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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Local storyteller performs at UA

    Steven Meckler

    Courtesy of Jordan Hill

    Jordan Hill performing his storytelling routine at a recent event. Hill will be performing tonight in an event at the Student Union Memorial Center’s South Ballroom alongside Samuel Supalla, an associate professor in disability and psychoeducational studies.

    Jordan Hill isn’t a big fan of rehearsing. The local professional storyteller typically performs 20-minute long myths and folktales completely on a whim. Sometimes improvising an entire story, Hill tentatively approaches his art as being unpredictable and uncontrollable. It may be why he’s in such demand to perform at events all over the country.

    Hill brings his talents to the Student Union Memorial Center’s South Ballroom tonight for an evening of live storytelling alongside Samuel Supalla, an associate professor in disability and psychoeducational studies. Having partial hearing loss, Supalla will be performing his storytelling entirely through sign language, while Hill’s stories will be communicated through a sign language interpreter.

    “There is this whole amazing world of signed storytelling,” Hill said. Having traveled the world with his storytelling, Hill added that Supalla is the first person he will see perform signed storytelling.

    Hosted by the Wildcat Events Board, the evening of storytelling is the brainchild of Michele Rizzo, the director of WEB’s speakers committee. As a sophomore studying English and deaf studies, Rizzo said she wanted to combine the two disciplines she’s most passionate about.

    “You don’t necessarily need to speak to tell stories,” Rizzo said.

    She first saw Hill perform his storytelling while working at a summer camp, and as a former student of Supalla, Rizzo said she knew the two storytellers would compliment each other well.

    Hill describes his storytelling as old-fashioned, traditional and reminiscent of the days when people sat around campfires to speak of ancient myths. Hill said he prefers performing stories with a magical flair — those capable of really transposing a listener into another world.

    Though Hill has not yet selected what stories he will perform for tonight’s event, he said he tries to pick up cues from the audience before going on stage, which will help him decide what story to pull from his repertoire.  

    “It’s a very organic process,” Hill said. “I never know exactly what is going to emerge during a story.”

    The stories Hill could perform include a tale about an Irishman who stumbles upon a valley of mythological fairies. Another tale tells the journey of an Eskimo girl who has her flesh ripped off by shape-shifting polar bears. Hill said when it comes to college audiences, he tends to pick stories with a bit of an edge.

    As a shy kid growing up, Hill said he was always more comfortable performing in front of people. A course in his last semester of college exposed him to the world of storytelling, and he immediately became hooked.

    “We’re such storytelling creatures,” Hill said. “It’s such a natural thing.”

    Finding out how to shape tension through rhythms in tone and pitch is essential for effective storytelling, Hill said. Building action through theatrical, sensational gestures keeps the pace of Hill’s stories dynamic.

    “You can tell he is so passionate about what he is saying,” Rizzo said about Hill’s storytelling methods.

    As a person who relies on his hands more than his words to tell a story, Supalla’s method must employ greater physicality in comparison to Hill’s. Rizzo described Supalla’s storytelling as fully expressing his big personality with grand gestures and facial expressions.  

    Students can decide for themselves which style of storytelling they prefer, as the two will begin sharing stories at 6 p.m. today.  


    Follow Kevin C. Reagan on Twitter.

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