Two thousand fourth graders, two professional liars, and a couple of talented kids walk into a packed arena…. Nope. It’s not the start of a joke. It’s what happens every year when the Lone Star Storytelling Festival brings the community together to share the laughter, lessons, and joy that only a well-told story can bring.
Frisco Senior Shree Balaji is one of the talented student storytellers who will take the stage this year. In fact, Shree has participated every year since her first performance in fourth grade. So what keeps her coming back, nine festivals later?
I always choose stories that make people laugh, I love making people laugh, and that’s what brought me back every year.” Shree said. “I’ve always been able to entertain people and no matter what kind of day they are having, they can come here and just relax. I really like that.”
Lone Star Storytellers earn their places on stage through a highly competitive audition process and months of training with coaches and support from Frisco Library staff. Student storytellers build confidence, gain public speaking skills, and make memories that last a lifetime.
For Shree, storytelling opened doors and set her on a career path.
In sixth grade I got involved in Teen Court. Because of this program, I was able to get up and speak in front of the jury because it is honestly storytelling, litigation. And now I know I want to go into law.”
And while this year’s Lone Star Storytelling Festival will be her last as a student storyteller, Shree’s involvement has brought another person into the program; her younger sister, Aparna Balaji.
The first reason I wanted to be a Lone Star Storyteller was every time Shree would come back from a concert or the festival, she would be so happy and so accomplished. And the second reason I wanted to do it was because she got to sign autographs!” Aparna said.
Both girls agree storytelling has taught them to get out of their comfort zone, and Shree doesn’t think this will be the end of her storytelling career.
I think I will continue this on. Wherever I go, I hope to start another storytelling program.”
Shree, Aparna, eight other student storytellers, and internationally renowned professional tellers Kevin Kling and Don White will perform for everyone in fourth grade in the Frisco Independent School District (FISD) in the days leading up to the festival. On October 13 and 14, public concerts will be held in Council Chambers at City Hall. The fun starts Friday evening and continues through Saturday afternoon and evening. Performances are recommended for ages 10 and up.
Tickets, schedules, and other information are at lonestarstories.org.
About the professional Storytellers
Kevin Kling is an author, playwright, storyteller, and commentator for National Public Radio (NPR). He is a recipient of the prestigious Whiting award, a national honor bestowed on ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama each year. Side effects of Kling’s performances include belly-aches from laughter and sore faces from smiling.
Don White’s life as somewhat of a vagabond whose extensive travels have birthed his concert performances is a fantastical story in its own right. He is part songwriter, part comedian, part musician, and all entertainer. His ability to connect with his audiences and leave everyone smiling is unparalleled.