Mission: Tale Tellers of St. Augustine is a performing guild devoted to the advocacy of storytelling as an art form and entertainment medium.
Tale Tellers of St. Augustine, a 30-member collective of professional storytellers and storytelling enthusiasts, is an outstanding example of what a small “local” organization can accomplish, and as such provides a strong role model for any storytelling organization of like size and purpose.
Since its founding in January 1993, the guild has devoted itself to the advocacy of storytelling as an art form and an entertainment medium. The organization primarily develops projects and programs which enable and educate its membership, provide cultural and educational enrichment to the St. Augustine area, and benefit the needy and disadvantaged of the community.
The Tale Tellers of St. Augustine dedicates itself to expand public awareness of storytelling, and has always endeavored to make significant contributions to the larger storytelling community of Florida and beyond, as exemplified by the following:
Since 1994, programs staged by TTSA have generated THOUSANDS of dollars to charitable concerns:
- The Homeless: Benefit Performances for St. Francis House, the St. Johns County soup kitchen and homeless shelter.
- Disadvantaged children. For ten years monies generated by TTSA’s annual GhostWalk in the St. Augustine Spanish Village, a living history museum operated by the City of St. Augustine Department of Restoration and Preservation was provided to the St. Augustine Sertoma Club Scholarship Fund. These funds provided support to the St. Augustine/St. Johns County Christmas “Toys for Tots” and tuition money to send hearing impaired children to summer camp in central Florida
- St. Johns County Ecumenical Ministries (Food Pantry) provides holiday dinners to needy families during November/December. For a number of years Tale Tellers staged an annual Seasonal Stories performance at the Christ Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church to benefit this worthy cause.
- Northeast Florida Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
- St. Augustine/St. Johns County Special Olympics.
- St. Augustine/St. Johns County United Way.
Advocacy of Youth Storytellers
Champion of storytelling by students, TTSA has offered tutors to work with interested youth, and sponsorship of student tellers who have qualified to participate at the Florida Storytelling Association “Youthful Voices” and/or the National Junior Storytelling Hall of Fame. Several St. Augustine tellers have participated in semifinal competition at National Junior Storytelling Olympics (Junior Storytelling Hall of Fame) in Tennessee and California. These students have been further assisted by TTSA with stipends provided to cover travel expense.
Literacy and Quality of Life Issues
Guild members serve the community in the following areas:
- TTSA members have volunteered to present storytelling at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind for hearing and visually impaired students attending the summer orientation camp.
- TTSA Senior Tellers volunteered to participate in the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) “Learn to Read” project for district kindergarten and Head Start classrooms.
- Tale Tellers volunteer to bring storytelling into public and private school classrooms at all grade levels.
- TTSA members volunteer to bring storytelling programs to branches of the St. Johns County Public Library System and the Flagler County Public Library System.
- TTSA members entertain residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
- TTSA members have volunteered to tell stories during breaks for the ACS “Relay for Life.”
- TTSA tellers have volunteered to tell stories for Halloween activities at Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, FL, and in Flagler County at Princess Place and the Agricultural Museum.
“Theater of the Mind: Storytelling”
January 2018, marked the 25th year of storytelling concerts featuring seasoned TTSA performers in St. Augustine area theatre settings leased by the group lease for this purpose. The “Theater of the Mind: Storytelling” series was established to offer stage performance experience to guild members while offering entertainment and cultural enrichment to the community. The concerts are as diverse in content and style as the interests and talents of the tellers. These performances consistently draw community appreciation and support.
Starting in 2000, TTSA observed Florida Storytelling Week—which falls during the last full week in November before Thanksgiving—by sending tellers into the schools and libraries of St. Johns, Putnam, and Duval Counties. During the height of its popularity, the guild issued letters of notification to St. Johns District school principals and media representatives offering the services of Tale Tellers to visit schools during National Storytelling Week and Florida Storytelling Week. For a number of years requests for performing storytellers during Storytelling Week poured in from three counties, and participating tellers visited numerous schools. Tale Tellers were also invited to entertain at various branches of the St. Johns County Public Library System where they presented programs for groups of all ages.
(NOTE: Florida State Resolutions affirming Florida Storytelling Week were presented by former St. Johns County Representative Doug Wiles and passed by the Florida State Legislature during 2000, 2001, 2002.)
Folklife and Culture: Florida Folk Festival
Beginning in 1994, Tale Tellers of St. Augustine, as a storytelling guild, applied to perform at the Florida Folk Festival, the oldest and largest continually operating state folk festival in the United States. TTSA was the first and only such group or organization ever to apply and be invited to participate. Each year since that time, TTSA takes part in this impressive celebration of Florida folk life by sending a troupe of storytellers to the festival. For a number of years TTSA received a commendation from the Secretary of State and festival organizers expressing gratitude for the group’s service to the citizens of Florida through storytelling. Tale Tellers draw enthusiastic festival friends each year. 2016 marks the group’s 23rd year at the Florida Folk Festival.
Historical Preservation: Florida Humanities Council
Beginning in 1996, five members from the Tale Tellers of St. Augustine were invited by the St. Augustine Preservation Board to research and develop a program titled “The Historic Women of St. Augustine.” The program was intended to feature the stories of five women, each one representing a Century from St. Augustine’s history. The storytellers who participated in The Historic Women were invited to bring the program to other parts of Florida for celebrations and events such as the Florida Sesquicentennial Celebration, the Tallahassee San Luis Heritage Festival, county centennials and celebrations, dinner theaters, and the Florida Folk Festival at White Springs, FL.
Since that time various TTSA members have participated in programs funded through mini-grants awarded by the Florida Humanities Council. The goal of these programs has been to share information which is educational, enriching, and entertaining. They have been sponsored in partnership with such renowned entities as the St. Augustine Historical Society, the St. Augustine Lighthouse Museum, The Palatka/Putnam Historical Society, and the Palatka/Putnam Sesquicentennial Commission. Such involvement and support has enabled the research and development of such programs as: “The Women Who Lived South of the Plaza: 1500 – 1900,” “Legends & Lore of the St. Johns River,” “Civil War Stories I” and “Civil War Stories II.”
Enrichment of the Storytelling Community
All of the foregoing—along with presenting workshops and learning opportunities for its membership, regional educators, storytellers, media specialists, and interested citizens—requires significant commitment by members of the group. It is because of this dedication to the organization that TTSA members continue to grow and develop personally and professionally. They are renowned for generously sharing their talent—individually and collectively—at schools, libraries, festivals, and other programs across Florida and the United States.
Indeed, a number of Florida’s finest storytellers call TTSA their storytelling “home.” Their esprit de corps is noteworthy, making TTSA widely recognized for its contributions to storytelling, storytellers, educators, students, and the larger community they serve.
TTSA is a nonprofit Florida Corporation holding IRS 501(c) (3) status, which produces or stages a number of ticketed events per year. The guild was formed by a small number of enthusiasts who worked with renowned Florida storyteller Gamble Rogers to organize and produce the first St. Augustine Storytelling Festival in 1990. After Rogers’s untimely death in 1991, the people of the town clamored for more stories. At that time a mission statement begin to form to accomplish this goal and was embraced by a tiny, intrepid group—none of whom had ever told a story. It was the members of this group who joined energy, mind and spirit to form Tale Tellers of St. Augustine and, ultimately to honor one man’s simple dream of having storytelling in his hometown.
Jane Sims, Publicist
Our history of Board President leadership
- Debra Weller – 2020 incumbent
- Sallie O’Hara – 2018 – 2019
- Kathy Duffy – 2017
- Rita Saker – 2016
- Joyce Sabato – 2014 – 2016
- Margaret Kaler – 2012 – 2013
- Chris Kastle – 2010 – 2011
- Bob and Donna Stephens, Co-Presidents – 2010
- Shirley Bryce – 2008 – 2009
- Betty Fell – 2000 – 2005 – 2006 – 2007
- Sharon Sappington – 2003 – 2004
- Rita Saker – 2001 -2002
- Frances Lipson – 1998 – 1999
- Nancy Thelen – 1996 – 1997
- Sandra Rodrigues – 1993 – 1994 -1995