Keynotes and
General Sessions




Opening Ceremony & Panel

Thursday, July 24th, 7:30-9:30 pm


Kindling Community Connections through Story

A panel of three presenters from diverse backgrounds will present successful projects and techniques using storytelling to build community understanding. Liz Warren, director of the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, will moderate the panel, including an opportunity for your Q&A. 


Panelists include:


Doug BlandDoug Bland serves as pastor of the Tempe Community Christian Church, known as “the storytelling church.”  Doug and the church offer storytelling programs “as a way to explore the human soul.”  Twice the congregation has received the Martin Luther King Diversity Award from the Tempe Human Relations Commission.  Storyteller and teacher, Doug also is the chairperson of the Arizona Interfaith Power & Light which mobilizes people to reduce the causes of global climate change. 


Queen NurQueen Nur (Karen Abdul-Malik), nationally renowned storyteller and teaching artist, has received “Mid-Atlantic Artist as Catalyst” grants for her work with teens-at-risk and women’s shelters.  Queen received NSN’s Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling for her “Sustaining Culture and Traditions through Storytelling” project, designed to use storytelling and folk arts as a tool for the community’s voice on social justice issues, to build community partnerships and collaborative arts practices, to forge intergenerational relationships and to ignite change.   


Kiran SirahKiran Singh Sirah is the Executive Director of the International Storytelling Center, an advisory member to UNESCO, a Rotary Peace fellow, storyteller and poet.  Kiran uses the power of human creativity to establish discourse and dialogue, empowering communities to address issues related to gang violence, sectarian and ethnic conflict, poverty and other forms of human rights violations.  In 2012 Kiran was invited to give an address at The United Nations Headquarters, “Telling Stories That Matter.”


*This program event is supported by a grant from the Arizona Humanities Council, making it possible to open Thursday evening’s session to the public, free-of-charge.  Founded in 1973, AHC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and the Arizona affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. AHC supports public programming in the humanities that promotes understanding of human thoughts, actions, creations, and values. AHC works with museums, libraries, and other cultural and educational organizations to bring humanities programs to residents throughout Arizona.


Mid-Conference General Session

Friday, July 25, 9:00-10:30am


Ancestral Fires Lighting Future Paths: The Importance of Old Stories in New Times
Dovie Thomason and Panelists: Loren Russell, Sunny Dooley, and Vernon Masayesva

Dovie ThomasonHonoring the indigenous oral tradition of the West, Lakota and Plains Apache storyteller, Dovie Thomason, will host a general session with other storytellers from diverse Native nations. For over thirty years, Dovie has shared the traditional stories that are the “heartsong” of community values and memory as well as explored the role of story in our modern context.  In this panel, Dovie and her colleagues will explore how we need to move beyond “preservation” of these old traditional stories, to the making of “new traditional” stories that address contemporary issues.  What are the “folk tales” created by 21st century “folk”?  What can we learn from tying the old stories to the task of resolving contemporary challenges like climate change, social injustice, and Earth Ethics?




Closing Keynote

Sunday, July 27, 10:45am-12:15pm

Walking through Fire to Get to the Light:
the Dramaturgy of Diversity in the American Storytelling Revival

Milbre Burch

A veteran of the American storytelling renaissance investigates the community's track record in welcoming diversity. Whatever her gender identity, sexual orientation, race, class, age, ethnicity, language group, religious affiliation, political persuasion, regional location, or performance tradition, the storyteller begins her journey from the center of her own being. From there she reaches for the narratives, the lived experiences, the skills, and the conversation partners that will assist her in excelling on the story road. We have come to the revival crossroads by many different paths, but when we look around us, who is still missing? How do those absences rob us as a community? And what can we do to keep striving for excellence individually while widening the revival's embrace?


Milbre BurchAn internationally known performer, a produced playwright, a published poet and fiction writer, a lauded director and dramaturg, an award-winning recording artist, a storytelling revival archivist, an educator, and scholar, Milbre Burch is a storyteller in every sense of the word. She received an NSN ORACLE Award in 1999 and was nominated for a spoken word GRAMMY in 2007. In 2012 her teaching and touring schedule took her to Seville, Spain, Dublin, Ireland, Shropshire, England and Washington, DC.  In 2013-14 she wrote her dissertation and lived to talk about it. The New York Times has praised her “classic wit”; the San Diego Union-Tribune has called her “mesmerizing, like a fine solo dancer.”