Storyteller Harlynne Geisler

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About Storyteller Harlynne Geisler

I have been described as "a one-woman show with a cast of thousands." I perform holiday stories, fairy tales, and international folktales for children and families in all kinds of places. I start with stickers, string figures, puppets, riddles, and knock-knocks to engage the kids. Then, together the audience and I tell the story. Go to my website for more information.

"Harlynne Geisler has a pixie-like look as she stands before an audience of adults and children. She seems almost to draw the stories from the air around her as her hands reach and gesture.

Her eyes gleam with intrigue and delight at the tales she is spinning before her audience. Without props, she creates an imaginary world, telling the story and becoming the characters.

Her eyes and expressive hands move from this imaginary world to the audience, weaving the two together. Small in stature but forceful, Geisler uses whatever dialect is necessary.

Her facial expressions and her gestures are finely wrought in excitement, confusion, passion, joy or fright—whatever emotion is called for by the story or the character."

"...she has entertained children with her stories in libraries and throughout the city school system; she is a consultant to the city schools' Gifted and Talented Education program.

"Recently," she adds, "a young man was sitting in the front row at a storytelling session. His face was shining. It was as if that was his story. It was so real to him. I wanted to shake his hand and say, 'Thank you. That is why I tell stories.'"

"And she told happily ever after."

San Diego Tribune


5361 Javier St
San Diego, CA 92117


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  • 5/5 stars

    All of the students loved the presentation! By all, I mean my English proficient kids, my English Language Learners, and my Special Education kids. All were thoroughly engaged. One of our teachers even read the "Two Bears" version of the story to her team time group after the assembly...they were able to compare and contrast the two folktales...which is a standard right in the new second grade Common Core! Thank you!

Question and answer

Q. Describe the most common types of jobs you do for your clients.

A. Elementary school assemblies
Private parties for children, families, or adults
Library shows
Festival performances
Workshops for parents, grandparents, museum docents, clowns, etc.

Q. What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

A. Be straightforward about exactly how much money you have to hire a performer. I can't read your mind, and I'd rather work within your budget.

Q. If you were a customer, what do you wish you knew about your trade? Any inside secrets to share?

A. Storytelling goes better for children who are older than 3. In fact, it is a wonderful show for older children, even teens, as well as adults.

Q. What important information should buyers have thought through before seeking you out?

A. Do you trust the experienced professional to pick the stories for the venue, event, and age groups, or do you have something specific in mind?

Q. Why does your work stand out from others who do what you do?

A. My stories always suit the occasion. I always show up at least 45-60 minutes early. (I have heard of other performers who breeze in at the last moment.) I often bring decorations, sometimes a few and sometimes a lot to make the area where I perform look more attractive. If I give stickers to the children, I always bring enough for the adults to have them too. (You'd be surprised at how many adults enjoy getting a sticker!)

Q. What do you like most about your job?

A. The children's and adults' mesmerized faces as I stand in front of them. It makes my heart swell with joy.

Q. What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

A. What is a storyteller? Do you mean that you read books out loud?

No, I don't hold a script or book in my hand as I tell. I am the narrator of the story as well as portraying all the characters. I am a one-woman show with a cast of thousands. The San Diego Tribune described what I do in this way: "Without props, she creates an imaginary world, telling the story and becoming the characters. Her eyes and expressive hands move from this imaginary world to the audience, weaving the two together. "

Do you just tell to little children?

Stories are for all ages. Just as there are narratives that would only be enjoyed by preschoolers and stories that would only enchant older children, there is also longer and more thoughtful fiction that captivates adults. Nowadays that fiction is available to you in many different forms: books, movies, TV, theater...and storytelling. I have stories for every age, starting with three year-olds who are just beginning to understand what a story is, through older adults (who are always surprised at how much they enjoy listening to stories).

Where do you tell?

Where don't I tell? I prefer not to tell in venues where there are visual and auditory distractions that make it hard for the audience to concentrate. I have told and taught storytelling-related workshops for clubs, businesses, museums, libraries, schools, colleges, churches, temples, conferences, festivals, storytelling guilds, and private parties for every age imaginable. I have performed from Aurora, New York, to Alberta, Canada, to Austin, Texas, to Anaheim, California.

Q. Do you have a favorite story from your work?

A. I usually tell to no more than 300 at a time, but I once told a whale tale in Shamu Stadium to 5,000 Girl Scouts. It was amazing to stand in front of the whale tank and look left and right to all those excited faces.

Q. What do you wish customers knew about you or your profession?

A. I wish they knew how important it is to provide a quiet space with no distractions for the storytelling. It is hard for one voice, even if it is miked, to compete against a drum troop or a clown blowing bubbles. (Luckily, it is seldom that this happens!)

Q. How did you decide to get in your line of work?

A. Well, like all of you, I have been a storyteller all my life without realizing it--sharing incidents of my life, jokes, the plots of movies that I enjoyed, etc. But I was lucky enough to see a freelance storyteller and realized that I wanted to learn more. I read every book I could find, attended classes and workshops, helped found a storytelling group and festival, practiced on everyone I met, and finally put out my first business card. That was in 1980, so my adventure has lasted for a long time.

Q. Tell us about a recent job you did that you are particularly proud of.

A. I am the resident storyteller at the Timken Art Museum in Balboa Park in San Diego, where I perform 9 times a year. Generally I pick a painting, learn and perform the story of the artist's life, and then tell a fairy tale that I feel goes with the picture. Recently I picked a painting of a ship by Thomas Birch, an artist from the early 1800's. When I found out that little is known of his life, but that he painted battle scenes from the War of 1812, I told the story of how the National Anthem came to be written. Even the adults were informed and entertained by the tale!

Q. Do you do any sort of continuing education to stay up on the latest developments in your field?

A. I have taken numerous workshops at conferences and festivals and subscribe to journals on storytelling. (I've also given workshops and edited and written for those journals!)

Q. What are the latest developments in your field? Are there any exciting things coming in the next few years or decade that will change your line of business?

A. Storytelling is an age-old art. It will never be replaced by technology of any sort, as a live performance is a different thing to experience than watching a computer screen or DVD.

Q. If you have a complicated pricing system for your service, please give all the details here.

A. How much do you charge?

It depends on what type of stories you want, whether I have to do special research, how long I am to tell or teach for, how far I have to travel, how large the audience is, what your budget is--many factors determine a fee. I no longer have time to donate my services, preferring instead to donate money to my favorite causes.

Q. If you were advising someone who wanted to get into your profession, what would you suggest?

A. Here's what I did: I read every book I could find, attended classes and workshops, helped found a storytelling group and festival, practiced on everyone I met, and finally put out my first business card.

Q. What is your greatest strength?

A. I love most of the stories I tell so much that my pleasure in performing them comes through and inspires the audience to enjoy them as much as I do.

Q. Write your own question and answer it.

A. Where do you find your stories?

Most of them come from research at the library into traditional tales of the world's cultures, but I also collect supernatural occurrences from people I meet, create improvisational stories with audiences, and sometimes write my own. I have all kinds of programs from "Hauntingly True Ghost Stories" to "Encounters with Truth: Stories for Adults" to "Multicultural Folk Tales." If you're looking for good stories, I recommend browsing through the folk tales and short story collections. Try reading the story out loud several times, drawing stick-figure pictures of the story, and then sitting back and visualizing the tale in your mind's eye. These are just some of the techniques I use to remember.

Q. Write your own question and answer it.

A. How many stories do you know?

That's not an easy question to answer. I have three types of tales in my memory: 1) stories that I have shaped and rehearsed until I am proud to perform them, 2) stories that I could tell if pressed for a particular type on short notice, and 3) stories that I can summarize the plot of but couldn't tell without more practice. These three types comprise several hundred. I'm sure that I could find a story that's just right for you!

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