Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth - Storytelling with Diane Wolkstein
Susun Weed interviews storyteller and mythologist
Diane Wolkstein is one of the world’s great master storytellers and mythologists. She is the internationally renowned author of 23 award–winning books of folklore and has performed to sold–out crowds throughout the world. Whether recounting folk or fairy tales to rapt children and families at libraries, parks, and schools, or wisdom stories and epics at some of the world’s most prestigious museums, festivals, and performance venues, Diane enters and speaks from the heart of each story she tells.
Diane’s unwavering belief in story and its potential to transform people’s lives propelled her to the forefront of the modern storytelling movement as early as 1967, when she joined the New York City’s Department of Parks & Recreation and pioneered a year–round storytelling program for the city’s parks and schools. Diane initiated America’s first graduate storytelling program at Bank Street College of Education and went on to teach mythology at New York University for 18 years.
Of her twenty-three award-winning books, which have been translated into twelve languages, two have become classics: Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth and The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folk Tales. Her latest DVD is A Storyteller’s Story, and her latest CD is the long-awaited album of stories and songs from The Magic Orange Tree. Collaborative partners for large–scale opera and ballet commissions have included famed composers Philip Glass and Louis Andriessen.
What truly sets Diane apart as a storyteller are her spellbinding performing gifts, as well as the depth of knowledge and research she devotes to the stories she tells. Not only does she tell her signature Haitian stories with infectious tenderness and bravado, she spent seven years visiting the Haitian countryside and recording the stories of the people. When she tells Aboriginal stories it is because she has visited their land, met the Australian Aboriginal storytellers, and has been granted special permission to tell these stories. Not only has Wolkstein told the great Sumerian epic of Inanna at the British Museum and The United Nations, she spent years working with one of the world's most pre-eminent archeologists, Samuel Noah Kramer, to create the definitive telling of this great story.
Recent highlights include performances and workshops at the American Museum of Natural History, the British Museum, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, The Rothko Chapel in Texas, the Fulbright Foundation in Taipei, the Smithsonian Institute, New York University, the National Taipei University, New York’s Asia Society, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Toronto Storytelling Festival, and America’s National Storytelling Festival. A book publication of Wolkstein’s re–telling of Journey to the West in English is also in the works.
Diane was recently awarded her third Parents’ Choice Gold Award for her latest CD of Haitian stories and songs, and has been featured on NPR, PBS, BBC, CNN, CBS News Sunday Morning, ABC News’ Good Morning America, and NBC’s Today. She is a recipient of the Excellence in Storytelling Award, the epicycle editor of Parabola Magazine, and a resident of Greenwhich Village, New York.
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