Tellabration celebrating 18 years in Hyde Park this November

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Staff Writer

A neighborhood storytelling tradition, Tellabration, will return to Hyde Park later this month.

An annual evening of simultaneous storytelling events that started in Connecticut in 1988, Tellebration programming has since taken place across the country and around the world. Hyde Park’s 18th annual production of Tellebration is scheduled to take place in two parts on Sunday, Nov. 23, at Experimental Station, 6100 S. Blackstone Ave.

Although originally intended for adults, Hyde Park’s production of Tellebration includes a separate children’s program. A program for children will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., followed by a 7 p.m. program for adults, open to darker or heavier topics.

A diverse group of about 15 storytellers from Chicago and the suburbs — including Heineman herself — will perform during either or both of the programs. Presenters will include married musical storytelling duo Kucha Brownlee and Baba Tony, Anne Shimojima, who specializes in Asian folk tales and Scott Whithair, the producer of North Center’s biweekly night of storytelling, “This Much is True.”

“I introduced it to Chicago 18 years ago, when people didn’t know what storytelling for adults was,” said founder and organizer Judith Heineman, who first learned about Tellebration from a woman at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., in October of 1997.

“And I was alone, and she was wearing a button that said ‘Ask me about Tellebration,’ and I did,” she said. Six weeks remained until Tellebration was scheduled to take place, but Heineman was determined. “She said ‘why don’t you wait a year,’ and I said, ‘No, no, I can do this.’”

That year, armed with a background in theater, Heineman organized the neighborhood’s — and Chicago’s — first-ever Tellabration at Hyde Park Union Church, 5600 S. Woodlawn Ave., where according to her 200 people showed up. The rest was history.

“This is the one night a year when professional tellers give back to the community without benefit of pay, because they really want to share this superb art form,” Heineman said.

There is a suggested donation of $5. Proceeds will go to the Chicago Storytelling Guild. For more information, visit experimentalstation.com.

j.bishku@hpherald.com