St. Louis Gateway Storytellers – A History

The following was sent by Gateway member Roger Rose for inclusion on the website.

ST LOUIS GATEWAY STORYTELLERS

The St. Louis Gateway Storytellers started in a most informal way.  In 1980 there were two St. Louis Public Library children’s librarians who were promoted.  Instead of this being a happy event, the two cried on each other’s shoulders.  “We’re going to be working with adults.  We’ll never be able to tell stories again.”  And then they had second thoughts.  “We like stories!  We’re adults.  Let’s go out to dinner and go back to a library and tell stories to each other.”  So Sylvia Duncan and Irene Eveland invited six other librarians out to dinner and they all went back to the Buder Library after dinner and told and listened to stories.  As time passed, a few more librarians and then some non-librarians joined the group.  It was still quite informal, no name, no officers, no dues, no rules.  They looked for a restaurant that had a private room for sharing their stories.  They tried several places and then they found the Salad Bowl where they could have a private room if they went through the food line and had 15 people.  Oh how Sylvia and Irene would watch the door and count the people coming in and breathe a sigh of relief when 15 people walked through the door.

Then came the fateful day when the group was asked to tell stories at the Missouri Botanical Garden while the children got their pictures taken with Santa.  Irene Eveland received $50.00 for their efforts.  This created a dilemma.  No one wanted to be responsible for that $50.00 and put it in an individual bank account. An organization needed to be established.  So in 1981, the St. Louis Gateway Storytellers was founded, a constitution was written, officers were elected.  Sylvia Duncan became the first president and Irene Eveland became the second, and the $50.00 was put into the St. Louis Gateway Storytellers bank account.

The organization has sponsored a number of storytelling workshops where participants have been shown a variety of storytelling techniques, shared stories, and been encouraged to develop their own style.  The St. Louis Gateway Storytellers has continued to be a haven for professional storytellers, for the person getting up for the first time in front of an audience, and for the listener who loves stories but never intends to get up and tell one.  The membership has grown from a small community to a large community of 120 members from all walks of life.

The St. Louis Gateway Storytellers started the same year as the St. Louis Annual Storytelling Festival.  The two have continued to complement each other’s growth, Gateway providing financial support and storytellers for the Festival, and the Festival providing a showcase for a growing number of storytellers.  The storytelling community has continued to expand, with several other major storytelling organizations branching off of Gateway.  In the St. Louis metropolitan area we have  The St. Louis Gateway Storytellers, Missouri Storytelling (MO-Tell), and the Riverwind Storytellers in Southern Illinois.  Several other groups can be found throughout Missouri.

*Quoted from “Twenty Years of the St. Louis Storytelling Festival, A Commemorative Booklet,”  May 1999.

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