We are Omaha Storytellers
The Omaha Organization for the Purpose of Storytelling is made up of storytellers from Omaha and eastern Nebraska. It was founded to create a safe place where people could learn to tell stories or just enjoy listening to stories. Meetings create a forum for discussion of storytelling, workshops to develop techniques, polishing new stories, and bringing the ancient art of the oral tradition to the people of the 21st century.
Started in November of 1986 by four storytelling librarians, Mary Heise, Jayne Palmer, Sheila Schumacher and Judy Vitters, OOPS became the parent organization for the first Nebraska Storytelling Festivals, as well as a guild where people who were interested in storytelling could get together.
As an organization OOPS was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit. It has met monthly since its start, first meeting at the Harry Abrahams Library. Over the years, meeting places have moved to a variety of places, including the W. Dale Clark Library, Barnes and Noble at the Crossroads, Boarders at 72nd and Dodge, and the Ralston Public Library. It now meets at the LaVista Public Library. For many years, it met on the third Thursday of the month, but starting in January 2013, the monthly meetings were moved to the third Sunday afternoon of each month.
The first festival was held in June of 1987 at the Fort Omaha campus of Metropolitan Community College. About 50 people participated in this one day festival. For $25, they were part of workshops, had the chance to tell stories of their own, heard stories in music, and enjoyed supper with featured Nebraska tellers. From the very first year, the festival had the support of the Nebraska Library Commission, which granted recertification credits for librarians attending. This was a key element in its future development.
“In 1990, the Festival moved to donated space at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In 1991, Nancy Duncan taught a storytelling course at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and in 1994 taught the same course at College of Saint Mary, leading into the Festival. In the fourth year, the Festival added a Friday night to the full day of Saturday… In 1994, the Festival moved to the College of Saint Mary.”* In 1995, the Festival separated from OOPS and became the Storytelling Festival of Nebraska. This led to the eventual formation of the Nebraska StoryArts. OOPS added NE to their name when they became an affiliate organization in the National Storytelling Network. They did this to avoid confusion with the Ohio Order for the Preservation of Storytelling, which was, quite coincidentally created the same year Omaha’s OOPS.
In 1996, OOPS held its first Frolicking Frog Festival. For $10, participants could take part in workshops, share stories, as well as enjoy lunch and a silent auction. 2011 saw the Frolicking Frog Festival expand to thee days when it was held for the first time outside of the Metro area. Fourteen tellers celebrated storytelling at the historic Fitzgerald Hotel in Plattsmouth, NE. A children’s concert was held at the Plattsmouth Public Library. This was the site for the Frolicking Frog for two years. Due to poor attendance, the Frolicking Frog Festival was discontinued, but there may be festivals in the future.
Today, OOPS members tell stories, not only at the meetings, but at events throughout the Metro area. There are two main storytelling events on the OOPS-NE calendar: Tellbration and The Night of Irish Storytelling. Tellabration is held the Saturday before Thanksgiving in events around the world. It is truly an international night of storytelling. OOPS-NE has been a part of Tellabration since the early 1990’s. The Night of Irish Storytelling is held close to St. Patrick’s Day. Its first years were at the Ye Olde Players Theater until the theater closed. It moved to the Fontenelle Forest Community Room where it was held for several years. 2013 found the tellers in the upper room of McFoster’s Natural Kind Restaurant, for a great evening of story and food. Archetype Coffee on South 13th Street was the host of the 2019 Irish Tales, with a great audience.
OOPS has expanded its service from nurturing new storytellers to also including providing storytellers for civic events and private organizations. You can find OOPS tellers sharing their stories in churches, schools, scouting events, and historical societies. Some of the tellers have expanded their storytelling to regional and national forums.
We are the teller of Tales. We are the whistlers of songs. We are the ones who always will pass on the stories of old times and of new. We are the teller of tales,
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