Fox believes that history comes to life in a story. Take the word apart, his-story. It really is about the story. True stories bring the facts to life. Historical Encounters help audiences see these folks as real people, not just legends or icons on a pedestal. Invite Fox to bring history to life! Following isa partial list of some of his favorite themes, but if you are covering a specific chapter in American or World History let Fox know soon enough and he can often custom tailor a program to reinforce your curriculum or celebrate your themes. There are also CDs and follow-up lesson plans for many of these programs.
Civil War Ghosts and Legends
True stories and legends woven with traditional songs from the most un-civil war. Join storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis as he takes listeners back in time to the bloody battlefields, gruesome field hospitals and haunted graveyards of America’s deadliest war. In the persona of Mathias Stritt, a German immigrant who was one of the first to enlist in Peoria, Illinois and later marched with Sherman as he burned Atlanta and marched to the sea, Fox uses the intersperses a rich knowledge of the war with horror stories.
RIVER STORIES - A Natural History of American Rivers
Explore the human and natural history of the heartland's river roads through this dynamic presentation of American History. Hear the legends of the original inhabitants of the American Bottoms come to life through the stories of the ancient mound builders and the Historic Indians. Travel in prairie schooners and keelboats with the first settlers of this region. Listen to the tall tales, jokes, and river history through the writings of Mark Twain and Abe Lincoln. Learn the ecological history of this diverse habitat from plate tectonics and glaciation to woolly mammoths and buffalo grass.
The performance can focus on the human history and development of this region or the aquatic ecology of the river, depending on the needs of the host. Prairie fires and pioneer politics will blend in an epic performance of song and story, poetry and myth. With more than ten hours of stories and songs, special programs can be put together that center on specific time periods, themes or places along the river. Performances could focus on the Ohio, Mississippi, Illinois or Missouri Rivers. Though most programs include a lively mix of stories from different time periods; some of the specific topics that could be covered include:
- River Ecology is a program of original stories that celebrate the geology, the water cycle, the diverse flora and fauna, and the web of life that binds us to the river.
- Turtle Island Tales includes both folklore and true history from the American Indians of middle
- Journeys with the Voyagers is an in-depth look at the travels of the early French explorers and fur trappers of this region. It includes dramatic interpretations from the journals of Marquette, Lasalle, and Tonti.
- Flatboats and Keelboats includes many true stories from the diaries of early pioneers as well as the tall tales Mike Fink may have told sitting ‘round the fire.
- Steamboat ‘Coming is a medley of songs and stories by Mark Twain and other pilots and roustabouts who made the river their home.
- Civil War Tales, Abe Lincoln on the River, River Ghosts, and Fish Tales are just a few of the many special themes that can be explored through stories and songs.
Brian "Fox" Ellis is the cruise coordinator, Riverlorian, and resident storyteller for the Spirit of Peoria riverboat. By studying the flora and fauna, geology and aquatics, Fox has learned the natural history of these diverse ecosystems. Through interviews with the descendants of pioneers, Fox has gleaned the true stories of the early settlers. Over the past twelve years Brian "Fox" Ellis has earned an international reputation as a performer and educator as he travels the world collecting and telling tales. He has also cruised the rivers of Europe including the Vlata, Rhine, and Mosel.
Tales of Riding the Rails
Celebrate the railroads’ rich history and exciting future in this dynamic performance of railroad stories and songs. Weaving together true history with tall tales, historical fiction, and classic American folksongs this program brings listeners on board for an exciting ride through time. From the original thirteen railroads that built this town to the glory days of railroads’ supremacy, listeners will learn the facts intertwined with humor, drama, and biographical antidotes.
PRAIRIE TALES - Explore the Natural History of this Diverse Ecosystem Through Stories and Songs
Plains Indian folklore and pioneer history blend in this celebration of one of America's most diverse and magnificent ecosystems. Through the adventures of a seed, journey through the four seasons with the plants and animals that call the prairie home. Trace the geological history of the oak savanna through the travels of "Rusty", a molecule of ferrous oxide. Learn of the struggles and successes to restore the prairie to America's heartland.
Explore the human and natural history of the tall grass prairie through this dynamic presentation of ecological folklore. Hear the legends of the original inhabitants of the American Savanna come to life through the stories of the ancient mound builders and the Plains Indians. Travel in prairie schooners and keelboats with the first settlers of this region. Listen to the natural and agricultural history of the prairie through the writings of Aldo Leopold and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Learn the ecological history of this diverse habitat from plate tectonics and glaciation to woolly mammoths and buffalo grass. The performance can focus on the human history and development of this region or the biodiversity and ecology of the prairie depending on the needs of the host. Prairie fires and pioneer politics will blend in this epic performance of song and story, poetry and myth.
Lincoln Tales Tall and True
Tracing his rise from prairie state rail-splitter to America’s favorite president this blend of history and humor will attempt to disentangle the man from the myth. Told from the perspective of Austin Gullaher, a childhood friend of Lincoln who once saved his life, Brian “Fox” Ellis steps into character to allow the listeners to step back in time. With more than three hours of Lincoln Tales to choose from this program can focus on his childhood, his career as a lawyer, his presidency or give an overview of his life. This performance can also be tailored for children, adults or an intergenerational evening of family oriented entertainment. (This program was originally presented at the Sesquicentennial of Lincoln, Illinois, a town Lincoln surveyed and christened with a watermelon! Fox has since presented this performance at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and countless schools and conferences across the Midwest.)
Speaking Truth to Power
From ancient Japan to early America, there have always been individuals who dared to confront violence with the truth of their lives. The audience will visit the German prison camps of World War II and the jungles of Central America. They will sing the songs of the Underground Railroad and celebrate the freedom that one finds inside oneself. Listeners will hear true tales and learn from these historic struggles. Within the context of these stories we will learn problem-solving strategies as we participate with the main character in conflict resolution. We will meet inspiring roll models and learn the skills we need to confront the crises that are a necessary step towards personal growth.
Through these stories and songs, Brian "Fox” Ellis will challenge, enrich, entertain and inspire. He is a masterful storyteller who researched this performance for an Amnesty International Conference and then later adapted it for the Great Lakes Conference of Social Studies. I would again custom tailor the presentation to fit your needs. He also leads workshops on storytelling with an emphasis on conflict resolution, alternatives to violence and multicultural understanding.