The series of tales opens paths to connections, to healing


Why do we tell stories? And how do you build a story that is good enough to share in front of an audience?

These are questions master storyteller Robin Schulte tackled during the recent FGCU storytelling series at the Wasmer Art Gallery.

“Personal stories and story arcs are a way to really connect with people,” Robin Schulte said. Photos by Katy Hennig.

“Part of that is being willing to be vulnerable, saying the things people need to hear,” said Schulte, who traveled from Orlando to lead a storytelling workshop in March as part of series. “It becomes a feel-good journey for you and for all of us. Even if it is never published, write about it.

In addition to bringing in professional artists like Schulte from across the country, the storytelling program hosts three open-mic storytelling events for students and faculty each school year. Sponsored by the Seidler Fund and the Department of Language and Literature, the series covers a range of storytelling topics, inviting storytellers who cross disciplines to engage a wide community audience. It is coordinated by Dr. Joel Ying, physician and assistant to the Department of Integrated Studiesand Lori Cornelius, Creative Writing Coordinator at Department of Language and Literature.

The seed for the series was planted after the two met at the Sanibel Island Writers Conference in 2014. “Joel is charming and engaging, and we had been discussing the idea for years,” Cornelius said. “So, we decided, let’s do it.”

Ying quickly became a “storyteller-in-residence” at FGCU, and the series followed in 2019. As a physician specializing in internal medicine, he sees storytelling as healing – a powerful way to talk about difficult personal topics and transmit experiences that touch on a common point. line with the public.

“Storytelling connects everything I do, it brings me alive,” Ying said. “Stories tell us that we are not alone. They give meaning to life. We can apply the storytelling framework to everything, how it fits into medicine and healing.

As Cornelius says, “Storytelling helps us slow down a bit. Stories are the one real thing that unites everyone and connects us.

For the series of tales to become a success, it needed the right location. Through on-campus partnerships, Ying united with FGCU Art Gallery Director John Loscuito.

photo shows FGCU staff member
“Stories tell us that we are not alone. They give meaning to life,” said Dr. Joel Ying.

“We talked about it and saw the potential of what we could do with it,” Loscuito said. “Just being there with the storytellers and the various exhibits…it opened the door to a symbiotic relationship. Two completely different forms of media, side by side, influencing creation. »

The series aims to encourage on-campus participation and promote storytelling as a community art as well as a performance art. “We had an additional goal of diversity and inclusion,” added Ying, who teaches a course called “Storytelling as Healing.” Students in the class are encouraged to play.

Surrounded by more than 70 works by students at the Wasmer Art Gallery, Schulte enveloped the audience with her March presentation. As an English teacher, she has always made storytelling an integral part of her lessons. Earning a master’s degree in non-fiction creative writing from the University of Central Florida in 2020, she worked to figure out how to become a “performance-ready” storyteller.

“You always have to ask, ‘Who can you tell the story to, and how do you tell it?'” Schulte said. “You have an obligation to share with the subject of the story, to make sure it’s clear how you painted them.”

Adding that music has a way of connecting us and instilling nostalgia, she shared the experience of her first school dance. Bursting into song, Schulte elevated the story by incorporating tunes and lyrics, transporting audiences to the 1980s. His versions of hits such as Blondie’s “One Way or Another” and Styx’s “Come Sail Away” have been woven through history.

Establishing time and place and adding the aspect of cultural research is a key part of staging a story, according to Schulte. “How you structure the story depends on the characters – just keep researching,” she said. “The narrator shows you, and we can understand and crave that connection. Personal stories and story arcs are a way to really connect with people.

As these connections are made, the storytelling series continues to sprout new ideas and new participation, Loscuito said. “We now have art students participating and collaborating to create complementary pieces to provide props for the stories,” he said.

As the series evolves and grows every year, Ying beams with pride as she describes the impact the initiative has had so far. “We build community around storytelling and exploring thought-provoking ideas,” he said.

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Tags: fgcu, florida gulf coast university, literature, storytelling


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