Behind the Storyteller’s Circle: Mitch Capel and Sonny Kelly

Date Posted: Oct 19, 2017

The African American Society has partnered with storytellers and actors, Mitch Capel and Sonny Kelly, to bring the “Storyteller’s Circle: The Color of Courage” to the 2017 Foo Foo Festival. To prepare you for this captivating event, here are some facts about who the storytellers are and how “The Color of Courage” started.

Mitch Capel is an award-winning storyteller, writer, artist, author, actor, and poet. Capel was born and raised in Southern Pines, North Carolina, where he grew up listing to his grandmother, Elnora Leak Capel, read “The Life & Works of Paul Laurence Dunbar.” Storytime with his grandmother planted a seed in Capel, and years later—after his father re-introduced him to the works of Dunbar—he began studying the book and memorizing it. That led to the creation of his famed character Gran’daddy Junebug, who is a tribute to his grandfathers who passed away when he was young.

Throughout his career, Capel has performed at a number of events and venues, from the Kennedy Center and the United Nations to the International Folk Festival and the National Black Storytelling Festival. And since he began his storytelling in 1985, he has memorized more than 70 percent of Dunbar’s work. In fact, Capel is known as the “national interpreter” of the poet laureate.

Sonny Kelly is known as a world-renowned performer, storyteller, motivator, speaker, writer, and comedian. A graduate of St. Mary’s University (where he received an M.A. in Communication Studies) and Stanford University (where he received a B.A. in International Relations), Kelly served the nation as a U.S. Air Force officer. He has also served as a nonprofit organization director, university admissions counselor, pharmaceutical salesman, college communications instructor, and church youth pastor. He has long loved the theater and performance, having acted professional—both on stage and television—for more than 20 years. He has also performed as a storyteller for a number of audiences, including the National Association of Black Storytellers and the Black Storytellers’ Alliance. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in communication and performance the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Capel and Kelly first met in 2003 during a production at the Cape Fear Regional Theater in which they were both performing. They had an instant connection, and Capel began inviting Kelly to his one-man shows. Eventually, he invited Kelly to join him in the performances. They debuted the reworked “Color of Courage” last year, and have performed the dynamic act all over the country.  “The Color of Courage” is just one of many events you’ll experience at this year’s Foo Foo Fest.

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