The Story Behind Stone Soup’s New Voices

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By Linda Goodman, Stone Soup Board 2014-2016

In 2014, after 29 years of storytelling, and even though we are the designated Official Storytelling Festival of the state of South Carolina, Stone Soup had a problem. At our festival review following the 2014 Stone Soup Storytelling Festival, our board noticed a drop in attendance. We brainstormed 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.

Robin Schulte

Robin Schulte

As I had toured the country with my stories during the past thirty years, I noted that there were many festival quality storytellers who were not getting the reputation or the work that they deserved. As a member of the Stone Soup Board, I shared this experience with the others. In 1999, I was a headliner at the Corn Island Storytelling Festival in Louisville, KY. Lee Pennington had produced that festival, and 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 following 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 to be 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 who had never before  participated in our festival, 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 as scouts to consider signing some of our New Voice tellers for their events and festivals.

We were overwhelmed by the response of the Storytelling Community!

Ingrid Nixon

Ingrid Nixon

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 Jones (VA) and Faye Fulton (NC).

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

Madeline Pots

Madeline Pots

Our New Voices venues have had stellar tellers with a burning desire to be taken seriously by events that usually ignored them in favor of tellers who had already established a national reputation.  We gave our New Voices a “step up,” and many of them 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, TN. We modestly call this the Stone Soup bump!

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

Since 2015, 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 we have witnessed for the past four years confirm that my experience and a vision from 1999 were the sparks that ignited a fire!  Sharing our experiences can make a difference.

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

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

Happy tales to you!

Linda Goodman
Author/Storyteller/Playwright
www.lindagoodmanstoryteller.com

Shiela Arnold Jones
Shiela Arnold Jones

“This was my weekend, telling stories at Stone Soup Storytelling Festival with Tim TingleMartha Reed JohnsonFaye FultonMadeline Pots, and Robin Schulte. The festival was amazing, lots of new story listeners.  Karyn Page-Davies and the Board did a great job.”
Sheila Arnold Jones, Featured Teller

"Keep the friendly, warm atmosphere. You've got it going on."
Visitor, 2018 Stone Soup Festival

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