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Tufts E-News --A Storyteller's Tale

Tufts E-News --A Storyteller's TaleLauraBobrow turned her passion for telling stories into a career andcreated a popular annual storytelling festival.Leesburg,Virginia.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.14.03] Laura Bobrow has an interesting life story, which is particularly fitting since she tells them for a living. A 1949 Tufts graduate, Bobrow was an award-winning writer when she discovered the field of storytelling. Quickly hooked on the idea of telling tales, she has spent the last several years sharing her stories -- and her passion for the unique art form -- with as many people as she can.

"We are all storytellers, some of us better at it than others," Bobrow said in an interview with Tufts E-News, describing her decision to become a storyteller. "I had always tended to rearrange events in the telling of them, to make them seem more important, or at least tidier in the recounting than in the doing."

Bobrow, who studied education at Tufts, says she never specifically set out to become a storyteller - the opportunity fell into her lap by accident.

"I was a writer before I learned that there was actually a field called ‘storytelling,'" she said. "It was at a children's book writers conference when I listened to a storyteller describe the techniques he used to turn a ‘told' story into a book, that I first became aware of it."

An accomplished songwriter and lyricist and a member of the American Society of Composers, the Tufts graduate has published several short stories and articles and won many awards for her poetry. But once she began telling stories instead of actually writing them, Bobrow discovered that she had much more freedom in her creative process.

"The obstacles in those fields, finding just the right phrase or the clever rhyme, do not exist in storytelling where the words and the phrasing are not fixed," Bobrow said. "Indeed a story changes each time it is told depending upon who does the telling and who the listening."

But Bobrow admits that she found new challenges once she began concentrating specifically on storytelling.

"There is a huge leap, of course, between being a good storyteller and pursuing storytelling as a career," she said. "There is an art to be learned -- tricks of timing and expression and the like."

And now the Tufts graduate is focused on sharing the art form with as many people as she can.

Three years ago, Bobrow set out to make storytelling a more prominent form of popular culture by founding LAUGHS - short for Loudoun's Annual Unforgettable Gigantic Hilarious Storyfest - in her Virginia hometown. Like its name suggests, LAUGHS focuses specifically on stories that encompass humor - a genre that has helped bring the festival to nationwide acclaim.

"Someone in the community had to be convinced enough to devote a really large sum of money and an enormous amount of time and effort to the production of this type of ‘theater,' performance art for adults, a modern day tent show." Bobrow said. "They had to believe that people from all over the country would come to Loudoun County for the opportunity to listen to the master storytellers.

They did. And the audiences were even more widespread than they originally thought, making the annual festival an enormous success.

"We are now in our third year and we have found that forty percent of our audiences consist of people who travel from great distances to attend," Bobrow said.

Newspapers from across the region have raved about the quality of the storytellers who perform at the festival each year.

"World famous storytellers tell big buoyant stories that leave you laughing right out of your seat," reported one paper. Another described the tales as "hard to describe and difficult to resist."

Bobrow is thrilled that the growing popularity of LAUGHS has brought storytelling into a mainstream domain, and she has plenty of advice for anyone interested in exploring the largely untapped art form.

"The first essential thing is to find the stories you want to tell. Read a lot. Listen to others," the Tufts graduate said. "Find the stories that feel the most true. Find the stories that are so good you simply have to share them. And then do it, with anyone who will listen."

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