By Cheryl Tillman Lee
Sentinel Family Editor
Barbara H. Clark, a Windsor Hills resident is coordinator and creator of the highly regarded “Tell Me A Story,” workshop and concert series conducted for the last seven years at the Vineyard Senior Center in mid-city Los Angeles.
Clark interacts on her special techniques for developing adult storytellers.
The workshops culminate with a public storytelling concert by the participants, and are held on Thursdays, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., at the Vineyard Senior Center in Los Angeles.
Although storytelling is an ancient art, it was not until around 1970 that it became an official profession in the United States. The first National Storytelling Festival took place in Tennessee in 1973. Professional storytellers can excite, entertain and inspire with the way they use their words. A well-told story is magical. That is what Barbara Clark does, she tells the story well. She was selected by KCET – TV (Channel 28) as a winner of the 5th annual Local Hero of the Year Award in celebration of Black History Month in 2006. The award recognizes “the exemplary achievement and service of ‘unsung Heros’ in local communities.” Clark, and two other honorees were honored at an awards reception at KCET studios along with a short video profile of her work with senior citizens that aired on KCET.
Clark instructs seniors in techniques for turning their rich memories in structured stories suitable for presenting before an audience that listeners will love. This workshop is for seniors, and is conducted by Barbara H. Clark.
What started out as a fun thing to do in Clark’s retirement, turned into a new career, which not only continues to make use of her skills, but also supplements her retirement income.
She performs at libraries from Beverly Hills to Corona, churches, coffeehouses, theaters, colleges and clubhouses.
She has been featured at banquets, fundraisers, conferences, seminars, ethnic festivals, holiday celebrations and on National Public Radio. She said that she’s having a blast. Her repertoire includes funny tales of personal experiences, touching stories of family heritage, warm profiles of memorable sometimes outrageous, relative and inspirational tales.
Clark had wanted to be a writer while in college and had taken creative writing and journalism classes at Howard University.
After being sensible enough to know it was unlikely she could make a living as a writer, she went on to graduate school at USC and became a Librarian.
In 1994, with retirement staring her in the face, she felt free to write, so she did.
She began writing down memories from her childhood in the form of short stories, just for fun, not with any special intent.
Then one day at the invitation of an acquaintance, she attended a meeting of storytellers. She just listened as professional and amateur storytellers entertained the audience.
A month later, she returned and began wondering if her own stories were suitable for telling. At the third meeting she told a story with polite applause.
At the fourth meeting she tried a more dramatic story, she said, “I was blown-away by the reaction.
The audience was breathlessly silent throughout. A man on the front row had tears streaming down both cheeks. When the story ended, there was a standing ovation.”
She was later told by a long-timer that he had never seen that happen before.
Over the following twelve months, Clark continued to share her personal stories. She was hooked. A storyteller advised her to get business cards because people were asking how to contact her for engagements.
After her retirement in 1996 as a regional manager with the Los Angeles Public Library, Clark began doing volunteer storytelling at various senior citizen centers. She received a grant from Los Angeles City Cultural Affairs Department as a Regional Artist to expand her work with the elderly.
Seniors who are interested can join the “Tell Me a Story” Storytelling Workshop and learn to turn their memories into stories for others to enjoy. This fun workshop for seniors conducted by professional storyteller, Barbara H. Clark, is limited to 20 participants.
There is a registration fee. Workshop classes are held Thursdays 10:00-11:00 a.m., now through May 2011, at Vineyard Recreation Center, 2942 Vineyard Ave. For more information call (323) 292-2666.