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Press Info



Minnesota Artist First to Represent US at International Storytelling Festival in UAE


Bloomington, MN


Professional storyteller, teaching artist, and Bloomington resident Katie Knutson will be the first American to be featured at Tales on the Island: The International Storytelling Festival in Sharjah. During her two-week trip, Knutson will perform in the festival and at schools around the United Arab Emirates and lead workshops.


“I am proud to be representing both Minnesota and the United States at this festival, and am also clear about the great responsibility it presents.,” Knutson said about the opportunity. In addition to finding and crafting new stories, Knutson has also been researching the culture and customs of Dubai.


About Katie Knutson

Knutson has reached over 50,000 MN students since moving to Minnesota in 2003, including two year-long residencies at Folwell School (Minneapolis) and Neill Elementary (Crystal), and other performances and residencies throughout the state. She has worked with hundreds of MN teachers to integrate storytelling and drama into their existing curricula. Like many trained actors, Knutson moved to the Twin Cities to work with Climb Theatre, but never left. “I fell in love with the Cities,” said Knutson, who despite living and working in other countries, always comes back. “There is such a vibrant and supportive performing art scene here. I love learning new techniques and ideas, and then bringing them back to Minnesota.” A regular at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, she is currently working on a new show that will share her personal experiences of living in Chile for 17 months and traveling throughout Europe.

A Community Pulls together

Knutson’s journey to the UAE is being sponsored by a grant from the Northlands Storytelling Network and the generous support of storytellers, teachers, co-workers, friends, and family. “I am overwhelmed by the way my communities came out to support me. I feel like I will be bringing them with me to the UAE.” 


About Storytelling

In a 2017 keynote at the National Storytelling Network Conference, poet Naomi Shihab Nye said, “People can reject your opinions, they can reject your politics, but they can’t reject your stories.” Knutson adds, “In these divided times, we need storytelling. Facts and figures don’t change minds or open hearts. Listening to the stories of other people is one of the few ways to bridge political, social and religious divides.”


This festival, featuring a rotating roster of 15 international artists, aims to do just that. Diverse tellers will share traditional stories of their culture and heritage. Knutson will be at the festival while they celebrate both International Women’s Day (where the day is devoted to stories of strong female characters) and World Storytelling Day (where the theme is Myths, Legends, and Epics).


One of the tales Knutson will share, “Featherflight,” was first published in The Journal of American Folklore in 1893. “I love this story, because it is the folklore version of the ‘melting pot.’ European immigrants came from many different countries, bringing their stories with them. As they mixed more and more, so did their stories. We ended up with stories like this one – that echo stories from many different cultures, all thrown together.” Of course, Sven, Ole & Lena will be making at least one appearance in Knutson’s performances.


About the Festival

The 2019 Tales on the Island festival is special because UNESCO named Sharjah as the 2019 World Book Capital City. This means that schools across the seven Emirates will be involved more deeply with the Festival as tellers promote literacy. “We think that Katie, with her extensive experience as a teachers' trainer and storytelling facilitator in schools, as well as a performing storyteller, will be a great contribution to our lineup,” said Artistic Director Paola Balbi. “I have had the opportunity to see Katie work both at the Storytellers of Canada Conference in 2009 and at  Raccontamiunastoria International Storytelling Festival in Rome in the summer of 2018. I strongly believe that her expertise will greatly contribute to the success and prestige of our Festival in the UAE.”


The Festival runs through March 17 in Sharjah UAE, with public programs during the Arabic weekend (Friday and Saturday), school performances during the week, and side events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Contact: Katie Knutson


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