Rachel Hedman, Founding Executive Director or Executive Director of Story Crossroads came by to talk about the self-led online academy & hybrid festival with ASL to discuss their initiative and service projects.  

What is Story Crossroads?  

Story Crossroads is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with year-round oral storytelling events and arts education. Our culminating event features 40 youth and seniors sharing the stage with 15 multicultural story artists.  

How does Story Crossroads Academy work?  

It hosts self-led online storytelling courses, the first of which is free called “Storytelling Basics in 8 Hours” complete with American Sign Language, open captioning, and handouts. The course has 4 modules and 16 lessons and introduces 10 storytelling genres such as liars tale, folktale, fairy tale, personal narrative, historical, etc. We have been pleased that several national storytelling organizations have promoted it such as the Storytellers of Canada or the Federation of Asian Storytellers.  

Why did you decide to hold a hybrid storytelling festival – not just for 2021 – but for every year afterward?  

In 2020, we had an all-virtual festival. While normally focused on Salt Lake County, we suddenly had each of the six major continents attending. When proper distancing became possible, we wanted to keep the live part of storytelling and combine it with virtual and still connect with our global audience. The Academy combined with the Festival allows for people who learned how to tell a story to possibly be on our stage – virtually or in-person. We already have a youth teller from India as well as someone from California.  

What kind of multicultural storytelling do you feature?  

We’ve had 16 different languages on our stage so far. We love bilingual storytelling or stories that come from different parts of the world or cultures found within Salt Lake County itself. This year we have a Hungarian storyteller named Csenge Zalka as well as an Alabama storyteller with Southern tales named Bruce Walker. Our Utah professionals have stories from Norse mythology, Irish/Appalachian cautionary tale, Zimbabwe family historical tale, Italian folktale, and many more.  

Why the importance of including American Sign Language – for your Academy and your Festival?  

We love offering American Sign Language and other languages to appreciate and celebrate each other. We have started with American Sign Language and even hope to have the Academy to be continued education for ASL interpreters, thanks to Chip Royce. We have included Spanish and Audio Descriptions for the Blind before. Someday we hope to have 100+ languages for the Academy and the Festival.  

What makes Story Crossroads innovative?  

We were one of the first virtual storytelling festivals, and we are one of the first hybrid festivals. While American Sign Language has been featured at storytelling events, no one has created a self-led course to include ASL for storytelling until now. We had our inaugural festival in 2016 – not that old – but these ideas have been floating in my head for 20 years. By 2030, we will have an Olympic-level storytelling event to celebrate each of the six major continents with Old and New World storytelling, academic papers, broadcasting to worldwide universities. What we are doing now with the Academy and the Hybrid Festival gets us that much closer to “World Story Crossroads.” 

Find Storycrossroads online, FB, and IG.

Festival –  storycrossroads.org/festival  

Story Crossroads Academy –  storycrossroads.org/freeworkshops