Laura Simms is an award winning performer, writer, and educator advocating storytelling as compassionate action for personal and community transformation. She performs worldwide combining ancient myth and true life story for adult and family audiences. She is the Artistic Director of the Hans Christian Andersen Storytelling Center in NY and the founder of The Center for Engaged Storytelling (new). She has been a Senior Research Fellow for the International Peace institute at Rutgers University Newark under the auspices of UNESCO. As a spokesperson for storytelling she presents keynotes and workshops in conferences, villages, schools, universities and community events. She is a member of the Therapeutic Arts Alliance of Manhattan, and a senior teacher of Shambhala Buddhist meditation. Laura received the Brimstone Award for Engaged Storytelling, CHOICE award for best story collection and Sesame Street’s SUNNY DAYS award for work with children worldwide. In 2011 she recieved a Life Time Achievement Award from the National Storytelling Netwrok. She is co-faculty with Terry Tempest Williams’ at University of Utah, consults with ETSU’s CANCER STORIES project, and is spoken word consultant for Foundations, NGOS working in post disaster and conflicts. She recently appeared at the Newark Peace Summit and the Conference on World Peace and Values in Monterrey, Mexico. Her Most recent book is OUR SECRET TERRITORY: The Essence of Storytelling (Sentient Publications, June 2011). She is completing a new work: THE SANCTUARY OF A STORY (TBA). Laura is the mother of best selling author Ishmael Beah.
Donna L. Washington is a professional storyteller, actress, and author. She started performing at age six. She has adapted folktales into two full-length stage productions at Chicago’s Upstage Downstage Theater and performed at numerous storytelling festivals. She is the author of “The Story of Kwanzaa, and she received a Parents’ Choice Award for her recording “Live and Learn: The Exploding Frog and Other Stories.