Mother-daughter storytellers explore world of Sherlock Holmes
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Mother-daughter storytellers explore world of Sherlock Holmes

Oct 15, 2015

No props. No costume changes. No notes or TelePrompTers.

Just pure, riveting storytelling.

That’s what mother-daughter performers Rebecca and Rachel Oshlag do.

The women bring their Stories Galorious program to Richmond Memorial Library Tuesday and to Medina’s Lee-Whedon Memorial Library two nights later.

The story?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.”

“It’s one of my favorites,” Rebecca Oshlag says. “It’s perfect for Halloween. It doesn’t have ghosts and it’s not supernatural but it is creepy.”

The story, also one of Doyle’s favorites, tells the tale of a young woman whose sister died under mysterious circumstances. She invites Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to her stepfather’s mansion to investigate.

“There’s a cheetah loose on grounds, a baboon and the stepfather is angry all the time,” She said. “So we have all those elements.”

The Oshlags tell the tale from memory. Just the two of them, back and forth.

It is, Oshlag said, traditional storytelling.

The Oshlags are one of a mere few in the country who use traditional storytelling methods to relay Holmes tales from memory.

They began storytelling when Rachel was in elementary school.

“They had a storytelling contest in third grade and everyone had to do it,” Rachel said. “I ended up winning at the county level and I enjoyed it so much I did it in fourth and fifth grades.”

She told “Snow White,” a story she still uses when she and her mother give demonstrations.

Rachel’s aptness for storytelling drew her mother into it, as well.

“Rachel did very well and I was a teacher and got interested in it, reading stories with expression to children,” she said.

She would go to different schools and offer demonstrations and, with her daughter, began to venture into libraries and other locations.

The two began to work professionally in 2008, mostly at schools. Budget crunches forced them to look for other venues.

Libraries seem to fit perfectly, especially with the Sherlock Holmes themes.

“Essentially, we  tell the whole story,” Rebecca said. “It’s traditional storytelling. We rely upon the story and our ability to tell it. It makes for an engrossing experience.”

The two takes turns, offering their own nuances to the tale.

“It’s challenging because we go about 40 to 45 minutes just telling one story,” she said. “This was the way it was before the advent of electronic entertainment, before cities became crowded. Storytelling was a main event, entertainment for people.”

Rachel said she sees storytelling as a mixture of acting and presentation.

“It can’t be too theatrical or it will detract from the story,” the 1999 Batavia high graduate said. “You have to use expression and hand gestures or it gets boring. It’s a unique and old art form. I think no matter how modern we get, storytelling will always be around.”

The Oshlags have found that even teen-agers, often glued to their phones, will become enticed by the art of storytelling.

“It’s something we’re hard-wired for,” Rebecca said. “Humans are suited for that. It’s something that, once we get their attention, it’s great.”

(The Adventures of the Speckled Band begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Richmond and at 6 p.m. Thursday at Lee -Whedon. Performances are free and open to the public. The program is aimed at teenagers and adults and begins with a brief discussion about the life of Conan Doyle. Visit for more information)

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