My Biography

Hi, my name is Gerald Fierst.

When I was a little boy, my friend Michael Silverstein and I would ride our bikes around the block as fast as we could; then, careening down our driveway, we would jump from our bikes, press our backs to the garage door, and begin to tell stories about the monster who was chasing us. Coming closer and closer, sometimes big enough to shake the world, sometimes long and slimy and breathing fire, the monster would approach, and we would describe the beast, smelling its breath, hearing its roar.

I have been a storyteller since my earliest memory. When I went away to summer camp, I would tell stories to my bunk mates as we fell asleep. As I grew up, I went to Yale College where I became the chairman of the Yale Dramat. I began to understand that plays and storytelling are cousins. After college, I began to work as an actor. Actors are trained to imagine as if the world of the play is real. As an actor, I worked in schools teaching children creative dramatics. I began to understand how we make stories when we playact. I helped to start a very successful regional theater, The Whole Theater in Montclair, New Jersey. Then, one day, when my son was in second grade, his teacher Lora Cooper said to me, "You are really a storyteller. You ought to find out about storytelling." She told me to go to Tennessee where the National Association for the Perpetuation and Preservation of Storytelling had an annual conference. My wife and son and I went down there and found out that from the beginning of time, there have been storytellers who have told sacred tales, folktales, personal tales, and tales they had made up. I had been doing as a friend, as a father, and as an actor, what people had done forever and ever.

I started to call myself a storyteller. I told Jewish stories out of my own tradition, world folklore and stories I wrote. I became artistic director of the Jewish Storytelling Center at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. I worked at schools all over the United States and even in England. I worked at museums, theaters, and conferences with people of all ages. I became a very good storyteller by telling and telling and telling.

I was invited to many festivals, including the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tennessee, which is the most famous storytelling festival in the United States. My tapes and CDs won awards, including two Parents Choice Silver Honors.

Currently, I am working with two storytellers, Nancy Donoval from Chicago and David Novak from San Diego. We are the National Yakkers Theater Ensemble and we perform a show called "Someone in the Room," which combines personal stories and traditional stories to tell the bigger story of how stories connect us all to each other. The nicest thing about storytelling is that I plan to tell stories until I am very, very old. So I am looking forward to a lifetime of fun.