Shonaleigh is one of Europe’s leading storytellers. Having learned the Drut’syla tradition from the age of four, she carries thousands of oral stories from the Jewish tradition and shares their magic, mystery and wisdom with audiences around the world.
Shonaleigh performs at storytelling festivals and events in Europe, America and Australasia as well as working with acclaimed organisations including the BBC, Hull Truck Theatre and appearing as a special guest at The International Conference of World Affairs. She is an experienced and highly skilled performer and regularly collaborates with some of the UK’s most respected storytellers including Daniel Morden, Dr Simon Heywood and Peter Chand.
A passionate advocate for the development of storytelling as a cultural and educational tool, Shonaleigh has been involved in several projects around Holocaust memorial as well as running training for the Leo Baeck Rabbincal College. She is an associate lecturer in the University of Derby’s Creative Writing department.
For many years, Shonaleigh has shared the techniques of the Drut’syla storytelling tradition with students from across the globe. However, she is probably the last carrier of this age-old tradition.
The Drut’syla Tradition
Shonaleigh is a drut’syla, a storyteller in a Jewish tradition inherited from her late grandmother, Edith Marks (d.1988), by whom she was trained from childhood onwards.
The drut’syla repertoire comprises twelve interlinked cycles, each of several hundred tales. Training also involves a complex system of oral memorisation, visualisation and interpretation (midrash) of tales.
Historically, following training, each drut’syla (cf. Yiddish dertseyler, “storyteller”) would act as hereditary storyteller-in-residence to her own immediate community. However, the tradition was uprooted, and came close to extinction, in the mid-twentieth century.
Shonaleigh has been active mainly as a professional storyteller to a secular public. By contrast with rabbinical and official Jewish narrative tradition, documentation of the oral drut’syla tradition is sparse, and much about it remains obscure.