Zalka Csenge Virág, also known as The Multicolored Lady, is Hungary’s first international storyteller. She travels the world, sharing Hungarian folktales with her audiences (in English, Spanish and Hungarian), and takes all the stories she learns back home to Hungary.
This is my story:
2000. I’m fourteen years old, and I decide that I want to be a bard. I am badly in love with Irish tales and mythology, and start reading about the art of professional tale-tellers.
2004. I graduate from high school. I am informed that professional bards don’t exist anymore, so I go to college to study Archaeology.
2006. During the summer break I accidentally come across the website of the International Storytelling Center. My world turns upside down. I decide then and there that I am going to be a professional storyteller. I contact tellers via email all around the world. They start teaching me.
2007. I start doing official storytelling performances; my first paid gig is the Inca Exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Arts. I receive the scholarship of the Kellner Foundation to go to the USA and learn more about storytelling.
2007/2008. I spend a whole year in the USA, studying at Trinity College, Hartford, CT. I travel a lot; I attend storytelling festivals (National Storytelling Festival, St. Louis Storytelling Festival), and conferences (Sharing the Fire, Northlands, Timpanogos). I do a one-month internship at the ISC. I meet dozens of storytellers. I make friends with amazing people.
2008. I return to Hungary; I am a professional storyteller. I even do taxes. You can’t really get more official than that.
July, 2009. I attend the FEST (Federation for European Storytelling) conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. I represent Hungary. I meet more amazing people!
October, 2009. My second time in the US. I represent Hungary at the Kids Euro Festival in Washington DC. I tell Hungarian folktales in local schools, museums, and the Kennedy Center.
2010. I receive my MA in Archaeology (Roman Era and Migration Period). Now I am a full-time professional storyteller. I perform in Hungary and abroad.
November, 2010. I do a TED talk at Hungary’s first TEDxYouth@Budapest. I talk about international storytelling to Hungarian audiences!
2011. My dear friend Körmendy Petra and I organize Hungary’s first international storytelling festival (Holnemvolt Festival). We have 6 international tellers, and lots of fun. We make plans for next year.
2011. I receive the Fulbright Scholarship to study storytelling in the USA during the 2011/2012 academic year, and get a Master’s Degree in Storytelling from East Tennessee State University!
2012. We organize the second Holnemvolt Festival in Budapest.
2012. I get my MA in Storytelling. I work as a Storyteller-in-Residence in Johnson City, under a Fulbright internship.
2013. I begin my PhD studies in the American Culture Studies program at Bowling Green State University, OH. I am researching role-playing games, digital narratives, and storytelling. I teach Cultural Pluralism in the USA.
2013. I publish my first book in English: Tales of Superhuman Powers – 55 traditional stories from around the world. It features folktales that involve classic superpowers, from invisibility to shape-shifting.
2014. We register the Holnemvolt Foundation to promote international storytelling in Hungary.
2015. I receive the J. J. Reneaux Mentorship Grant from the National Storytelling Network. During the year I am mentored by Cathryn Fairlee on telling epics and other long traditional stories.
2015. I represent Hungary and the Holnemvolt Foundation at the FEST conference on Kea Island, Greece. I am elected as a member of the FEST Executive Committee.
2016. I publish a book in Hungarian about international storytelling (Mesemondók márpedig vannak). It is the first of its kind in Hungary. It contains and introduction to various storytelling events and genres, and a chapter of practical information for beginner storytellers.
2016. I do my second TED talk, this time at TEDxBudapest at the Sziget Festival. It is about the community building power of storytelling, diversity, and representation.
2017. I receive my PhD in Culture Studies. My dissertation is on forum-based role-playing games as a form of digital storytelling. People call me Dr. Zalka. I am officially a supervillain.
2017. I move back to Hungary to be a full-time storyteller again. I work part-time with the Story Center Foundation.
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