Invite history's greatest minds to your Chautauqua, classroom, museum, or conference.
Books and stories can bring to life distant times and places. The spoken word allows listeners to encounter some of the great minds in history. As an author and storyteller, Brian "Fox" Ellis has spent countless hours exploring the worlds these authors have created through their writings. The goal of these programs is to bring to life the ideas and perspectives that have shaped our world in a Chautauqua style presentation.
Often Fox speaks first person when it suits his character, but occasionally he chooses to be "a friend of" because this second person voice allows him to put the life of the author in a broader perspective and to discuss the implications of the author's work. Many of these programs come with extensive follow-up lesson plans in creative writing, history and science. Here is the most current list. Please click on the title of each program for more information about the character, links to lesson plans and letters of recommendation.
In a well researched, interactive monologue Fox portrays the movers and shakers of history, literature, art, and science:
"Brian "Fox" Ellis is the most effective first person story teller in America today. His insightful and entertaining style results in a learning experience with lifelong impact on children and adults alike. I recommend Fox, his film and other media materials to anyone wanting to provide quality educational experience, with humor and at a great financial value." Michael E. Quine,
Past Chairman and Director of the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway
and Director of the Great Rivers Chapter of The Nature Conservancy
Come spend an hour in the studio of one of America's greatest naturalists. Listen to tales of his adventures as he finishes something no one had every accomplished before: drawing every bird in North America. Audubon will enchant you with stories of his travels and travails in the wildest places on the planet. He will bring to life bird behavior and history as he saw it in the early 1800s.
With lessons on field ecology, the scientific method, art history, and bird migration, the audience is invited to imitate birds and discuss the life histories of their favorite feathered friends. Storyteller Brian "Fox" Ellis portrays Audubon in this entertaining and meticulously researches monologue drawing from Audubon's journals, essays, and letters to his friends and colleagues.
Imagine an evening at London's Royal Geological Society, with the affable, young Charles Darwin, among friends, telling the stories of his amazing adventure sailing around the world on HMS Beagle. Darwin tells humorous tales of his training as a naturalist, his insights into South American geology, his discovery of strange creatures on the Galapagos Archipelago and most importantly, the scientific evidence that lead to his revolutionary theory.
Storyteller and science teacher, Brian "Fox" Ellis steps into Darwin's shoes to model the scientific process, engaging listeners in a discussion of the facts so they can draw their own conclusions. Equal parts dramatic storytelling, stand-up comedy and show and tell, the audience is immersed in the intellectual world of one of history's greatest scientific minds. He brings a wide array of fossils, insects, plants and study skins so the audience can experience the discoveries of Darwin with hands-on analysis. Available as a Book and CD
Spend a spine-tingling evening in the parlor of Edgar Allan Poe as he recounts the tormented true tales of his life and how they led to his classic tales of terror. Do not look away as the father of the modern horror story reveals the darkness that lurks in us all, taking us on a journey into the catacombs of our basest fears.
Hear him recite "The Raven" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" as well as some of his lesser known work, work that has inspired generations of writers, writers that have dared to follow in his daunting footsteps. Poe was recently honored by the Illinois Humanities Council Roads Scholar Program.
Four Friends of Lincoln
With literally hundreds of Lincoln impersonators out there, Fox thought it would be more intriguing for the audience to see Lincoln through the eyes of his friends, giving us a unique perspective on our favorite president. This series of programs can be booked as a one man Chautauqua!
Austin Gulihur was born in Kentucky in 1807, making him two years older than his childhood friend, Abraham Lincoln. Gulihur saved Lincoln's life when Lincoln was seven, so if not for him, Lincoln would have never been president!
The Gulihur family also settled in New Salem, Illinois just a few years before Abraham arrived. Tracing his youth in Kentucky through his education in Indiana and early days in Illinois this blend of history and storytelling will give the audience a "best friend's" view on Lincoln's youth. (Ages 6 and up)
Lincoln's law partner, Herndon wrote one of the most important and controversial biographies of Abraham Lincoln. Herndon conducted dozens of interviews with informants who knew Lincoln personally. Herndon will share stories from Lincoln's life as a lawyer, his early legal training and some of the most important cases won and lost, including legal precedent that is still quoted in modern courts! Was Lincoln a backwoods, self taught lawyer or was he one of the highest paid lawyers in America in his day? (Adult program)
True stories and legends woven with traditional songs and poetry 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 poems by Walt Whitman and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow interspersing his rich knowledge of the war with classic horror stories by Civil War soldier/reporter Ambrose Bierce. (Ages 10 and up)
An Evening of Whitman's Memories of the Civil War And Our 16th President
Lincoln was a fan of Whitman's "Leaves of Grass", said to have read excerpts to clients in his Springfield law office! Whitman's most famous poem, "Oh Captain, My Captain" was written as a eulogy for this martyred hero. After Lincoln's assassination, Whitman gave regular lectures on Lincoln to rave reviews.
Fox recreates a program Whitman delivered on the Life of Lincoln woven with his Civil War poems and recollections of their misty morning encounter during the war. (Adult Program)
Meet America's pre-eminent poet as he shares the story of his life intermingled with the poems we have all grown to love. Hear eloquent selections from "Leaves of Grass," and his philosophy of free verse. Listen to tales of the Civil War in poetry from "Drum Taps."
Celebrate the life of Abraham Lincoln in his eulogy "Oh, Captain, My Captain." Few poets have transformed poetry or captured the voice of America like Walt Whitman. Come, take my hand, spend an evening immersed in the mystical delight of the old gray bearded poet. Walt is on this year's roster with the Illinois Humanities Council Roads Scholar Program, so they will cover my costs for a limited number of programs in Illinois.
Steamboatin' Down the Mississippi with Mark Twain
After Mark Twain passed away, his nephew collected stories and antidotes from famous folks who knew his uncle. Mixing true stories with heavy doses of Twain's wit and wisdom Brian "Fox" Ellis steps on stage to regale the audience as Captain Henry Detweiller, a riverboat man who piloted steamboats for 30 years in the mid 1800's. He was a friend of Lincoln, delivered troops, supplies and top secret messages during the Civil War and, like all captains, kept a log of his travels on the great river road. Detweiler spins some of Twain's favorite yarns and his adventures as a cub pilot on the Mississippi. Fox talks about Twain's craft, the life of a writer, and his boyhood in Hannibal, Missouri. As a Riverlorian and storyteller, Fox has worked on riverboats for more than twenty years and has learned by heart more than three hours of Twain's most memorable material. Jokes, tall tales and true history weave together with songs and stories from one of the world's greatest humorists.
Join Meriwether Lewis in this exciting blend of stories, song, journal excerpts and American Indian folklore. Audiences will get an insiders view of the struggles and triumphs between Lewis and William Clark, their family history and Lewis' relationship to Thomas Jefferson. The journey is also put into the larger perspective of American history with stories from the tribes met along the way and adventures of those who followed in the footsteps of these explorers.
This show can focus on the scientific discoveries of the Corps, the tribes along the river, the geography and historical context or include an even mix of these themes. Storyteller Brian "Fox" Ellis has traveled much of the Missouri River Valley. He was recently a featured speaker at the 200th anniversary of the Corps arrival in Southern, Illinois, St. Louis, Missouri and Bismarck, North Dakota.
Walking in the Footsteps of a Saint
The Miracles and Poetry of Saint Francis of Assisi
Through stories and songs journey back to the dawn of the Renaissance, to the Umbrian Valley of medieval Italy. Storyteller Brian "Fox" Ellis retraces the life of this blessed little poor man. From the miracle of his conversion to his rebuilding of the church, Fox shares the joys and struggles of one of histories most influential leaders. Fox dons a monk's robe and steps into the character of Brother Leo, one of the first members of the order and Saint Francis' personal scribe.
Depending on the interests of the host, Fox can emphasize the saint's love of nature and ecological philosophies, his work for the poor, social mission and struggles for peace, or his impact on the history of the Western world, art, history and literature. Few have had such a profound influence as this patron saint of saints. Fox traveled to Assisi, Italy to research this performance.
A monograph by Gregor Mendel, Experiments in Plant Hybridization (1865), changed the way the world looked at genetics and heredity. An Augustinian friar, Mendel laid the foundation for modern genetics and helped create a new method of scientific research, namely statistical analysis. Modern breakthroughs in genetic engineering, medicine, and agriculture are, in large part, based on Mendel's research conducted in the Abbey of St. Thomas in Brno, in what is now the Czech Republic.
Join storyteller Brian "Fox" Ellis as he steps into the robes of Gregor Mendel in this first-person characterization, transporting audiences into the monastery where, among other things, he taught high school biology. Spend an hour in a dynamic and challenging classroom, debating the future with a better understanding of the past.
Indian Legends with Henry Rowe Schoolcraft
Spend an afternoon in the parlor of this consummate storyteller and poet as he shares tales of the Ojibwa. He lived among the American Indians in Northern Michigan in the early 1800's. Schoolcraft was one of the first to make a comprehensive effort to collect folktales from the tribes he worked with. He also married a Chippewa woman and conducted extensive geological and natural history surveys of the region including an ecological survey of the Illinois Valley in 1834. He followed in the wake of Lewis and Clark and explored the lower region of the Louisiana Purchase. He also discovered and named Lake Itasca, the ‘true head' of the Mississippi.
Invite Wilhelm Grimm to your school or festival to share his love of a fairy tale well told. In this dynamic performance Brian "Fox" Ellis will regal you with stories, teach songs in German and put the fairy tales in the historical context of Romantic Literature and Germany's transition from a monarchy to a democracy.
This is a program easily adapted for young children, high school history and literature courses or German Heritage Festivals. Fox, whose grandmother is Duetch, recently taught a graduate course where he led a group of teachers on a two week adventure through Europe traveling the Fairy Tale Road. They visited Cinderella's Castle, Rapunzal's Tower and he became lost while hiking in the Black Forest with Little Red, Hansel and Gretal.
Black Hawk's View of American History
Imagine sitting around a campfire with Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kiuk-kiuk, listening to the stories of creation and the legends of his grandfathers. Drawing from Black Hawk's Autobiography and his knowledge of American Indian Cosmology, Fox portrays the reporter who transcribed and published Black Hawk's life story.
Fox weaves true history with folklore to create a tapestry of symbolic language that draws the audience into the world view of this respected leader of his people. There are traditional chants and drumming songs, including a chance for the audience to participate in a few social dances.
Travels and Travails of Marquette, Joliet, and LaSalle
Zenoble Membre was a friend of Pere Marquette who traveled through the Midwest with LaSalle, Hennepin and DeTonti. Through the journals of these intrepid explorers, Brian "Fox" Ellis portrays Zenoble, bringing to life the struggles and triumphs of their attempt to build an empire in the wilderness. Through original and traditional songs, poetry and folktales Fox allows listeners to experience first hand the beauty and grandeur of the voyager.
Audience members are invited to barter furs for trade goods, to sing-a-long in French, and to paddle a canoe through the mists of time to see America through the eyes of the first Europeans.