Not everyone gets the chance to meet a Drut’syla, let alone hear her stories. What is a Drut’syla? Well, I’m glad you asked. Meet Shonaleigh, a storyteller coming to us from East Sussex, UK who was brought up in the Drut’syla tradition by her Bubbe (Grandmother). She has been a festival favorite and we’re glad to have her back. Recently, we enjoyed a pleasant phone conversation in which she was gracious enough to set aside her cup of tea to answer a few questions and give us more insight into what it means to be a Drut’syla.
1. What is the first story you remember hearing and/or the first story you remember telling?
I was five years old when my Bubbe told me the Yiddish version of “The First Tears” which is about Adam’s first tear. I remember being surprised that adults cried. In an odd way, I thought that adults just had it all sorted out and didn’t cry like children did.
2. How was the seed of storytelling planted in your life?
“You hear people talking about the storytelling revival, but in Jewish culture it never died. From the age of four I lived and breathed the tales of my childhood, unaware that there was anything unusual. I thought this was quite normal and that all storytellers had this background … It was quite routine for me to fall asleep at night listening to songs and stories in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Dutch and Turkish – a wonderful colourful mix,” she says.
Shonaleigh is a drut’syla, a storyteller in a Jewish tradition inherited from her late grandmother, Edith Marks (d.1988), by whom she was trained from childhood onwards. You’ll find some fascinating details about this tradition on her website www.shonaleigh.uk
3. Where does storytelling grow from here? How do you want see storytelling influencing society?
I hope that storytelling can help people be less selfish, more empathetic, more tolerant of fellow humans. Stories teach us that there are many narratives and that it is important to listen. Storytelling creates community, cohesion, common sense and wisdom. If people could stop dismissing traditional stories as cute child’s fare and look for the complexity and richness of the meaning, they might find that there is wisdom there, lessons that can enrich their lives.
4. If you needed to start a dance party, what song would you lead with?
(With a chuckle) Hava Nagila, or Above the Clouds of Pompeii, or maybe even some kind of 50’s Rock and Roll song.