Better Said Than Done’s Women’s Storytelling Festival: giving voice to women storytellers for all to hear

Better Said Than Done celebrates women's voices in a two-day storytelling showcase in Fairfax.

Who Tells Our Story is the theme of Better Said Than Done’s upcoming, first-of-its-kind, two-day Women’s Storytelling Festival. Audiences can expect stories that have been crafted for a solo spoken word performance told by women.

Jessica Robinson, founder of Better Said Than Done. Photo by Robert Merhaut.
Jessica Robinson, founder of Better Said Than Done. Photo by Robert Merhaut.

“Storytelling is a performance, an art, a form of entertainment, and from our mouths, a reality the audience will not soon forget,” said Jessica Robinson, founder of Better Said Than Done and creator of the Women’s Storytelling Festival. Robinson has gathered together nearly two dozen women storytellers from many different storytelling backgrounds for the festival.

“We put together an amazing show with some of the best storytellers in the country,” said Robinson, who is from Fairfax, Virginia. “I think that the beauty of storytelling is that it is inclusive. By having women-only performers, we are in no way saying we should have an all-female audience. I would say to men and women alike, come to the festival.”

One of the Festival’s emcees will be Giselle Ruzany. She grew up in Brazil and now lives in Falls Church, Virginia. In a conversation one recent chilly winter morning, Ruzany said, “I jumped into the opportunity to be the emcee, as a sense of belonging came over me and I needed to be there and support the voices of women. I think this excitement will be present in all who attend the festival and wants to hear real stories from real women.”

“I think stories from women are stories of being daughters, being sisters, being mothers, being girlfriends, being wives, being tomboys, being pioneers, being courageous, being rebellious, being lost, and being found. Stories of women are stories of wonder, as we are all wonder women when it comes to storytelling,” added Ruzany,

“Women have come a very long way. This festival celebrates those achievements. What better way to celebrate than to share our stories?” noted DMV storyteller Arthuretta Holmes Martin (Woodbridge, Virginia) in a phone conversation. “The festival will be different because something magical happens when women come together. The energy of sisterhood will create an energy that will enhance the stories we share.”

Storyteller Arthuretta Holmes Martin. Photo courtesy of Better Said Than Done.
Storyteller Arthuretta Holmes Martin. Photo courtesy of Better Said Than Done.

Festival storyteller Vijai Nathan, a leading Indian American comedian whose parents emigrated from India to Potomac, Maryland, has performed stories for shows such as NPR’s Snap Judgment. Nathan described her storytelling style as “personal coming of age tales; hilarious, personal narratives. It is comedy storytelling.” Her stories are of a Hindu upbringing as the child of immigrants with her “search for love, family and belonging.”

DC-area native Natalie Amini will perform at the Festival. Amini enjoys narrating revealing stories about her family. The Festival audience can expect a true story “about how some of my most challenging obstacles and hardships lead to the most amazing gifts and opportunities in my life to date.” said Amini. “Life is a journey with peaks and valleys. Sometimes in the deepest depths of your valleys, you’ll find the strength you need to climb to your highest peaks.”

Amini also produces live comedy and storytelling events, including Story SLAM for The Moth. For those less familiar, The Moth is a non-profit group dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling presenting events across the United States and cities around the world. The Moth Radio Hour is broadcast on WAMU 88.5 on Friday nights at 9 p.m. and Saturdays at 4 p.m.

Storyteller Ellouise Schoettler, who has written and introduced one-woman shows at the DC Capital Fringe, will perform at the Women’s Storytelling Festival. For over a decade, Schoettler has hosted cable storytelling shows on Channel 16 ( in Montgomery County, MD. She is joined in the Festival lineup by Meghann Shutt, a native Baltimorean who works with The Stoop Storytelling Series, a Baltimore-based live show and podcast that features a wide range of people revealing true accounts of their lives.

Fanny Crawford who founded the Stories In The Round series in Hagerstown, Maryland, and Jane Dorfman with Voices in the Glen, a Storytelling Guild for the Greater Washington, DC area, will also perform at the Festival. Molecular biologist Maryam Zaringhalam, a Senior Producer for Story Collider, a podcast about true, personal stories about science, will be sharing her insight with Festival attendees along with Sheila Arnold (Hampton, VA), and Kim Weitkamp (Ohio).

Storyteller and comedian Vijai Nathan. Photo courtesy of Better Said Than Done.
Storyteller and comedian Vijai Nathan. Photo courtesy of Better Said Than Done.

“Though women have a very distinct way of looking at culture, almost everything that is projected about life, ideas, right and wrong, is brought to our culture through the male gaze,” noted Festival storyteller Donna Washington (born in Colorado, traveled the world). “If we continue to see everything through the eyes of only one gender, nothing that needs correcting, fixing, or addressing will ever be addressed, fixed or corrected. Women’s voices are different because women see different things. Our voices matter. Our stories matter.”

The groundbreaking Better Said Than Done Women’s Storytelling Festival aims to bring a powerful array of stories to life. “Laugh, cry, learn and listen to an amazing cast of storytellers sharing fascinating stories of all aspects of life,” said Women’s Storytelling Festival creator Robinson.

Storytelling is an entertaining way to hear another person’s story and to learn from that person’s experiences and perspective. After all, isn’t our shared culture richer when everyone’s voice can be heard and then carried out into the wider world?

Better Said Than Done’s Women’s Storytelling Festival performs Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Fairfax, VA. On Friday evening and on Saturday during lunch, there will be storytelling showcases at The Auld Shebeen, 3971 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, VA. On Saturday, the Festival will feature women storytellers performing a range of personal stories, folktales, and historical stories throughout the day at Old Town Hall, 3999 University Drive, Fairfax, VA. Early-bird ticket pricing is available until February 29, 2020. For full event details and tickets, go online.

Note: The Women’s Storytelling Festival stories are intended for a mature audience. People of all gender identities are welcome to attend.



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