Everybody loves a good story, but not everybody can tell one.
A group in Murrysville can, and they'll go anywhere to do it. They are the members of StoryWorks, who take their verbal art to schools, festivals, senior centers, youth groups, and church and civic events to spin engrossing folk tales, humorous stories, narratives and personal experiences.
It takes more than just reciting words in the right order. It also requires a bit of acting with voice intonations, postures, gestures and a confident stage presence.
Once a month, the members meet at the Murrysville Community Library to make sure they're doing it right.
"First you pick a story that you like," said Denise Sticha, the library director and a StoryWorks member. "Then you tell it to non-threatening people, like your family and friends, and then you work on it."
Three members introduced new tales at the January session and got feedback from other members and a guest, who frequently attends just for fun. "We welcome everyone -- experienced storytellers, novices, would-be story tellers and listeners," said Judy Seeley, one of the founding members.
Seeley belonged to a storytelling group when she lived in Georgia. In 2000, she founded StoryWorks with Carol Siefken, director of youth services at the library, and Mike Dibert, a teacher at Heritage Elementary School, in Franklin Regional School District in Murrysville.
Storytelling is an ancient tradition practiced by all cultures as a way to pass on oral history and customs, and just to entertain.
Barbara Guger, of Monroeville, related a tale about a beautiful Indian maiden, Blue Flower, and Surefoot, a handsome brave. She took the story from a book of Native American legends and embellished it with dialogue and chants that she learned from a CD of Native American music.
"I had to put in the conversation or it wouldn't fly," she said. "If you put your own words in it, it makes a difference. If I did it just like it was in the book, it would take about three minutes."
Seeley praised Guger's voice and postures, and Sticha suggested that she pause longer at the end of the story before signing off with a gesture for peace.
Siefken told the story of "The Tale-Teller" who traveled from village to village giving out precious stones. It was a time, she said, that was "long, long ago, when there were lords and ladies, kings and queens, and monsters and dragons."
A thief stole the stones only to discover from "an appraiser" that they were worthless. When Siefken finished, Guger suggested that she get rid of the appraiser and instead have the thief's tavern buddies point out the folly of his crime.
"I liked your eye contact," said Jean Beatty, of Murrysville, who attends as a listener. "It really brings the listener into the story."
Sticha tried out the humorous "Jack Cures The Doctor" from the "Jack Tales." "They are Appalachian-based, but most of them originated in England," she said. "I omitted some of the dialogue between the brothers because it doesn't move the story, but it adds color."
Some storytellers use original tales or embellish their own experiences. "Everybody has a story to tell, and you hear such wonderful ones at senior groups," Seeley said. "You just have to think about them. Did someone laugh or cry, or learn something and change• They are stories that your own family would love to hear because there was something about it that made them remember it."
Storytelling, Siefken added, is really about life.