It just wouldn’t be a storytelling festival without a story like this one! Its title is ‘Olivia Merryman.’
If you were at our 2008 Festival, you may have met her. She participated in our Open Mic session, moments after driving in from Catonsville, Maryland, arriving from a swim meet earlier in the morning. When she took to the stage, she had the presence of a seasoned storyteller. In fact, her ‘Kung Fu Panda’ story impressed many of the nation’s best storytellers, the Featured Artists who happened to be sitting in the audience.
Perhaps the most amazing part of this story? Olivia was seven years old at the time.
But that’s not the end of the story...it’s only the beginning.
After months of practice, Olivia took her show on the road June 4-6, 2009, to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and the National Youth Storytelling Showcase. (This is the truly courageous part of the story.) There she competed with some of the best young storytellers from all over the country.
When all of these youthful tales were told, the judges conferred. And our Olivia won the Elementary Division! She was crowned ‘Torchbearer!’
At the time, Andy Offutt Irwin commented, "I fear for my job as a storyteller...these youth tellers will be getting all of my gigs!"
Well, here she is, at her fifth Brandywine Storytelling Festival (her fourth as a Featured Teller), encroaching on Andy’s time again! And here is your opportunity to see Olivia perform again on the ‘big’ stage. (On the same stage as Andy himself.)
Olivia has ‘long’ been a member of the Twinbrook Tellers, the storyteller’s club that the Montgomery County Public Libraries offered from 2000-2009. That club provided opportunities for many young storytellers to hone their craft. This included Olivia and WeiAnne Reidy, who performed on the Jonesborough Youthful Voices Stage in 2008. When funding from the library ceased last year, Eve Burton, who originally organized the Twinbrook Tellers, brought Olivia and her other young ‘Tellers over to the Dogwood Dogs 4H Community Club of Montgomery County.
Olivia lives in Catonsville, Maryland, with her Mother and Father, her brother Aidan, her other brother Phoenix (a Golden Retriever) and two kittens, Misty and Maya. Olivia still holds a restraining order that restricts Kung Fu Panda from coming within 1000 yards of her house. (Although you may hear of him again, with a reprise at this year’s Brandywine Festival.