Somehow, the term “storytelling” simultaneously conjures visions of primeval campfires and modern marketing departments. It’s an elastic and unbreakable concept that has been used to transmit the ineffable “truths” of our lives for millennia. Lately, however, it’s also become vogue corporate jargon – more akin to storyselling. Google “storytelling business” and you’ll get headlines like “The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool” and From Bedtime to the Boardroom: Why Storytelling Matters in Business.”

Local narrative impresario and comedian Dave Pokorny plans to fix this – at least in Petaluma. Next Fall, he and his wife Juliet Pokorny launch the Wine Country Storytelling Festival. Providing a taste of the tales to come is award-winning storyteller Bil Lepp who performs tomorrow evening at the Mystic Theater.

“I can’t wait.  When I saw him the first time at a festival, it was about two minutes into his first story and I started looking through the guide to see when I was gonna be able to see him again so I wouldn’t miss him. He’s outstanding,” recounts Pokorny, who, for the past six years, has produced the stellar storytelling series Westside Stories, hosted at Sonoma Portworks.

Preview the Wine Country Storytelling Festival

Lepp’s performance, which also features Westside Stories veteran Bradford Rex as an opener, is part preview and part fundraiser for Pokorny’s new festival. Lepp was awarded the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award and has been featured 15 times at the National Storytelling Festival. He’s performed at major storytelling festivals including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and is a five time champion of the West Virginia Liars’s Contest.

The storyteller recently headlined the Bay Area Storytelling Festival, which shuttered in May after 30 years. Pokorny hopes to fill the void left by the festival’s departure with his new event, which goes live October 13 and 14, 2017.

“Bil is the caliber of teller that I want to bring to town,” says Pokorny, who adds with a devilish gleam in his eye, “People need to realize, as Bil says, ‘Storytelling is not for kids anymore. There’s grownups involved.’ It’s fun.”

Bil Lepp: Because You Can’t Handle The Truth, a fundraiser for the Wine Country Storytelling Festival 2017, begins at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 16 (doors open at 7 p.m.), The Mystic Theater, 23 Petaluma Blvd North, Petaluma. Tickets are $20 online ( and $25 at the door. For more information, call (707) 477-4416 or visit

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