Storytelling School Opens in Philadelphia to Honor Ben Franklin; Summer Visitors Will Hear Many of the Nation’s Untold Stories

PHILADELPHIA, April 14 /PRNewswire/ — Benjamin Franklin, the inventor, the statesman, the visionary, and the man whose life story is perhaps one of the greatest American tales ever told, is about to make his mark on Philadelphia again. In May 2005, just months before the Founding Father’s 300th birthday, the Benstitute will open to train storytellers and re-enactors who will be stationed throughout the city’s Historic District for a new summer-long storytelling festival called Once Upon A Nation, opening Memorial Day weekend.

Acceptance into the Benstitute will be by audition only, and those accepted will begin their training in May 2005. The free program will consist of a three-week certification and training curriculum conducted by faculty and leaders from the University of Pennsylvania, St. Joseph’s University, Haverford College, Independence National Historical Park, The McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.

The Benstitute will train adult students in the art of storytelling, the depth of Philadelphia and American history, and customer service. Graduates will be responsible for broadening the story of the nation’s founding, making it relevant to today’s audiences. They’ll share with visitors the untold and undertold tales of women, African Americans and the many other unsung heroes who shaped the nation between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Upon graduation, Benstitute storytellers will get comfortable on one of 13 benches in and around the city’s Historic District. After ringing a special town crier bell, the storytellers, dressed in contemporary clothing, will entertain and educate visitors with dozens of three- to five-minute-long tales. Storytellers will also serve as hospitality ambassadors, assisting tourists during their visit with directions and information, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day. Stories, tours, and activities will continue into the evening hours, keeping visitors immersed in the Philadelphia experience from day until night.

“Benstitute storytellers are important to the visitor experience because they will paint a more complete picture of the people, the places and the events that shaped our nation,” said Amy Needle, executive director of Once Upon A Nation. “With the training at the Benstitute, our storytellers truly will be Philadelphia’s newest tourism ambassadors.”

The Benstitute program is being developed by Once Upon A Nation in partnership with the Independence National Historical Park, the Fairmount Park Commission, the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation.

Once Upon A Nation is an initiative of Historic Philadelphia, Inc. (HPI). Historic Philadelphia, Inc. is a non-profit organization founded in 1994 by executive order of then-Mayor Edward G. Rendell. HPI works closely with Historic District stakeholders and the hospitality community to continue to build Philadelphia’s tourism industry into an engine for economic growth. Through interpretation, interactive experiences, evening programming and Heritage Adventure Tours, Once Upon A Nation will enhance the tourist experience in Philadelphia, educate the visitor and make our nation’s history relevant to today. For more information, call (800) 537-7676 or visit

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