Mailbox Monday – Donald Davis and More

Storyteller Donald Davis

For today’s Mailbox Monday post, I have four items to share:


First is a reminder that one of the most beloved storytellers in the country will be here in Indy this Saturday.   Donald Davis is an expert at crafting and sharing personal stories for adults that are family-friendly and that have nearly universal resonance and appeal.

He is also an expert on storytelling time management, although most audience members don’t consciously care about this.  I took a workshop with Donald a few years ago at the Christian Theological Seminary here in Indianapolis.  Most of the attendees were ministers, interested in storytelling as a way of improving their sermons.

Donald told us that a sermon has to be flexible so that the church service can end on time.  People may be laughing or nodding or otherwise benefitting from your sermon, but they also probably have a roast at home in the oven for Sunday dinner, and if you go too long and make them start wondering about the condition of that roast, you will have lost their attention.

He also told us to think of our stories as accordions: solid at either end, but with a lot of flexibility in the middle.  This is not only to help with time management, but to help the teller stay present and responsive to the audience in front of him (or her.) 

Donald told us to know very clearly how our stories started and how they ended.  Then, in the middle, Donald said that he watches people’s faces.  If they look confused, he “goes around again” on that part of the story – not explaining it, exactly, but telling it again in a little different way until he sees smiles or “ah-hah” faces on his listeners.

If you are (or want to be) an oral tradition storyteller, especially if you are interested in crafting your own, personal stories into something for public consumption, you could learn a lot from seeing and hearing Donald Davis in action. 

If you just like to hear wholesomely funny, poignant stories, Donald Davis’s work is good for that, too.

Here is an excerpt from the press release that Ellen Munds of Storytelling Arts of Indiana sent me.  Note the new location:

Indianapolis – Drawing on the fertile roots of the Appalachian storytelling tradition, and enriching the experience with colorful tales of family idiosyncrasies, Donald Davis has become a nationally acclaimed master of the art of storytelling.  He has captivated audiences across the country with his often hilarious and always insightful stories, delivered with the deft touch of a consummate teller.  As the New York Times has put it, his stories “often left listeners limp with laughter at the same time they struggled with a lump in the throat.”  This celebrated performer will be returning to Indianapolis to present “Homeplace Stories” on March 14, 2009. 

Born into a storytelling family and raised in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Davis has spent a lifetime absorbing the stories all around him.  After attending Duke University Divinity School, he served as a Methodist minister for more than two decades before “retiring” and devoting himself full-time to storytelling.  His family stories are at once personal and universal, bringing characters and situations to vivid life while opening a window into the foibles and triumphs of human nature that everyone can recognize in their own experiences. 

Davis has performed at the National Storytelling Festival, the Hoosier Storytelling Festival, the Smithsonian Institution, the World’s Fair, and many other festivals and concerts throughout the nation and worldwide.  In 1996, he was one of the inaugural recipients of the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award, in recognition of his status as a master storyteller.  He has also served as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the National Storytelling Association.  He has been a guest host on National Public Radio’s “Good Evening,” and has appeared on CNN and ABC’s Nightline.  In addition to his live performances, he is an award-winning recording artist and author, and has released more than two dozen storytelling albums and eleven books. 

Davis will be returning to Indianapolis to perform “Homeplace Stories” in the Dean and Barbara White Auditorium at the Indiana State Museum, 650 West Washington Street, on Saturday, March 14, 2009, starting at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets for this event are $15 in advance or $18 at the door.  To order tickets or for more information, please call (317) 232-1637 or visit


Bill Skaggs, from IndyProv, sent me the following press release about their upcoming “Mock-u-dramedy” fundraising event, also coming up this weekend.  Here is the press release:

Indianapolis-Indianapolis’ Emmy® nominated improvisational comedy troupe, INDYPROV, will return with its successful long-form comedy show, “Mock-u-dramedy” on Friday, March 13 and Saturday, 14 at 8PM. 

The show is a fundraiser for their trip to Cincinnati Fringe.  The show was most recently performed at the Louisville festival, “Improvalooza 9” and also at the 2006 Indianapolis Fringe Festival 

“We are so excited to bring the show back with some different bells and whistles,” explained managing director Bill Skaggs. “It’s been three years since Indianapolis has seen the show and we’ve added a lot.” 

INDYPROV will also be performing at the 2009 Indianapolis Fringe Festival. However, it will be a new concept, not “Mock-U-dramedy”. 

For more information please go to  


Rebecca Berfanger sent me a press release for the Spotlight 2009 event, coming up in April.  The theme is “One Night, One Stage, One Reason.”   It is a benefit for the Indiana AIDS Fund.

I had heard about this last year but couldn’t go.  I have it on my calendar for this year, though.  It sounds like a fun evening, filled with a wide variety of entertainment, including performances from the Phoenix and other theatres, the Indianapolis Opera and other musical groups, and a drag performance by Asia LaBouche of “The Ladies of Legend” of Talbott Street.  Asia’s elaborate… “costumes” is too limiting a word, because her work is about more than merely dressing up in dazzling outfits.  Hmm.  Well, anyway, I admire her creativity and look forward to seeing her in action again.

Scheduled performers are listed/updated here.  Below is an excerpt from the press release.  Note that there will be a visual arts exhibit at Clowes leading up to the performance arts event:

For the 16th consecutive year, the Indianapolis performing arts community will join forces on the Clowes Memorial Hall stage to raise money and awareness of HIV/AIDS in Indiana. For the first time, they will be joined by a group of visual artists. Clowes Memorial Hall and the Indiana AIDS Fund will host a group art exhibition, Spotlight Artists, to complement this annual performance and recognize visual artists in Indianapolis.

The performance, Spotlight 2009: One Night, One Stage, One Reason will be held on Monday, April 20, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.  The exhibition, as a part of the 2009 Art @ Clowes program, is scheduled to run from March 16 through April 21, 2009.

Organized by D. DelReverda-Jennings, the artist team selected to participate in the exhibition includes Jerome Webster Chambers, Nicole Johnson Powell, Taeven Antoinette Barnes, Stephanie Hall and Tasha Vaden-Beckwith.  This powerhouse group of multi-cultural artists’ works all will relate to an exhibition theme of “Courage and Hope.”

The visual artists will join an impressive line-up of performing arts organizations, under the direction of long-time event artistic directors David Hochoy (Dance Kaleidoscope), and Rob MacPherson. Performers will be announced as they are confirmed. Previous performances have included Butler Ballet, The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Indianapolis Opera, Kenyetta Dance Company, Indianapolis Children’s Choir, Indianapolis Men’s Chorus, Meridian Song Project, Phoenix Theatre, Gregory Hancock Dance Company, Asia LaBouche of The Ladies of Legends at Talbott Street and Brenda Williams.

Proceeds from Spotlight 2009 will be used by the Indiana AIDS Fund to support agencies and programs that educate and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and serve those living with the disease.  Presenting sponsors for Spotlight 2009 include The Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis and the Efroymson Family Fund.

Tickets are $32.50 and $100 and are available March 9 at the Clowes Hall box office or by calling 1-800-745-3000, at all Ticketmaster locations or  A Patron’s Reception will be held at Clowes Memorial Hall at 5:30 p.m. on the night of the performance. The reception is included with the purchase of a $100 ticket.


I wrote about the wonderful, four-days-three-nights-long Going Deep: Long Traditional Stories Festival when I attended it last year.  It will happen again in Bethlehem, Indiana this year, Thursday, March 19 – Sunday, March 22, 2009.  The storytelling concerts are open to the public, but the residential workshops and other activities are limited to a fairly small group of people, maybe 25.  Last I heard (a week or two ago), there were 2 or 3 opening.  Please go here for more information.


I am on the mend from bronchitis but still trying to take it easy, so I only went to three shows this past weekend.  One was an Encore show, so I won’t be writing about it.  The others were “Dog Sees God” at TOTS and “The Ladies’ Man” at the IRT.  More about these two shows coming soon.

In the meantime, have a great week!

Hope Baugh –

2 thoughts on “Mailbox Monday – Donald Davis and More”

  1. Can’t wait to see you next week at Going Deep! Thanks for mentioning it here. Margaret and I will be driving in on Thursday, just in time for supper. May you be feeling much improved by then.

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