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Library Performances
Friday, June 14, 2002 - Fayetteville, Arkansas
by Amy M. Cotham
The Morning News -
reprinted with permission

Trio Presents "Activated Storytelling"

Road is home sweet home for this traveling family

Dennis and Kimberly Goza began their "Activated Storytellers" business, which presents multicultural programs around the country, in San Francisco in 1988.

In 1992, when son Zephyr was 18 months old, the parents decided to take the act on the road full time. The Gozas adapted well to life on America's roadways; museums and libraries became their living rooms, Kimberly Goza says, and campgrounds and motels became their dwelling places.

The Gozas eventually traded in the hassles of recreational vehicles for a van, which is easier to navigate and maintain. Through the years, the invention of laptop computers, the Internet and cell phones have also made it easier to maintain professional and personal contact on the road.

Red Riding Hood keeps her cookies away from the wolf - click for current touring show

But even with such modern conveniences, parenting on the road has its complications. When Zephyr was only 3, the Gozas' baby sitter canceled minutes before they were about to perform. With the keen adaptation skills they had learned along the way, the Gozas went ahead and did the inevitable: They made Zephyr part of the act.

"He had wanted to perform for awhile, and he did well," Dennis Goza remembers, and Zephyr has been part of Activated Storytelling ever since. Early on, the youngest Goza played small roles that allowed him to "really ham it up," his father says. Later on, Zephyr began playing parts that his father had first performed. "He was a very good mimic," Dennis Goza remembers. "We couldn't keep him off the stage."

Now 11, Zephyr's role in "Activated Storytellers" is a big part of the appeal for the troupe's audiences, which are mostly children. Tuesday at the Springdale Public Library and Wednesday at the Fayetteville Public Library, the Gozas will perform their newest program, "Star Spangled Stories: Tales Celebrating America's Cultural Diversity." The program is a patriotic tribute celebrating the many cultures that make up America.

Other kids can join Zephyr on stage; prior to their performances at each venue, the Gozas conduct workshops with local youngsters and then incorporate them into the act.

Kids fit right in to the Gozas' style, which Dennis Goza describes as "very physical. 'Activated' is the key word." The Gozas performances include slapstick comedy, gymnastics, acrobatics, balancing acts, sign language and interesting props, Dennis Goza says adding, "When you perform for kids you do much broader things."

Although the Gozas primarily entertain children, the family also performs for adults at places like senior centers and art centers. All ages can appreciate the witty scripts and their relationship to literature and reading, the Gozas agree.

Presenting their entertaining teaching style to different ages is proof of Goza's statement; "We view education as a lifelong endeavor."

Zephyr's own core education has taken place on the road, with the world becoming his classroom during his family's travels. By next year the Gozas will have visited more than 40 states, and Zephyr has studied tide pools in California, plantation life in Mississippi and crayon making in Pennsylvania.

The Activated Storytellers performance at the Springdale Public Library is free and open to any child. To attend the Activated Storytellers' performance at the Fayetteville Public Library, children must be participants in the library's summer reading program, "Reading Road Trip, U.S.A."

The program, meant for elementary-age students, is one that encourages children to read books of their own choice and then document what they have read. Last year, more than a thousand children joined the program, a record the library staff is hoping to beat this year. More than 600 students have already signed up this summer, and the program has been expanded from 6 to 12 weeks. Through "Reading Road Trips, U.S.A.," the library presents several evening, daytime and weekend programs appropriate for families.

The Activated Storytellers' performance at the FPL is funded by the Friends of the Library and Stephens Inc.

To become a member of "Reading Road Trip, U.S.A." children need only to come to the FPL and sign up. Newcomers to the program may sign up as late as Wednesday to participate in the Activated Storytellers but are encouraged to come early, Greenwood says.

The Springdale Public Library is at 405 S. Pleasant St. in Springdale, and the Fayetteville Public Library is at 217 Dickson St. in Fayetteville.

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To schedule an telephone or live interview with the Act!vated Actors (Dennis or Kimberly Goza) call (800) 429-6576.

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