Wallace State Community College continued its annual Arts In April author forum recently, welcoming notable storyteller Nina Reeves to campus.
Reeves, a Mississippi native and Birmingham resident, has served as an educator and minister for more than 40 years, while carving out a career as a professional storyteller. During her Wallace State presentation, Reeves entertained an attentive Burrow Center crowd, sharing some of her favorite tall tales and offering advice about what makes a successful storyteller.
“All of you have stories. All you need to do is begin to tell your stories. Tell the stories to your friends; tell them to your family. If you really want to practice, get out your iPhone or iPad and record yourself and listen,” Reeves said. “Each of you can finish this sentence: ‘One of my grandparents is ___.’ We’ve all heard our grandparents tell stories or know a crazy story about someone in our family, so that can always be a place to start.”
Reeves began her initial storytelling career at Camp Sumatanga, a United Methodist Church retreat, and eventually developed into a distinguished storyteller, speaking at churches and events across the United States, including the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tenn., each year.
“It all started around a campfire (at Sumatanga). We would sit around and tell stories. I had met (storyteller) Dick Chase at a workshop and began to tell some of his stories around the campfires. People would then say I’ve got a storybook you need to read and after that it began to bloom, I began to tell stories,” Reeves said.
Growing up in Mississippi, Reeves spent a few summers much differently from a lot of her friends because her grandmother was a partner of a traveling carnival company. She shared those vivid memories with the Wallace State audience, describing in great detail the Ferris wheel, which at the time cost only 10 cents to ride, and the spider lady, tattoo lady, gypsies and all other aspects that made the carnival such a memorable impression during her childhood.
Reeves also revealed some of her favorite storytelling works from peers, citing stories called “Ole Joe and the Carpenter” and “The Old Woman and the Water.” She added that some of her favorite historical storytellers were Chase and Alabama’s Katherine Windham Tucker.
Other interesting tidbits Reeves offered were that there are more than 700 versions of both Cinderella and Red Riding Hood and most fairy tales include a character venturing into the woods because it can symbolize changing one’s life or direction.
“We all go into the woods at some point in our lives,” Reeves said.
Wallace State students in attendance thoroughly enjoyed the storytelling hour.
“I believe Ms. Reeves did a wonderful job telling us stories. They were very entertaining and exciting,” said Alex Summers.
Added Casey Nelson: “Ms. Reeves captivated the audience, and drew many laughs and questions at the end. Throughout the speech she used her public speaking prowess, quick wit, and relatable personality to keep the audience interested.”
Prior to the storytelling event, the Wallace State English Department and Sigma Kappa Delta student members hosted a breakfast for Reeves.
The seventh annual Arts In April celebration continues throughout the remainder of the month, an event that attempts to entice people to campus for a variety of interests, including theatre, choral and band performances.
For more information about Wallace State and for a detailed list of Arts In April events, visit wallacestate.edu.