Storyteller and historian Brian “Fox” Ellis has been researching the Corps of Discovery for more than a dozen years. He has developed four different performances; each is a blend of stories and songs, poetry and history. Audience participation and Native American chants enliven presentations for younger audiences, while complex plots and a vivid vocabulary challenge the most astute listeners. Follow this link for lesson plans.
The Comic Mis-Adventures of Lewis and Clark: Join the Corps of Discovery in this humorous and informative blend of stories and song, journal excerpts and American Indian folklore. In this dynamic overview, the journey is also put into the larger perspective of American history with stories from the tribes met along the way and adventures from the diaries of pioneers who followed the river in the footsteps of these intrepid explorers.
Merewether Lewis’ Scientific Discoveries: Imagine an evening in Philadelphia with some of the greatest scientific minds in Early American history where Merewether Lewis reveals for the first time many of the scientific discoveries of the Corps of Discovery. Encountering grizzly bears and collecting soil samples, capturing prairie dogs and hunting for antelope, Lewis catalogued 122 new animal species and 178 new plants. In this original performance Lewis sings the praises of the geology, diverse flora and fauna, and the web of life that binds us to the land. The expedition was first and foremost a scientific expedition and this program brings the scientific process to life.
Tribal Tales from the Rivers Edge: Before ethnology was a scientific discipline, Lewis and Clark collected stories, songs, and artifacts from the dozens of distinct cultures they encountered in their journey west. They kept detailed notes on tribal customs and collected vocabulary to create a rough outline of a dictionary of Indian Languages. In this dynamic performance, Fox shares both folklore and true history from the American Indians met along the way. The audience sees something of the transformation of the Corps of Discovery as they adapted to Native American life ways and they hear about life before the white man came. Not once, but several times, the journey would have failed if not for the kindness of Native Americans.
What Lies Between: Lewis and Clark’s Journey into the Unknown: Join Brian “Fox” Ellis as Merewether Lewis and Barry Cloyd as William Clark as they engage the audience in this musical theater production that recreates the night before they left, a campfire at Fort Clatsop, and the night of their return. Sit around the campfire regaling in the stories and songs from their exploration of the West.
Lewis and Clark His-Story and Natural History, too: A workshop for students, storytellers, educators and librarians. Blending creative writing ideas with interactive storytelling this participatory workshop will challenge teachers to rethink their point of view on this important event in American History. Using techniques that can be applied to any chapter of history, educators will be given an opportunity to transform research notes into dynamic performances. Using Lewis’ journals we will also explore the scientific findings of the Corps of Discovery, celebrating the diverse flora and fauna of the American West through exciting stories and songs.
Storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis has traveled much of the Missouri River Valley and performed in Fort Massac, IL, St. Louis and St. Charles, MO, Council Bluffs, IA, Wolf Point, MT, Portland, OR and dozens of other towns along the trail. He was a featured speaker at the 200th anniversary of the Corps arrival in Southern, Illinois, and the St. Louis Storytelling Festival’s kickoff, where he presented a dozen school and library programs on Lewis and Clark. He has lead teacher workshops at the Missouri Historical Society and The Field Museum where he also created lesson plans for the bicentennial. Fox read the journals of Lewis and Clark as well as excerpts from the journals other men kept along the trail. He has studied with Native Elders from the Plains Indians and Northwest Coastal tribes. During the summer he is the Riverlorian for an authentic paddle wheel boat. He is the author of three history books, two books of poetry and two books for teachers on natural history. In addition to performances, Fox is available to teach creative writing workshops focusing on historical fiction or the natural history and ecology of the region.