life, usually to friends and family. Sam retired in 2013 following 35 years as an ecologist working with conservation organizations in Maine, Tennessee, Hawaii, and North Carolina. Whether Sam’s story is a true tale or a tall tale, it is based on my own experiences, or those of people I know. Sam thinks we are all made of stories! Stories are what we remember, what we dream of, and how we think of each other. And every story is a whole world. As the author John Crowley said, “with any good story, the further in you go, the bigger it gets.” At the festival you may hear Sam tell the stories of Mark Twain’s First Triumph, Search and Rescue, Jim and the Mud Ball or something new! We welcome Sam from our class of 2018 New Voices as a Featured Teller for our 2019 Stone Soup Storytelling Festival.

New York

Karen Pillsworth

Karen has been sharing stories for over 30 years. She has performed in libraries, camps, churches, parks, schools, historic sites, festivals, and even on a stage floating in a lake in a cave. Karen has taught the “Art of Storytelling” at Ulster County Community College and “Discovering the Stories Within Us” at Ulster Performing Arts Center’s Expanding Horizon’s Art and Education Center.Karen was selected as a National Arts Education Fellow for her storytelling program: “There’s No Place Like Home: Stories of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains. Holding a MS in Early Childhood Education, Karen combines her 33 years of teaching experience with the art of storytelling, to work with teachers in elementary schools, giving workshops and visiting classrooms. Her workshops include, but are not limited to, “Once Upon a Time: It CAN Happen in Your Classroom, Community Storyteller: Drawing the Community Together through Story, Storytelling with Poverty in Mind, and The Mindful Storyteller. She has presented these workshops in the United States, Newfoundland, Canada, and most recently in Sydney, Australia. Karen is on the Board of Advisors of the Multifaith Storytelling Institute. Her newest work includes working with people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction at Villa Veritas in Kerhonkson, NY. Her first CD, “The Crone and Other Lives I Have Lived” has just arrived and Karen can’t wait to share it! We welcome Karen from our class of 2018 New Voices as a Featured Teller for our 2019 Stone Soup Storytelling Festival.


Jeff Doyle

Jeff Doyle lives in Brighton, Minnesota and started telling stories around the campfire when his kids were elementary age. His first story was The Blue Ape, which the kids asked to hear over and over again. Jeff joined the Ann Arbor Storytellers’ Guild in 2005 and his passion for developing and refining this art form has only intensified with each performance. Jeff enjoys telling all types of tales, but specializes in funny stories and scary stories, which range from the somewhat scary to the truly terrifying. Jeff is an ardent believer that his audience should have fun and be entertained. His dedication to your satisfaction is what makes Jeff Doyle a premier storyteller. You will hear wild, funny and scary tales that will keep you on the edge of your seat! Whether it’s the story of “The Blue Ape,” the tale of “Pull My Finger Bob,” or his hilarious adult story “Office not Orifice,” you will be a captivated listener. Having developed his art by first telling stories around the family campfire, Jeff has since appeared at schools, theaters, festivals and libraries. Jeff will make sure that you have a laugh or two. We welcome Jeff from our class of 2018 New Voices to be a 2019 Featured Teller for our 2019 Stone Soup Storytelling Festival.

Festival history

A History: Stone Soup Storytelling Festival’s New Voices

By Linda Goodman, Stone Soup Board 2013-2015

With Karyn Page-Davies, President/Director Stone Soup Storytelling Institute

In 2014 after twenty-nine years of storytelling and even though we are the designated Official Storytelling Festival of the state of South Carolina, we had a problem. At our festival review following the 2014 Stone Soup Storytelling Festival, the board noticed a drop in attendance.  We

brain-stormed about how we could create a new Stone Soup identity while preserving and nurturing the tradition of the past. Our group is dedicated to preserving the intimacy of our event with small venues and a cozy atmosphere but we needed more.  We needed a spark.  

In 1999, I had been a featured teller at the Corn Island Storytelling Festival in Lousiville, KY.  Lee Pennington had produced that festival. Part of its magic was a Swapping Tent on Saturday where anyone could tell a story.  All stories told under that tent were video-taped and reviewed.  Historically, 70% of the performers selected to be featured tellers the next year came from tellers recorded in that tent. Wonderful storytellers from all over the country came at their own expense to tell their tales.  They knew that there was a reasonable chance that they would be selected to be featured in a subsequent year. Telling under that tent was in essence an audition for the festival.

This concept was our spark!  While we could not bring in another tent, we did set aside two venues for New Voices to tell stories at the 2015 Stone Soup Storytelling Festival.  A call was sent for professional quality storytellers that had not participated in our festival before. Explaining that, while New Voice tellers would neither be paid nor have their expenses reimbursed, we promised to have at least two board members at each venue, with an eye towards bringing some of them back as featured tellers in a following year. We also promised that we would invite organizers of other Carolina Festivals and Events to visit Stone Soup like scouts for future athletes and consider signing some of our New Voice tellers for their events and festivals.

We were overwhelmed with the response and support from the storytelling community!

Storytellers from all over the country applied to be 2015 Stone Soup New Voices. Fifteen were invited to come to the 2015 Storytelling festival as New Voices; all covering their own expenses. True to our word, board members saw them perform, and in 2016 four of our six featured tellers (67%) were selected from those New Voice venues. Those four tellers were Robin Schultz (FL), Madeline Potts (FL), Sheila Arnold (VA), and Faye Fulton (NC).

The New Voice venues increased our attendance greatly. All but one of the New Voice tellers brought others with them. Our attendance tripled that first year, and it continues to grow.

There have been stellar tellers, many with less extensive resumes nor nationally known, who have gone on to appear at other festivals after their performances on Stone  Soup’s New Voices stages.  Sheila Arnold Jones, Ingrid Nixon, and Anne Rutherford were New Voices at Stone Soup before they were selected as featured tellers at the International Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee.  We modestly call this the Stone Soup bump!

New Voices has become a much loved and major attraction for festival devotees of the Stone Soup Storytelling Festival.  Our devotees are eager each year to hear a new voice and see what the new voices have to offer knowing they will have the pleasure to hear several of them again.  It’s something to look forward to from year to year.  

For the last four years, the Stone Soup Storytelling Institute has proudly hosted and sponsored the New Voices event as part of the Stone Soup Storytelling Festival  to nurture and highlight  a new canvas of storytellers to our area.  Each April in the little town of Woodruff, SC, a throng of  listeners eagerly await the stories from New Voices.  The full houses now confirm that a teller’s experience and a vision from 1999 was one of the sparks that could ignite a fire!  That sharing our experiences can make a difference.  

We look forward to seeing you.  We look forward to seeing and hearing new voices.


The 2015 Stone Soup Storytelling Festival was a gift from the start.  There had to be a change of venue.  Cindi Taylor and her family graciously offered the use of their  “Turtle Parfait” building and provided catering for the entire festival ‘s needs.  “The Turtle” as it was known by locals had closed and was in the process of being sold.  The Turtle was a warm little café that contains a rich collection of memorabilia from the community.  There are pictures from the past of mill workers, textile baseball teams and businesses.   A wall of fame stands in the shadows displaying the athletic prowess of  local amateur and professional players.  Cindi and her family have provided sustenance and nourishment to our community in many ways.  The Turtle’s walls were well acquainted with hearing stories about families, dreams, visions and lessons learned.

With all of the planning completed, now it was time to get to work.  We hung the street banners, talked on WQUL- our local radio station- thanks to T.C. Lewis, sent invitations to schools, sponsors, donors, county and state supporters.  We blasted any social media outlets that we knew.  We invited all of our friends and storytelling aficionados from near and far.

We had a treasure chest full of gems for our storytelling performances and workshops.  There were Leeny Del Seamonds, Diane Macklin, Denise Bennett, Anthony Burcher, Lona Bartlett and Darion McCloud confirmed for the stage.

The 2015 Stone Soup Storytelling Festival began at the Turtle on Thursday evening, April 16, with the second annual Soup’n’Story Gala.  This is a special event that invites our community, visitors and our storytellers to enjoy each other’s company for a relaxing evening of good food, good conversation and a preview of stories and experiences to come throughout next three days of the festival.  As chair of the Stone Soup Storytelling Institute and Festival, I welcomed everyone, acknowledged supporters, and then, we had a sweet surprise for those attending.  We spread a “little bit of sunshine” this year.   Our local dynamic ukulele duo, The Sunshine Girls, Jackie Brown and Sandra Jones, stepped to the microphone to welcome everyone with sing-a-longs and laughter.  Beaufort storyteller and Stone Soup board member Cora Newcomb took over as emcee and carried the Gala along with intros of each teller as they told.  The Turtle filled to the brim as the evening progressed.  As the evening closed, surveys were collected and we bid everyone good night, safe travels and sweet dreams.  It was great to see return “listeners” like Richard Kahn in the crowd.  We were energized by the turnout and wonderful comments that we heard.  

Friday morning began with our tellers meeting the students and staff in Spartanburg District 4 schools.  Storytelling programs are coordinated with each school’s media specialist.  Two or three tellers perform at each of the District 4 schools.  Three tellers, Lona Bartlett, Darion McCloud and Rodger Ellingwood , visited our NAEYC accredited Woodruff Primary School.  Leeny Del Seamonds and Darion McCloud presented at Woodruff Elementary School.  The students at WES enjoyed Leeny’s Cuban flair and Darion’s theatrics!  Woodruff Middle School  hosted Anthony Burcher, Darion McCloud and Cora Newcomb.  Denise Bennett told stories with an Irish flair and played her harp while Diane Macklin shared “griotic” tales from Africa with Woodruff High students.

Anthony Burcher jumped over to the First Presbyterian Church of Woodruff for Lunch and Laugh- and laugh we did!  Anthony is known as the Robin Williams or Andy Griffith of storytelling- enough said.  A big shout out to First Pres for hosting this event and to the ladies at First Pres for being the “hostesses with the most-est”!  

Another business leader in Woodruff, Brandy Laney, offered her property for use as the Stone Soup Market and Resource Center.  Thank you, Ms. Brandy.  132 South Main Street is another one of those buildings in Woodruff with a glorious history.  The Market and Resource Center provided access to and allowed for the purchase of books, CDs, and souvenirs.   Thanks to South Carolina Storytelling Network and Stone Soup Treasurer, Rodger Ellingwood, and his wife, Tina, and South Carolina Storytelling Network  President Frances Lee O’Neal for handling that operation.  Many of our tellers offered new CDs and books that teach and share the love of storytelling.  Stone Soup Storytelling- we’re all about education, communication and connecting with people.

Friday evening was standing room only for two back to back storytelling events- Friday Night Lights with Diane Macklin and Anthony Burcher and Ghost Stories a la Stone Soup with emcee, ghost impersonator- Linda Goodman, and tellers Leeny Del Seamonds, Denise Bennett, Lona Bartlett and Faye Fulton.  Cindi Taylor had prepared for us our traditional “Stone Soup” supper- vegetable soup and cornbread- for the crowd to partake.   How could it get any better?

Saturday morning gave folks a chance to try out the new Woodruff Trail- a lovely wooded trail that connects the Woodruff Leisure Center and Woodruff Middle School.  Dr. Mark Fullerton coordinated the Stone Soup sponsored “Tortoise and Hare”5K fun run and walk.  It was a beautiful route that left from the historic Timrod Library, continued to the Woodruff Leisure Center and the start of the new Woodruff Trail up to the Woodruff Middle School and ended at Demeter’s Restaurant.  Winners of this year’s fun run were Mike Workman and Tammy Gibbs.  Thanks to Dr. Mark and all of the participants!  Wellness is also a part of our story.

At 10am, the teaching began again with the opportunity to attend one of two workshops.  Both Lona Bartlett’s workshop- Engaging Students: Storytelling and SC Curriculum Standards and Diane Macklin’s workshop- Sprouting Stories: Storytelling 101 were offered to attendees along with continuing credits for education.  Spartanburg Community College partnered with Stone Soup  for these two events.  These workshops offered great information that could be useful in education, healthcare, business and our personal lives but I guess it’s difficult to get up early on your day off.

Leeny Del Seamonds and Denise Bennett told Children’s Stories at the Woodruff Library from 10:30-11:30am.  I could listen to them all day long.

Now it was time for one of our brand new events- New Voices.  Our Stone Soup board had approved this new venture back in the fall.  We issued invitations to storytellers that had never performed on the Stone Soup stage before.  We also invited other Festival and event planners to come and “scout” these new voices with us.  This is a chance for fresh talent to audition before a small, intimate audience gathering.  We were amazed at our response to the invite.  We had sixteen applicants.  These folks came from New York, West Virginia, Virginia, North and South Carolina and Florida.  They paid their own way to come and to have an opportunity to tell at a future Stone Soup Festival and potentially other offerings.  This is going to become a grand stage for upcoming talent to initially “share their stories”.  A way for Stone Soup to promote the storytelling tradition while encouraging and supporting new storytelling talent.  We divided the New Voices into two sessions.  Several of our Stone Soup board members, along with other festival directors,  listened and took notes as these tellers took the stage.  Comments from our surveys say that we “knocked the ball out of the park”.  This year’s featured tellers said-that “New Voices is an exceptional opportunity for upcoming talent as there is nothing comparable to this format in other venues.  A great place to showcase new talent.”  The New Voice tellers themselves were overwhelmed by the reception that they received.  Each of them was thankful to our organization for providing this storytelling opportunity for them.  

One of my favorite annual events is “My Tale”, our amateur storytelling competition.  We have adult and youth divisions.  Stone Soup board member Cora Newcomb emceed this event.  This year’s winner in the youth division was eleven year old, Chloe Chandler,  with her story “Campground Romance”.   Adult winners were 1st Place- Pete Boggs from Wilmington, NC, with his “Dinner on the Grounds”; 2nd Place- Michael Ruther from Atlanta, Ga, with “Anansi becomes Lord of Stories” and 3rd Place- Ralph Clark from Enoree, SC with “An Ordinary Man”.   I always enjoy seeing and hearing folks share their creativity and experiences.

Another new event for this year was the SC Tall Tales and Liar Contest.   We had eight entries and I know several other folks that could have entered.  Now, I will tell you these storytellers have vivid imaginations!  We heard about the “possessed go-cart”, “the origin of BBQ ”, “trout warts” and “the fire starter extraordinaire”.   You had to be there for these stories to come alive! Selecting the champion liar was a difficult decision for our judges.  Thanks to Woodruff’s Mayor Gist for helping us sort out the champ!

On Saturday , Main Street Woodruff was alive!  The sight reminded me of my youth.  We lived on Main Street just up the street close to the where Woodruff First Federal Savings is located.  On those Saturdays, the street was filled with folks doing their weekly shopping and visiting with the local shop owners and friends.  The 2015 Stone Soup Festival was like a revival!  There were visitors in workshops and listening to stories, looking in windows, checking out the local shops and making some great finds!  One storyteller bought paper dolls- do you remember them?

Saturday evening- “Tell It All”, the grand finale, gives each teller, including featured tellers and the My Tale and Tall Tale winners, one more chance to tell a story.  Our emcee for this event was Stone Soup  board member Faye Fulton.   Usually the storytellers save their best stories for last.  This time was no different.

I thanked members of the Stone Soup board present and former who volunteer endless hours to plan and bring the festival to fruition.  I thanked our city and community for their support, financial and in-kind- the Davissons and the Howards for hosting some of our storytellers; Cindi Taylor and her family for “everything”; Brandy Laney for the use of her building; the Woodruff Community Center for volunteers and assistance. I once again reminded our audience about the importance of the arts in our lives and in education and recognized our grantors and supporters of storytelling.  Our supporters  include the Stone Soup Storytelling Institute, the city of Woodruff, Spartanburg County, The Spartanburg County Foundation, Spartanburg County Public Library System, South Carolina Storytelling Network, the Greater Woodruff Rural Area Chamber of Commerce, The Hartness Foundation, First Presbyterian Church of Woodruff,  Reader’s Club of Woodruff, K Page-Davies, Inc.  The Stone Soup Storytelling Festival is also funded in part by the Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg and the SC Arts Commission which receives support from the National Foundation for the Arts and the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of SC.  

As we closed the finale, we invited all of our new friends to sit back and relax with us for a while to reflect on “Time Well Spent” and commensurate about the 2015 festival .  We collected surveys for more information and said goodnight.

Sunday morning we awoke to Sacred Stories at the First Presbyterian Church with Denise Bennett.  Denise, a chaplain, musician and storyteller,  played her harp, provided a Children’s Sermon and  shared a lesson on “Thank You” with the congregation.  We closed the festival events with a pot luck luncheon in the First Presbyterian Fellowship Hall.  We said our farewells and safe travel wishes and the planning begins once more.  

Hope we will see you in 2016.  These three days were indeed “time well spent” in Woodruff, South Carolina!

Karyn Page-Davies, Chair Stone Soup Storytelling Institute and Festival

Harnessing the power of story to educate, communicate and connect

The Stone Soup Storytelling Festival is a three day event that brings master storytellers and novice professional storytellers into our community to provide a variety of cultural experiences and storytelling genres to audiences through the oral tradition of storytelling.  The novice portion of the professional storytelling, New Voices, places tellers that are beginning a professional career in storytelling on the main stage.  The New Voices are evaluated by a Festival Storytelling Committee during their performances.  Four of the New Voices are selected as featured tellers for the next year’s Stone Soup Storytelling Festival.  The Stone Soup Storytelling Festival also provides a stage for amateur storytellers, youth and adult, to perform and demonstrate their talents, to win prizes and to be constructively evaluated by the Festival Storytelling Committee.  The Stone Soup Storytelling Festival will take place in various venues in Woodruff, SC from April 21-23, 2017.  The schedule includes storytelling in Spartanburg District 4 schools, Lunch and Laugh, Fairy Tales and Fables, Ghost Stories, Historical Stories, Children’s Stories, New Voices, The Amateur Hour, Liar’s Contest, the Tell It All- Grand Finale, Time Well Spent and Stories of Peace, Grace and Inspiration.

This year’s headline tellers are Noa Baum and Donna Washington.  The featured tellers chosen from Stone Soup’s 2016  New Voices are Ingrid Nixon, Rona Levanthal, Mike Lockett and Marji Pulliam.


The Stone Soup Storytelling Festival is built upon the various versions of the traditional old story of Stone Soup.  The moral of the story is that by working together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved.  A “visitor” comes into a village and has no food.  The visitor builds a fire, throws on a kettle of water and adds to it a stone.  The villagers add what they can.  He ends up being able to feed the entire village

Our Stone Soup storytellers come from all around the nation.  They represent a variety of cultures and storytelling genres.  The 2018 Stone Soup Storytelling featured tellers are:   Norm Brecke, Pat Nease, Laura Packer and Mary Lou Williams.  The Stone Soup Storytelling Festival begins on Friday.   The public storytelling sessions start at noon on Friday and continue through Sunday.   There will be fables, fairy tales, ghost stories, historical stories, lies and personal tales.  Performers run the gamut from nationally acclaimed tellers to novice tellers and amateurs competing for their chance to shine.

Come experience the time of your life- just listening to the sound of a voice.

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