2017-2018 Season,  The Glorious Story Emporium,  Uncategorized

How Storytelling Got Its Start

By Pollyanna Eyler, Dramaturg.

Once Upon A Time till Happily Ever After

          “Once Upon a Time” … is how several favorite stories begin, ending with a “Happily Ever After.” Here are some ‘happily’ and some ‘not-so-happily’ ever after favorites of the Glorious Story Emporium Crew:  

  • Wizard of Oz, Rory Scanlon, Associate Dean, College of Fine Arts and Communications.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia, Megan Sanborn Jones, Artistic Director, BYU Theatre
  • What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Jennifer Reed, Production Manager
  • Where the Wild Things Are, Julia Ashworth, Young Company Artistic Director


  • The Goose Girl, Rebeca Wallin, Young Company Managing Director
  • Jack and the Beanstalk, Patrick Livingston, Director.
  • The Princess Bride, Jake Fullmer, Stage Manager.
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Michael Kraczek, Design & Technology Area Head.
  • Jane Eyre, Hanna Cutler, Costume Designer. 


  • La Grande Illusion, Zoe Taylor, Assistant Costume Designer.
  • Fast and Furious, MingXiao Wang, Scenic, Properties, and Lighting Designer.
  • Deltora Quest, Arianna Krenk, Makeup & Hair Designer.
  • Rumpelstiltskin, Shelley Graham, Dramaturgy Supervisor.

          So what is my favorite “Happily Ever After” story? This elusive ending took on new meaning the summer I turned 8 and my widowed paternal Grandpa died. My family and I were living in his house and to cheer me up, my maternal Grandparents swooped down from their paradisiacal retirement home in the aptly named town of Paradise, California, breathing new life into my storytelling adventures. That summer, my Grandma spoiled me by tucking me into bed after lunch for naps with a chapter a day from a book with a long forgotten title about a fun magical babysitter and her smelly cabbage soup. Grandpa would later entertain me in the long afternoons watching classic thrillers, like Wait Until Dark (at which my screams would bring Grandma running in, to distract me — and to scold Grandpa). Later at night, she’d sing me songs and tell me tall tales and “Happily Ever After Stories” until the scary images were replaced with ‘visions of sugar plums’ dancing in my head. That was also the summer, for the very first time, I was given a chapter book of my own to keep and read, a Nancy Drew mystery.

A classic “Nancy Drew” Mystery


          All of these experiences surrounding storytelling inspired me to write my very first book.  I wrote a biography about my recently deceased Grandpa’s life … at least all the exciting parts I could remember from his eulogy at the funeral. The “Happily Ever After” ending in my book, I credit to my parents (Sharon and Kelly) who consistently took me to church to learn about Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and the Resurrection. My living Grandparents were so proud and filled with high hopes of their author prodigy, until I left my only copy of the hand illustrated book, along with my boarding pass on my connecting flight home. Yet that didn’t stop me from trying to recreate the book as soon as I landed and to continue to create stories to benefit others. As of this past decade, my and my husband’s Grandparents are now enjoying their true love in actual Paradise, while my husband, Patrick and I, enjoy the start of our “Happily Ever After.”

Enjoying the start to our “Happily Ever After” my husband and our kids (Michael married to Raquel and Lizzy married to Ty)


The Art of Storytelling:

          Storytelling circulated well before the Brother’s Grimm collected local oral histories. Storytelling, whether just orally or through action such as in improv, is a long-held tradition reaching back generations to a time before literacy was less common and oral histories were passed from generation to generation. In the creation stories of Africa, Anansi the Spider, the famous storyteller, obtains all of the stories from the Sky God. In the more modern fictional world, the early 20th Century character, Wendy Darling, told such great stories nightly to her siblings John and Michael, that the famous Peter Pan would eavesdrop to pass the stories along to his Lost Boys. Ironically today, we can “hear Wendy” via the magic of audiobooks. Later in the 20th Century, programs, such as Nancy Reagan’s Read Aloud campaign was less about storytelling, as opposed to reading aloud to a child or illiterate. In our day, it could be argued that cable television and the internet have replaced much of our time for storytelling. However, some utilize the advances in technology (radio, television, internet, kindle) to help promote the art of storytelling; for example, Orson Welles using radio for War of the Worlds. Television has also had its own “reality storytelling” starting with such benign shows  as Candid Camera  and continues today with entire channels devoted to “reality t.v.” Storytelling in the written word is gaining momentum as evidenced by over 150,000 unique blogging domains added to the internet each day. The internet also has its hand in the art of “live” storytelling as “impromptu” stories go viral as part of our new “reality.” However, due to the ease and expectation of editing, nothing can truly compare to actual live storytelling. Live storytelling, once a popular act in Vaudeville, is regaining popularity, spawning National Storytelling Festivals throughout the United States. Here in Utah County, beginning in 1990, The Timpanogos StoryTelling Festival has grown to be “the largest storytelling festival in the West.” Their Festival has run annually for 28 years, so if you missed it this year, plan to catch it the first Thursday-Saturday after Labor Day.

“Storytelling Festival” – Appalachia



  • Michael Gibbs

    Storytelling isn’t just an oral history. Rather, it is the combination of oral and action that brings a story to life and provides the greatest impact for the audience. As this relates to The Glorious Story Emporium, the insight I gained was that an improv actor’s work cannot rely on their words. To fully engage the audience (especially the young children), the actor has to show us what they are doing with a combination of vocal inflection and physical action. Things to watch for in the show as it pertains to this topic could be how the actors physically improvise, how they use the set and props to engage with the audience, and the relationship between the actor’s voice and action.

  • Josh Augenstein

    It’s great to know that Glorious Story Emporium is taking part in the age old tradition of improvised story telling. Through the years storytelling has evolved and shifted into the many ways we know now through television, written stories, and play productions. This evolution will no doubt add to the excitement of the show and bring a new element to every performance as the actors bring their own individual backgrounds and skillsets to the stage.

  • McKenzie Biliter

    Where some people would view the idea of a full length improv show as something completely new, improvised story telling is where some of the roots of story telling lie. In improv, it is extremely important (and often very challenging) to remember to act with your whole body–voice, movements, position in relation to other characters, etc.–and not just rely on one’s voice to carry the story. I’m excited to see how the Glorious Story Emporium cast uses physical acting and comedy to tell a story! I’m sure it will both remind us of where our ancestors theatre came from and add something new to our theatre world.

  • Alana Wilcox

    I have certainly been enlightened on the development of story-telling. It started with oral story-telling then went on to written books, radio shows, and TV shows. Though it may seem that story-telling is dying off in it’s oral presentation, there are still many storytelling festivals! I was able to attend the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival a couple of years ago and had a phenomenal experience! It was so refreshing to hear such entertaining stories without having to stare at a screen.

  • Anna

    The history of storytelling is rich and beautiful and should be something we never lose sight of in our modern day theatre. Through oral and visual performance, stories have been a captivating part of the lives of individuals, specifically helping to shape the positive memories of children. Glorious Story Emporium is going to be so interesting because of the amazing actors’ abilities to create stories and bring them to life and I am so excited to see what kind of magic they will bring to the stage. The improvised storytelling is a wonderful way to honor the history of the traditions that has been so crucial to our lives as human beings.

  • Paige Foster

    I think there is nothing more meaningful and with the potential to help the world more today then telling and sharing good, true, stories. These stories resonate with us and make us human. I am so glad “The Glorious Story Emporium” show is portraying this vital need for stories to not die with the digital age. There is something tangible and real about being read to or watching a performance as opposed to a television show or other form of digital media. We are more involved and can learn more. I also love the stories she chose that inspired her happily ever after….Great post! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Claire Bates

    People often think of storytelling as being just for children in picture books but it is more than that. Everyone is telling a story every day. Sometimes by telling a friend a funny thing that happened to them earlier, or watching TV, or listening to the radio. Everything is a story being told and I think that that is awesome. I love that Glorious Story Emporium is telling a brand new story every performance. It keeps the stories alive and thriving. 🙂

  • Sam Pulsipher

    It’s an interesting idea to say that audiobooks, the internet, tv, etc. are the new kind of story telling. Like our author I also was told stories as a child from various fantasy authors I probably wouldn’t have heard without them. Both my father and mother would read to me such works as Howl’s Moving Castle, or The Merlin Conspiracy, Mostly books from the wonderful Diana Wyne Jones. These stories have most likely shaped my thinking do to their quirky storytelling and matter of fact tone. Even now, while I do enjoy reading to myself from fantasy books I really enjoy listening to audio books. Especially when I can leech off my sister’s audible account. Stories are here to relate to us, to teach us who we are and what we’re doing. As Albert Einstein said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” I agree whole heartedly and plan to do the same with my children. Thanks for the post, and keep telling stories.

  • Magda Pfunder

    Stories are such an integral part of people and relationships and society, so it is no surprise to me that storytelling started so early and that it has always been around. It was interesting to learn about its development, though. I never thought of viral videos or reality t.v. as a real form of storytelling, but now that I look closer I’m surprised that I never realized it before. Storytelling is everywhere and a part of everything. Honestly, I think a big part of what makes human beings, human beings is our love for stories. We always feel the need to tell them and create them and listen whenever we hear one. And the fact that storytelling has developed and changed to fit into our current society only proves how important they are to people. Instead of dying away, stories have remained a prominent part of our everyday lives.

  • Heidi Johnson

    For generations, storytelling has been a main source of entertaining. From gathering in an amphitheater, listening to Shakespeare’s tragedies to lazily laying in bed, hearing a YouTuber’s funny experience, people have enjoyed the effect these stories have on their lives. This art is not dying nor coming to an end anytime soon. It allows us as people to escape a stressful or boring life and enter one where we do not have to come up with a solution to the problems the characters face. I could not imagine how hard it would be to improv an entire story from start to finish, so I am quite excited to see what they have in store for us.

  • Zach Olsen

    As someone who has worked in radio and narration, I’m grateful for the continued art of oral storytelling. I enjoy the perspective that storytelling includes elements of acting, not just the voice. Actions, after all, speak louder than words. It shows how a great part of history and life can change and adapt to what the time we live in calls for, while still keeping us grounded in where we came from. I am really happy there there’s a group of actors with Glorious Story Emporium who are using their talents to keep this art of storytelling alive and fresh for different audiences. To infuse their talents of acting and speaking with the talent that storytelling really is, I think we’re in for a great show.

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