to perform at Carroll County Library
Helen E. McKinney
(February 2003) Storytelling has been an oral tradition
handed down through the ages in all cultures. Even before there were
books, there were stories to tell.
Cincinnati resident Martha McLeod is the scheduled performer for the
Wednesdays at One series at 1 p.m. on Feb. 12 at the Carroll
County Public Library. This seasoned storyteller will present a program
that will include stories about historical figures relating to abolition
and the Underground Railroad and folk tales coming out of African American
McLeod said that as an only child she was an avid reader. She also earned
a bachelors degree in history. These two interests surface to
combine into an unforgettable experience for her listeners.
For me, one of the joyful parts of storytelling
is searching books for tales from all over the world, whether they are
historical or folk and or any other type of story, she said. It
is particularly challenging with historical figures to find quotations
and aspects of their histories that can be transformed into a compelling
Author, educator and fellow storyteller Marni Gilland said, Martha
McLeod transports listeners with her tales. She can help us see historys
characters and events with new eyes.
Every one has a story to tell, and history is sprinkled with antidotes
from which to draw. McLeod also obtains stories from other tellers who
grant their permission for her to use them.
But storytelling is not just a hobby for her. As a psychotherapist and
licensed independent social worker, she listens to stories every day
as told to her by her clients.
Drawing upon her own public speaking skills, McLeod also presents programs
to educational and professional groups on handling stress, improving
people skills, managing emotions, and a presentation titled, Finding
Your Funny Bone: Humor for Better Living.
McLeod plans each program in advance, targeting a specific topic. Her
repertoire includes stories "from outhouses to presidents, and
countries and groups from Australia to Native American Peoples,"
A native Midwesterner, she has performed in all regions of the United
States, including Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, Wisconsin and Wyoming. While
raising a family in Idaho and Colorado, she was a professional weaver
She now resides in Cincinnati, where years ago she ran into an acquaintance
at a storytelling performance celebrating Black History Month who informed
her of the Greater Cincinnati Storytelling Guild and other nearby festivals.
From that point on, she was hooked.
Monthly meetings of the Guild have provided McLeod and other storytellers
with the opportunity to test the waters with new stories and learn about
storytelling classes, workshops and conferences. "I have gained
a great deal from other tellers," she said.
Some of the storytellers McLeod admires are Mary Hamilton, Cynthia Changaris,
Elizabeth Ellis and Native American tellers Fred Shaw and Neeake. From
them she has learned how to captivate an audience and instill in them
an appreciation for her craft.
Hamilton has said of her performances, "Who knew hearing about
Harriet Beecher Stowe could be so entertaining?"
McLeod has attended such festivals as the Cave Run Storytelling Festival
near Moorhead, Ky., the Hoosier Storytelling Festival in Indianapolis,
the annual Fine Arts Fund Sampler Weekend in Cincinnati and the Corn
Island Storytelling Festival in Louisville, which is the second oldest
storytelling festival in America.
Her fascination with storytelling has led her into other venues within
the genre. McLeod produced and hosted a weekly one-hour, summertime
radio show on public radio WAIF-FM in Cincinnati.
This provided her an opportunity to meet a variety of people in this
field of work such as Mitch Barrett, a singer-songwriter from Berea,
Ky., who sets his stories to music. In February 2001, she worked on
a weekly radio show for Black History Month, "Freedom Journeys:
A Storyteller's Tribute for African American History Month."
Nancy Colegrove, a former principal and school administrator from the
Cincinnati area, has seen McLeod's presentation on the Underground Railroad
and called it "historically grounded." She said McLeod did
not merely tell a story, but she also provided interesting facts and
tidbits. These were added in a way that seemed to flow with the story
making it a stimulating history lesson as well.
Many slaves crossed the Ohio River at Cincinnati, so it is only natural
that McLeod would research the area where she lives and incorporate
this into her repertoire.
Colegrove said she is quite a master storyteller that has a growing
reputation for storytelling in schools, churches and different organizations
in the Cincinnati area.
"She is really good at gearing storytelling to an audience,"
said Colgrove. "She's very easy to listen to, with a nice voice
that resonates. She really gets into the character."
For more information about McLeod, call the
library at (502) 732-7020 or visit: www.marthastories.com.
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