Editor’s Note: Many ticket holders to the Women’s Storytelling Festival were not able to attend due to the coronavirus outbreak. The organization is currently selling tickets to a view party of the festival. The videos of the festival will be available to all who purchased an original festival ticket or a viewing-party ticket until Monday, April 6. Suggest contribution per viewing ticket is $20. Find more information here.
Stories are meant to be told, listened to, repeated to the next person who can learn from the tale. They form lessons, meanings out of experiences, understandings of the cultures around us and the borders beyond. So, what happens when those important stories aren’t given a platform to be heard?
“With storytelling, there are festivals all over the country that have been running for over 40 years, and they’re huge events,” says Jessica Robinson. “And just like any other industry in America, they are dominated by men.”
Robinson is the founder of Better Said Than Done, Inc., a local community of professional storytellers who regularly perform spoken word shows around Northern Virginia and the country. And, as a storyteller herself, Robinson wants to change the male-led dynamic of professional storytelling. She’s launched the region’s first all-female storytelling festival, The Women’s Storytelling Festival, taking place in Fairfax on March 13 and 14.
“The majority of professional storytellers in this country are still male,” Robinson says. “And, still, the majority is white men. We’re trying to even the playing field, give women a leg up to have a space where we can work on the statistics and get the number of women up in the storytelling world.”
The festival, officially hosted by Better Said Than Done, has a lineup composed exclusively of women of diverse backgrounds, and kicks off March 13 at The Auld Shebeen, continuing into March 14 at Fairfax’s Old Town Hall. Storytellers will perform a range of stories throughout the weekend, including true stories, folk tales, parodies and historical recallings. Featured storytellers include Sheila Arnold, Megan Hicks, Vijai Nathan, Jessica Robinson, Donna Washington and Kim Weitkamp.
“I have wanted to be a performer since I was a little kid, but my parents were Indian immigrants and that was definitely not part of their American dream for their kids,” says Nathan, who will perform between nine and 12 stories at the festival. “But my true desire and nature to connect with people through laughter and performance never left me. My experiences may be unique, but my stories hinge on what is universal to the human experience—the search for love, family and belonging.”
The Women’s Storytelling Festival will boast 18 storytellers in total, and all have crafted their stories to be heard through the spoken word genre. And though the event is all about empowering women and allowing their voices to be heard, it’s intended for all gender identities. (Note that the festival is for mature audiences only; it is not a family-friendly event.)
“I’m most looking forward to hearing the other tellers,” says Arthuretta Holmes Martin, who will share a story at the Women’s Storytelling Festival about motherhood and women’s common experiences. “A great teller takes listeners on a journey. I’m ready to go on that journey with each woman participating in this festival. Our voices are not always heard.” // $15-$60
This article originally appeared in our March 2020 print issue. To be the first to know about unique events coming to NoVA, subscribe to our newsletters.