International storyteller Shonaleigh Cumbers is coming to Aotearoa New Zealand!
The Story Collective are proud to be working with the International School of Storytelling and In the Belly of the Whale School of Storytelling to bring internationally acclaimed storyteller, Shonaleigh Cumbers back to New Zealand. We last welcomed Shonaleigh to Christchurch in May 2014 when she entertained us with a lively workshop and gripping tale of 'The Tower of Bagel'. Shonaleigh brings with her a rich and ancient tradition of Jewish storytelling. An authentic 'Drut'syla', she was schooled by her Bubbe (Grandmother) in the traditional method of telling that has been handed down through generations.
The Drut'syla repertoire comprises 12 interlinked cycles, each of several hundred tales. Training involves a complex system of oral memorisation, visualisation and interpretation (midrash) of tales. Historically, following training, each Drut'syla would act as hereditary storyteller-in-residence to her own immediate community. However, the tradition was uprooted, and came close to extinction, in the mid-20th century due to the Second World War and more specifically, the Holocaust.
Shonaleigh has been active mainly as a professional storyteller to a secular public, actively working to expand and share her tradition. She has a repertoire of over 4000 stories (!!!) which can be adapted as appropriate for the theme and audience with whom she is working, be it to communicate, counsel or comfort. In this way the stories are 'alive' and interactive.
In days gone by, the Drut'syla played a critical social role in Jewish communities. 'In those times women didn’t learn Hebrew or have an education, so they learned in a very particular way,' says Shonaleigh. 'The teller physically walked through the story and learned by kinesthetic means. [The Process ] It was designed for the story where you haven’t got the flexibility of being able to write it down, so it makes a story more real.'
Such a vibrant, tangible method of storytelling remains relevant today in our 24/7 world, where we communicate in cyberspace via phones and laptops – and yet still strive for a deeper, more meaningful connection.
Now the people of Christchurch and Wellington have a rare opportunity to sample this inspiring method of storytelling. There is a weekend event, a performance and a 5-day residential course. Other workshops and events are also planned in Wellington.
Shonaleigh comes with an outstanding reputation among the storytelling world. She has performed in venues from church halls to London’s Albert Hall, from forests to the Barbican, and at festivals in the UK, Europe, America and New Zealand. She also works in schools and among community groups, helping people, particularly teenagers and immigrant communities, find their voice.
Shonaleigh was the UK’s Deputy National Storytelling Laureate from 2010–2012, has completed commissions for the British Library, the British Museum and Hay-on-Wye Literature Festival, and is a regular contributor to BBC arts programs. Her 2012 appointment as Artistic Director of Phrase Arts, where she helped promote storytelling within communities, has led to her work with the European Court of Human Rights. She was Teller In Residence at the International Storytelling Center in Tennessee. Shonaleigh is now based at the International School of Storytelling in East Sussex, UK.
Something for everyone!
Want to immerse yourself in storytelling? Join Shonaleigh on a 5-day residential course, brimming with creativity, fun and connection.
Only have a weekend but still want a rich, immersive experience? There is a weekend event in Christchurch and workshops planned in Wellington.
Alternatively drop in on Saturday night to see Shonaleigh performing one of her much-loved tales.