Thomas Doty – Storyteller

Workshops & Residencies

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The storyteller's words sizzle with depth. Layers of truth emerge as the story swells beyond sound to include a visual canvas of gestures and movements. Not only is the storyteller transformed, so are the listeners.

"One of the best of Oregon's storytellers!"

"A cultural treasure." – "A master of his art."

Since 1981, Thomas Doty has been performing and teaching native stories and storytelling. He spent many years as a Master Teacher in the Arts in Education program, where he was known for creating innovative experiences for his students. Today, he continues discovering new ways to explore and communicate the depths of his art.

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Thomas Doty teaches two levels of workshops: Basic Classes and Master Classes. All classes offer vigorous and intensive experiences for participants. Topics range from introductory to advanced storytelling and performance skills to explorations of traditional native culture, including rock writings (Old Time carvings and paintings). Voice, movement, gestures, silence, sacred sharing, and more....

Each session is a hands-on journey into the art of storytelling. In his teaching, Thomas Doty places an emphasis on developing individual styles of sharing, and finding and expressing one's own story.

Workshops are great for actors in community and professional theatres, for storytellers, for K-12 students, for college and university students, for park rangers and public speakers ... for folks who wish to hone their skills and learn to connect deeply with their audience.

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Workshops and performances are combined to create residencies that last from a few days to several weeks. Thomas Doty has been Storyteller in Residence in communities throughout the West, including schools and universities, museums, and theatres.... Residencies include staff in-services where Doty teaches the teachers, and offers ideas for follow-up activities.

There are no limits within the heart of the ancient tradition of storytelling. Contact Thomas Doty to discuss the possibilities!

"Thomas Doty is a thorough professional and one of the hardest working individuals I have met in my decades as an actor and director. He is constantly researching and exploring materials and means to bring added dimensions to the storytelling experience."

Michael Newell, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Old Globe Shakespeare Festival, Los Angeles County Schools

Native Storytelling Master Class

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Traditional native stories have a deep-rooted sense of place. How Old Time stories are performed strengthens the ties between people and their homeland. To native people, storytelling is a ritual. This Master Class is a hands-on exploration of performance techniques from a native point of view.

Native Storytelling Skills (Length is 60-90 minutes). Learn how gestures used in traditional native storytelling performances have their origins in Indian sign language and rock writing symbols, how to create a "visual" map of a story in an empty space using movements, gestures and voice, develop facial expressions that mirror the moods of mythic masks, graceful movements that emerge from primal dances, the importance of sacred numbers.... And more!


"Although I have always been quite anxious about speaking in public, I have felt the need to do more of it for my work. Since my session with Tom, I surprisingly feel a sense of excitement and anticipation about getting up in front of people now. He showed me some very simple tools that he tailored just for me, that have helped me to feel more confident, calm and professional when speaking to audiences. His enthusiasm and deep mastery of his craft are a gift he shares with wholeheartedness and skill. I am so glad he shared them with me."

Melani Marx, Energy Alignment Master, Certified Life Coach, Teacher, Mentor and Writer

In Schools


Here are descriptions of a few of Thomas Doty's workshops available for grades K-12.

  • Stories & Songs (Grades K-2. Length is 30-45 minutes.) Doty uses hands-on activities to give young students rich experiences of Old Time stories and songs.
  • The Importance of Stories (Grades 3-12. Length is 45-60 minutes.) Students learn how stories are the heart of native cultures. Stories entertain, they teach, they heal. Even during the dark years in their histories, native people have kept their stories alive. Students experience oral tradition by telling a traditional story with Doty that is passed along to them orally.
  • The Art of Storytelling – Basic Skills (Grades 3-12. Length is 45-60 minutes per session.) Students actively learn the skills of storytelling and oral presentation, including voice, movement, gestures.... Emphasis is placed on sharing, connecting to your audience, inviting them into your story. In multiple sessions -- great for residencies -- students expand their skills and create their own stories as a path to discovering their unique performance styles ... journeying yet deeper into this ancient art.
  • The Art of Storytelling – Advanced Skills (Grades 6-12. Length is 45-60 minutes per session.) This is a vigorous and intensive storytelling experience for middle and high school students who have expressed interest or demonstrated skill in the performance arts. Great for theatre arts students. Available as a single session or a sequence of sessions.
  • Reading the Rock Writings (Grades 3-12. Length is 60 minutes.) Stories and messages carved and painted on the rocks are simply another form of storytelling and native literature. Doty has participants act out short stories with gestures and movements based on rock writing symbols. A fun and active way to learn the concepts of the images.
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Common Core State Standards

Thomas Doty's stories align with educational standards, and are relevant across content areas. Here is an outline of CCSS in "teacher speak," with links to specific passages in Doty's writing that support key concepts.

Teaching Rock Writings


For years I have been teaching workshops on rock writings (native pictographs and petroglyphs). My work with Roy Phillips in our Reading the Rocks project had taken us to hundreds of sites and inspired us to start translating and interpreting the stories the symbols told. The workshop I had been teaching was in two parts: the first taught the meanings of the symbols in a presentation style and the second guided participants as they created their own stories using traditional and original symbols.

So last fall it occurred to me that the rock writings are simply another form of native storytelling. It's all literature (traditional oral telling of stories, contemporary publishing of stories, ancient stories carved and painted on the rocks). I began to notice similarities between my performances of stories and how symbols told the stories in the rock writings. Many of the rock images are based on Indian sign language. And so it was no surprise to discover that many gestures and movements I had been using to tell a story (some spontaneous, some traditional) matched the symbols ... a counter-clockwise spiral to indicate upward movement, an arm extended from the eyes to show looking a long ways, that first step of a walking movement that shows the journey has begun, and on and on.

I began teaching that first workshop not in the sit-and-listen presentational style I had been using, but instead we got up, moved around, told stories. I create a spontaneous story, the workshop participants echo everything I do, and every gesture and movement they do is a rock writing symbol. Then we draw the story on a whiteboard, look closely at the symbols, explore variations, and wow, they've got it. They've learned it kinesthetically -- it's inside them.

We found a way to engage the stories the Rock People tell. As the Old Ones tell us, the Rock People are the oldest people, the first storytellers, and their stories are the oldest stories.

More About Rock Writings

"Thomas Doty is a rarity -- a scholar whose work does not smack of lampblack or the dust of archaeology, a poet who brings the power of aptly chosen words to every facet of life, a teacher whose skills delight the young and the old."

Robert Casebeer, Poet and Emeritus Professor, Department of English, Southern Oregon University

Contact Thomas Doty