Learn to listen at the library

Published 9:40 pm Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Williamsburg-based storyteller will regale visitors with African and African-American tales at North Suffolk Library on Tuesday.

Beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the library, located at 2000 Bennett’s Creek Park Road, Dylan Pritchett will expound to his audience on what he calls “the importance of listening.”

“Storytelling is the art of listening,” said Pritchett, who has been practicing his art — and earning a living from it — since 1990.

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Pritchett’s African stories come from a specific tradition in which the storyteller would help village folk understand current events and issues relevant to their lives.

“His job was not only to teach listening, but to also analyze what’s happening with the village, with the country, within their world,” he said.

Pritchett said he will tell stories for an adult audience at the library, adding, “It’s important … to make people be re-aware of the power of every individual telling their story … and passing it on to their children and to their grandchildren.”

Prior to becoming a full-time storyteller, Pritchett worked at Colonial Williamsburg. He started out there at age 13 in the fife and drum corps, progressing on to work in the African program department, he said.

“My job was to research and develop programs and train the staff,” he said.

In the late 1980s, he got with a group called the National Association of Black Storytellers, and he never looked back.

“I realized there were other people who told stories — wait a minute, I can make a living doing this,” he said.

“Three months later, I quit my job.”

Pritchett said his stories are not just about people, but also animals, situations and life lessons.

“I have some original stories that deal with Reconstruction, and slavery in general,” he said.

Clients often request characterizations, Pritchett said, and he plans at the library to bring to life characters from American history.

Visitors can expect Pritchett to tell stories for 45 minutes to an hour, or even longer if demand warrants.

“I can go as long as they want me to go,” he said.

The event is free.