Educational Offerings

Milbre has been an artist-in-residence since 1978, working for state and local arts councils across theUSAand inEurope. Her students have been university and college undergraduates; adult conference attendees; mainstream Pre-K to 12th graders as well as ESL, hearing impaired and developmentally disabled children of all ages; at-risk teens; well elders; mentally challenged adults; and minimum and maximum security prison inmates. She has also taught fellow tellers, family business owners, journalists, therapists, ministers, rabbis, lay people and countless teachers earning CEU’s.

Click here for Study Guide, residency offerings and bibliographical material.


Workshops for Educators, Librarians, Storytelling Practitioners and Others

Workshops can be offered singly or mixed and matched as an all-day package of in-service workshops, continuing education classes, intensives, or university master classes, depending on the sponsor’s needs.

Please Note: Workshops can be offered singly or mixed and matched as an all-day package of in-service workshops, continuing education classes, intensives, or university master classes, depending on the sponsor’s needs.


Once Upon A Time Is Now:

Story-listening, Storytelling and Story-making in the Classroom

Storytelling is a vital educative tool, an invaluable repository of ethnicity and culture, and a form of personal expression that builds confidence, communication skills and self-esteem. Through handouts, exercises and demonstration, participants will learn ways to “sneak up” on storytelling themselves and encourage their students to do so, as well as how to follow up storytelling with visual and performing arts activities, and with oral, written, and kinesthetic exercises for the classroom.

There will be a display of material culture items which can be used as story-making prompts, and a sampling of books, audio- and videotapes. Participants will leave with a batch of storytelling activities and knowledge that they can use in the classroom the next day. This two-hour how-to workshop is designed especially for librarians, educators and teaching artists.

First Things First – Orality into Literacy:

Making Sand Tray Stories

Milbre Burch has been working as an artist in the schools since 1978. From 1995-1998, she conducted an acclaimed three-year storytelling residency through the California Arts Council at Walden School, an independent school in Pasadena, CA. Her work there as an artist in residence and afterward as a consultant has been used as a national model at conferences on both coasts. Together with Walden school staff, Burch pioneered the use of sand trays as a jumping-off place for oral story-making, oral storytelling and story-writing with children from Pre-K to sixth grade.

This two-hour workshop leads participants in a step-by-step process toward understanding and utilizing sand trays as an oral literacy tool for the classroom. Using videotapes of adults and children using sand trays, as well as hands-on exercises, those attending the workshop will come away with ideas and skills for encouraging students of all ages to create, comprehend and document their own story-making efforts in a classroom setting.

Note: This workshop stands alone or can used as a precursor to the Sand to Stories…Tableaux to Tales residency program, and its adjunct the Talking Story residency program.

I Used To Hear Them Say:

Mining the Memory for Stories

In this hands-on workshop, participants begin the work of mining the memory for family stories. Through a series of questions, workshop participants are led to consider the origin of their own names; to call up the sense memories of early childhood; to begin to catalog the characters and locations important to the family landscape; and to review the sayings, slogans and family myths held in trust by various family members.

Using inquiry as a tool, participants can begin to examine the raw precious metals and unpolished gemstones of personal history, and start to polish them with insight and adorn them with imagination to ensure that the heart of the story is passed on to future generations. This two-hour workshop is ideal for storytellers, family elders, creative writing teachers, and community builders of all kinds.

From Goose Girls to Goddesses:

The Heroic Female in Story

What’s an heroic act, anyway? Traditionally the hero leaves home, is initiated through travels, tests and travails, and returns home a king. How does the hero’s journey change when the journey is a feminine or an inward one? Through hearing and discussing several stories of the female hero — at each stage of a life’s journey from childhood to cronehood — participants will explore a broadened sense of what heroism is.

When we listen to folk and fairy stories together, we come away with powerful shared metaphors which may prove useful in our real-life journeys ahead. This two-hour lecture/demo is appropriate for librarians, teachers, therapists, students of women issues and those who just like to savor stories.

Don’t Just Do Something; Stand There!

Movement and Stillness in Storytelling

Whether we use movement consciously or unconsciously, the audience gets much of the meaning of our words from our facial and gestural cues. The deliberate, organic use of gesture can enhance spoken word performances when used economically. So can stillness and silence. By viewing excerpts of videotaped performances by modern dance great Doris Humphrey, mime virtuosos Meli Kaye and Tony Montanaro, and a selection of kinetic storytellery. Then through warm-ups and floor crosses, improvisational techniques and theatre games they will work to expand their personal movement vocabulary so they can begin to claim the space fully when telling onstage.

This two-to-three hour hands-on workshop is appropriate for public speakers, storytellers, actors, mimes, dancers, and others who are interested in knowing what their bodies are telling an audience while their lips are telling a story.

If the Shoe Fits…

Cinderella Stories Around the World

“Cinderella” in its many forms has been called the best-known story in the world. Long before Walt Disney, it fascinated countless unnamed storytellers fromEgypttoChinatoFranceto Iroquois country toAppalachiaand back again. Using this story in some of its many forms, participants can examine the structure and content of fairy tales, note how such an old story resonates still today, and begin to look at how a fairytale comes to be made.

The two-hour workshop is a lecture/demonstration with discussion by attendees searching for the elements that place this story in the fairytale genre and make it, in particular, Cinderella story. It is intended for English and writing teachers, storytellers, story-lovers, poets and librarians.

How Do I Love Thee?

The Charms and Challenges of Genre

Every story offers its own charms and challenges to the teller. Folktales; fables; myths and spiritual stories; scary stories, true and untrue; tall tales; fairy tales; literary material and personal or original tales all have a different appeal. With so much diversity to choose from, there is no one set way to find and learn a story. However, if we listen, the story itself may give us clues as to how best it may be approached.

This two-hour lecture-demonstration is aimed at teachers, librarians, language-lovers, storytellers, or anyone looking for encouragement and some basic tools for lifting a story off the page or out of the memory.

Opening the Inner Gates:

Getting into Character

Ideal for college classrooms and theatre workshops, this lecture-demonstration examines the dramatic monologue as a form of storytelling. Drawing on her own theatrical and movement background, Milbre Burch shows how developing the character of the narrator can enhance literary stories, folktales, fables and original pieces with the immediacy of “first person flavor.”

For this session, Burch utilizes folktales, the work of James Thurber and Jane Yolen, and her own acclaimed monologues to unlock the artist’s process, encouraging participants to open their own inner gates of memory, inspiration and imagination to create characters with stories to tell.

Mom’s the Word:

Exploring Motherhood in Performance and on the Page

After a seven-year gestation period, Milbre Burch wrote and produced Mom’s the Word: A Journey in Meter and Centimeters, a one-woman show exploring her experience as a new mother at midlife. The show, in turn, gave birth to Mother’s Milk, Folktales about Mothers and Motherhood from Around the World (August House, publication due date: October, 2002) co-authored by Burch and Gay Ducey.

The first half of this three-hour workshop will be a performance of Mom’s the Word, which bridges the mythic and the personal, and calls on Burch’s strengths as storyteller, actor and poet. The second half will be a highly interactive session with participants, examining both the development of the performance piece and the book it engendered.

Making the Heart Whole Again:

Peace and Justice and Reconciliation Stories

In a nation torn by international terrorism and its own inner violence, stories of peace and justice and reconciliation are as potent as they are rare. Drawing on more than two decades of work in community, educational and correctional settings, Burch will explore reconciliation stories from oral and literary traditions, and strategize on sowing them in a landscape made bitter by fear, grief, anger and vengefulness.

During this two-hour workshop, participants will hear (and receive an extensive bibliography of ) global stories from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe to use as resource material for researching and retelling the tales in their home communities.