She’s back, and we couldn’t be happier. After a three-year tour in England, Arts for Learning storyteller Sarah Osburn Brady returned to Virginia in August, her art and her connections to the storytelling community deepened by the experience.
Sarah and her family—daughters who are now eleven and eight and a pediatrician-husband whose transfer to Royal Air Force Lakenheath prompted the move to England—are now living in McLean, Virginia, forever changed by their time in the U.K. Sarah calls her three years there “a gift,” with highlights including being part of the Cambridge Storytellers group and “being able to travel and walk the landscape of so many stories, both historical and traditional, as well as literary stories.”
She believes her storytelling has changed, thanks to new insight she discovered while living abroad.
I think sometimes whenever we grow and change as people, it allows us to bring new things to our art form, and there’s something definitely that will make growth and change happen whenever you move to another country.”
Sarah first explored joining Young Audiences/Arts for Learning more than a decade ago while working as a professor of theater and communications at Hampton University. After the birth of her first child, she joined the roster, partnering with another acclaimed A4L storyteller, Sheila Arnold, with programs on the civil rights movement and two “women of freedom,” Harriet Tubman and Ellen Craft. Sarah also developed solo programs including Poetry and Jabberwockies, which celebrates the rhythm and rhyme of language through classic poems and nonsense words.
As both a performing artist and teaching artist, Sarah’s storytelling isn’t easy to characterize.
“I’m not a storyteller who tells just one type of stories. I tell historical, literary, and traditional stories, along with a smattering of personal stories and tall tales. I find that I do a lot of those different things. My style varies according to the story I’m telling, according to the needs of the program, according to the audience, all of those pieces.”
When she’s developing new programs, Sarah says there are some stories “that won’t let you go, that sit bubbling with you and then punch you in the shoulder until you let them out. Then there are other stories that, because we’re working artists, we get handed.” One of the stories she got “handed” in England was on Thomas Paine, the writer of Common Sense, after she was asked to create a special program about him for a festival. She wasn’t excited about it until she dug into months of research and discovered she found him “fascinating.”
“I often tell my husband that almost any subject, if you find the right way in, you can find that it’s fascinating,” Sarah says. “The first time I performed that program, there was a woman who came up to me and said, ‘I thought this was going to be boring, but you made it interesting.’ And that is part of my goal as a storyteller—to take whatever subject I’m telling stories about, whatever program I’m doing, and invite people in, even if they don’t think they’re going to be interested. It’s amazing to me how storytelling can help people be interested in ideas and clarify subjects that people thought they weren’t interested in or thought were confusing or thought were extra complex.”
Being back at Arts for Learning in the middle of a pandemic means Sarah is developing programs that can work virtually. A new program, “More Than True: Folk and Fairy Tales with Character,” features a choose-your-own adventure approach that allows students to interact with her live and help decide character and plot details.
Sarah is also developing a new program focused on the stories of women who resisted tyranny during the world wars. We’ll share details soon!
Moving back to the United States during a pandemic hasn’t necessarily been easy for Sarah and her family, but she says there are good parts along with the difficult parts.
“One of the beautiful things is that Zoom and other platforms are allowing for there to be a comfort with and an ease of communication at a distance. So in some ways, it’s almost like we haven’t really moved because there’s regular contact with people in the UK and with the storytelling community there, so there are lots of good things.”
We’d call it 100 percent good for Arts for Learning to have Sarah back with us. Contact us at programs@Arts4LearningVA.org if you’re interested in booking one of Sarah’s programs, which you can explore by clicking here. All are available in a virtual format.