Act!vated Storytellers

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

The importance of storytelling and theater in education is highly underrated. I'd like to share a REALLY COOL storytelling family with our Wandering Educators. I first met them on the unschooling families on the road listserv, and have followed their updates via twitter and the live shows on their site (our daughter is SOOO excited when they stream live!)...These incredible storytellers? Act!vated Storytellers. The family? Kimberly, Dennis, and Zephyr Goza. Their experiences are inspiring - their work is so incredible, it makes me smile just to think of them. I was lucky enough to sit down and talk with them - here's what they had to say...


Activated Storytellers


WE: Please tell us about your work, Act!ivated Storytellers...

AS: We tour the whole country (45 states so far plus DC) acting out multicultural folktales at schools, libraries, museums, theatres and other venues. We also teach workshops in theatre, creative writing and American Sign Language.



WE:  How did you start this family business?

AS: The business came before the family. The two of us (Dennis and Kimberly) met in San Francisco performing with a children's theatre company, and decided to start our own company, combining our skills for performing, writing and producing theatre. Later we got married and raised a son on the road, who joined the act when he was about 4 and performed in all of our shows until this year, when he decided to retire at 18. Essentially we did not start out to be a family business; we just could not keep our son, Zephyr off the stage.


Captain Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack Sparrow reads How I Became a Pirate


WE:  You travel all over...what do you love most about seeing all these new places?

AS: Well, new is the key word. We delight in discovering places we've never seen before, but that's getting harder and harder to do – we've been just about everywhere! But this year, we did go to Hawaii for the first time, and last year we visited (and performed in) Japan. We enjoying exploring historic sites, and being exposed to different cultures. We'd love to do more international travel.



WE: What sorts of shows do you do? What are your goals?

AS: Don't let our name fool you; we don't just tell stories, we “act!vate” them. We're more theatre than storytellers. Our shows are high-energy productions that include physical comedy, sets, costumes, zany props, American Sign Language and audience participation. Sometimes we include music and dance. We're always looking for new dimensions to add. We did a Japanese story, for instance, in which we used masks and stylized movements like traditional Japanese theatre. Another story we sang all the way through, like a little opera.


Activated Storytellers

Follow the buzz, a story from Japan


WE:  How can educators work with you?

AS: We offer a program that is not only very entertaining, but very relevant to school curricula. There's so much emphasis in schools these days on testing, and sometimes the arts unfortunately get pushed aside. But studies have indicated that the arts actually help students improve their academic achievement all around—not to mention all the other benefits.  Not only do we try to address the curriculum needs in the content of our assembly programs, but we also do workshops and residencies that give us a chance to work with the students on improving certain skills.



WE:  What sorts of resources are available on your site?

AS: We have the texts of many folktales, as well as access to recordings (podcasts) of us performing numerous stories. There are also study guides giving the cultural background of each story and relating the stories to academic disciplines. And there's a travelogue, a daily journal of all the places we've been and the things we've done for the past few years, with lots of photos. It's quite a social studies treasury.



WE:  We've watched your streaming video of presentations, and LOVED your shows. How can people find you online?

AS: We are so glad you found the streaming video. That is something we have been trying to do recently. Our website is You will find links to our podcast and streaming videos there. We can only stream when we are presenting at a public location that has free wifi - so it's hit and miss.



Activated Storytellers

Anansi and the turtle


WE:  Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

AS: Two things. First, we're in the process of writing a book about our 16 (so far) years on the road, full of adventures,  misadventures and just plain ventures. And then there's this:

There is a supposedly true story about Albert Einstein. A mother asked him exactly what her son should study in order to become proficient in math and science, and he replied “folktales”. “What else?” she asked. And he said, “more folk tales”. “And then what”, she asked. “Still more folk tales”, he answered.



WE: Thanks so much, Kimberly and Dennis! I LOVE your great, great work.

For more information on the Act!vated Storytellers, including how to invite them to come to your school, please see: