An internationally known story performer and teaching artist, this three-time Emmy Award winner, multiple Parents' Choice Gold and Silver Award winner and Storytelling Oracle Award recipient is one of the most popular and dynamic story-educators in America today!
The faculty of the University of Missouri-St. Louis and The Board of Curators voted to confer upon Bobby Norfolk the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa. Bobby also gave the commencement speech at the graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 12, 2018. Good job Dr. Bobby Norfolk!
Three-time Emmy Award Winner
NSN Storytelling Circle of Excellence
Bobby Norfolk grew up a shy child in North St. Louis with a debilitating stutter. Son of an elevator operator and confectionery clerk, Norfolk's future was hazy when he was young. As a youth, Bobby wondered “What could a lost, lonely, discouraged kid from the low-rent blocks of St. Louis do with the rest of his life?”
Norfolk's path toward storytelling and success began in 1961 when he suddenly overcame his stutter when performing in a fourth-grade poetry recital. From that moment, his teachers helped him to grow as both an individual and a performer.
“They saw things in me I didn't see in myself, which is the mark of a master teacher, to see inside the student with low self-esteem (who) hasn't found his or her gifts,” Norfolk said in a recent interview. His teachers put him in drama class, Greek club, poetry recitals and talent shows. “Whenever I performed, I wouldn't stutter.” he said.
Bobby began his career as a stand-up comedian in 1975 at local St. Louis comedy clubs and as an actor with The St. Louis Black Repertory Co. Concurrently, he worked ten years at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis as a National Park Service Ranger. In 1979, Bobby made his first appearance as a storyteller at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival, and discovered that through storytelling he was able to combine his theatre and stand-up comedy background to become a “story-performer.” After a Scott Joplin performance at a school in Ladue, MO three teachers said: “Mr. Norfolk, we’ve been talking and we decided that you remind us of a clean Richard Pryor!”
In television, Bobby won three Emmy awards as the host of the CBS TV show “Gator Tales” and also hosted the Emmy nominated series “Children’s Theater at Bobby’s House.” Both shows were based out of St. Louis and the themes were character education, literacy, and storytelling.
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Open Letter to Mr. Bobby Norfolk, "Thank YOU"
Dear Mr. Norfolk
Yo, I just want to take the time out, to shout out Bobby Norfolk. I don't know if I every told you this, but when I was younger around 7 or 8 years old. I went to see Mr. Norfolk, perform his one man show as well as tell story's from, "Gaiter Tails". It was at the Powell Symphony Hall, and our school took us to watch this man dazzle well over a thousand children in the audience.
I remember sitting there, and being glued to his every word. When he was done, we were all on our feet. However, I was forever changed. He sparked something in me as a small Black Boy from North Side St. Louis. I finally had a live representation of what I was put here to do, right in front of me. I remember, sitting back in my seat and stating, "I'm going to do that one day."
Fast forward years later, while I'm in college, I get to share a stage with him, under the instructions of Beverly Brennan. By now this was 3 time Emmy Award Winning Bobby Norfolk. It was just him and I on stage, doing what we do, "Tell Stories" I was so humbled and blessed, because here is someone I think is a genius at his craft, allowing me to sit at the foot of his brilliance. When we were done, I was asked to perform again with him, and gladly jumped at the opportunity.
Fast Forward a few years later. I finish performing my one man show, "The Messengers" and lord behold he's in the audience, watching, critiquing, but most of all proud to see me performing. He came up to me afterwards, and the first thing he said is, "If you don't have this copy-written you better, because this show is better than shows I have seen on Broadway. Sir Ervin you are Phenomenal." Once again something shifted and changed me for the better. I understood my art on a entirely new level. So I want to say publicly, Thank you Mr. Norfolk, for allowing me to dream, to create and have the freedom and liberty to "Tell the Story." I pray, that I spark something inside of a child, that's sitting there watching me perform. You gave and give hope to the hopeless, and for that I will forever be grateful.
Sir Ervin Williams III
(A Poor little boy from North Side St. Louis)
You are Magical and Real. Now I get how powerful I am and what I have to do.
Multiple Parents Choice Gold and Silver Winner!
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