Posting Date: March 21, 2011

The KSU Tellers create a community of artists
Tellers recently traveled to LSU for performance festival

By Felicia Ervin

“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” —Ursula K. LeGuin


The KSU Tellers participating in "Tell the Change," an event hosted on campus that featured a series of personal narrative performances.

Photo by Katie Cathell from WonderfullyMade Photography


Storytelling can be defined as the conveying of events in words, images and sounds, often by improvisation or embellishment. The students of the Kennesaw State University Tellers embody this principle. The KSU Tellers is an undergraduate storytelling troupe sponsored by the Department of Theatre, Performance Studies & Dance. Created by John Gentile, professor and chair of the Department of Theatre, Performance Studies & Dance, the KSU Tellers specialize in three different types of performances: original adaptations of children’s stories, personal narratives and literary adaptations.


Charles Parrott, assistant professor and director of the Tellers, explains that what makes this a unique organization is the fact that it gives students an opportunity to express their own creativity. “In this do-it-yourself culture when everyone has Garage Band and video editing software, I think the idea of being able to work as an independent artist is really important, and this is the outlet for that. It really is student driven and it really is their work.” 

Jessica McPhail, junior theatre and performance studies major and Tellers member, recently produced a piece entitled “Tell The Change.” The performance involved members of the group sharing personal stories about how their lives have changed as a result of a personal event. Jessica explains that the ability and freedom to create and tell her own story is what she likes the most about being a KSU Teller. “Just being able to have a story I created—my story—is the best part. It has helped me master my own creativity.”


KSU student Trevor Goble performing

Photo by Katie Cathell from WonderfullyMade Photography

The Tellers recently attended the Patti Pace Performance Festival at Louisiana State University. The two-day festival involved students and scholars from throughout the country participating in workshops and sharing their performances. According to Parrott, one highlight of this year’s festival was a workshop on alter personas conducted by Dan Heaton. An alter persona is a character in a performance that transcends that performance and takes on a separate identity of its own (i.e. Pee Wee Herman, RuPaul, Jay and Silent Bob).

The students had a chance to create their own alter personas and then debut them at “The Debutante Ball,” where they had to stay in character for up to two hours. McPhail, who participated in the festival created an alter-ego by the name of James Jerome, which allowed her to challenge ideas of gender roles in society.  “I like the play on gender. It was a really cool juxtaposition of the ways that power can be perceived based on who you are.”


As for the future of The KSU Tellers, Parrot states that it depends on the group and where they want to go. He is, however, working towards developing a collaboration with the other three performance troupes on campus: Poetica, a performance poetry group; Gazpacho, a stand-up comedy group; and K.I.S.S., the Kennesaw Improv Society Stupid. His goal is to find a venue in the city that will host a two-day festival featuring the groups.


Anyone interested in joining The Tellers must audition. Auditions are held at the beginning of each year. According to Parrott, The Tellers is more than a group of performers, it is a community of artists who rely on each other. “Because we are together for a whole year and some will carry over from year to year and remain Tellers, it creates a community of artists that know each others' work and can trust one another to give each other valuable critique. I think that’s really important.”


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The College of the Arts at Kennesaw State University supports, defends and promotes academic freedom in artistic expression, as outlined by the American Association of University Professors, and diversity of all kinds as outlined by the university's Human Relations Position Statement.

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