Las Vegas Jubilingo group shares tales to teach, inspire

It could be argued that most of the arts stem from the ancient tradition of storytelling, but that hasn’t been done much in Las Vegas.

Jubilingo, a group of local storytellers, is hoping to change that. They are set to perform “Stories of Courage and Valor” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Historic Fifth Street School, 401 S. Fourth St.

The group’s organizer, Karla Huntsman, began storytelling in 2004 when, as a theater instructor at Brigham Young University, she was asked to take on a class that lost its teacher. She agreed and really took to the storytelling part of the class.

“I found out what a world of storytelling there is,” Huntsman said. “There’s a national network. It’s a wonderful thing, and it’s taken over my life. I really love storytelling.”

She enjoys telling a variety of stories, including personal tales, folk tales, historical tales and myths.

She and her husband had been in and out of Las Vegas for years but finally settled here permanently in 2012. Huntsman became a teaching artist in the education outreach program at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

While at a national storytelling conference, she met another storyteller from Las Vegas, and the pair decided to create a coaching group. Their numbers grew rapidly, and when there were six of them, they became a storytelling group. They have done about 10 shows since then with themes as diverse as Halloween, honoring mothers and love.

“(Jubilingo) means ‘exultant speaking and use growth-producing words.’ That’s kind of the purpose of our group: to help people finding meaning, growth and joy in their lives through story,” Huntsman said. “The purpose of the group is to spread storytelling through Las Vegas and beyond and to be part of this terrific storytelling movement.”

Their Sept. 10 show is to include eight stories about people who acted with courage and valor, including the story of Ibo Landing, in which a group of blacks kidnapped from their homeland went to extraordinary lengths to avoid becoming slaves; the story of efforts to save the condor; a personal World War II story about a family member who showed how an ordinary person can become a hero; the folk tale of the little Dutch boy plugging his finger in a dike and more.

“It’s a diverse program of what it means to be a hero, to help people think about people in their own life, ordinary people who are heroes and how heroic acts shape us,” Huntsman said.

Carolyn Pelletier had considered telling another story from World War II but chose to seek out a story about a courageous woman who served in armed conflict. She found that in the story of 1st Lt. Sharon Ann Lane, the only American military nurse killed as a direct result of hostile fire during the Vietnam conflict.

“It’s a story I’m calling ‘See You Sooner,’ ” Pelletier said. When she sent home letters to her parents, that’s how she signed them.”

It was a story Pelletier was unfamiliar with, but she researched and crafted it into the story she wanted to tell, keeping the facts straight and telling the narrative in a way that would engage the audience.

“You memorize the stories and don’t work from notes because you need to be able to connect with your audience,” Pelletier said. “In my story, I’m using a lot of dialog with facts peppered in. It’s different from a straight speech, but it shares some of the same elements.”

Huntsman doesn’t feel that storytelling is just an entertaining and informative art. She believes it’s more integral than that.

“Story is really the way we process things in our lives according to the most recent scientific evidence,” Huntsman said “We think in stories, and we tell ourselves stories about who we are in this world. Sometimes hearing a story can help us change our paradigm.”

To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor, email or call 702-380-4532.

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