Glenda Bonin, storytellerby Penelope Starr on Jul. 29, 2009, under Arts
The circumstances were less than ideal. The outdoor courtyard where Glenda Bonin was to tell her story at the grand opening of the UA Poetry Center had no mic nor stage. She gamely climbed on top of a large rock in her long skirt and silver concho belt and mesmerized her audience with a tale of early settlers in the west.
Glenda was introduced to storytelling many years ago when her children where young and she volunteered to tell stories at her local library. She had learned magic and was working part-time as a clown but didn’t consider it a serious career so she took a “real job”. After she was downsized and was helping her ill father she had the opportunity to review her life and asked herself the question, “when was I the most happy in my life?” The answer turned out to be when she was telling stories.
She immersed herself in learning the craft by attending workshops and festivals and read everything she could get her hands on. She began by offering her services for free in order to get experience and to build a customer base and after two years she felt confident that she was ready to turn pro. She still will do an occasional benefit for a worthy cause but now she’s able to support herself with her art.
Glenda specializes in stories for kids and families although she loves working with special populations such as college classes, special needs folks and seniors. In addition to plying her trade in Tucson and Phoenix her work takes her all over the country. She travels to rural areas in an RV, sometimes for month long residencies. She also offers workshops and digital storytelling; visit her website, Story Works Group to learn more.
Some of the stories that Glenda tells are original and some are re-creations of traditional stories with her personal stamp on them. She puts a lot of time into learning and rehearsing them both with a tape recorder and with her peer group of other storytellers. She’s working on a book collection of the stories that she tells.
Glenda is also deep into a research project that revolves around her grandmother, a fascinating woman named Vera Martin. She is creating a Chautauqua, a performance where one takes on the persona of another person and tells the story from their point of view. Some of you might remember Hal Holbrook becoming Mark Twain on stage, that’s a Chautauqua.
When I asked her the hardest part of the life of a professional storyteller she answered, “not making enough to put money into savings,” a common dilemma of creative self-employed people who are practicing their art.