Storyteller Donna Dudinsky was born and raised in Montreal. She is a die-hard Habs fan. A dedicated bibliophile, Donna studied English literature at McGill University, intending to go on for a graduate degree and teach. She got sidetracked for almost three decades, drawn in to the world of magazines, film and television. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, Donna has worked in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver with author-presenters like Gwynne Dyer, Laurier LaPierre and Gerald Durrell. Her formative years were spent at the National Film Board – researching, directing, producing. Travelling through Europe, the United States and the former Soviet Union on film shoots and research trips, she camped in the Caucasus, protected baby sand boa constrictors from the blazing sun of the Repetek Desert (she got sunstroke; the boas were fine), interviewed the man who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, and filmed the million-strong Peace Rally in New York’s Central Park. She found people’s lost loves; flew in a helicopter down the Rhine; got stranded on a mountain top. She loved every minute of it.
Getting to the “Once upon a time” business took having a child. When her son was four, she decided to take a Storytelling course so she could learn how to tell him stories. Taking that course changed her life, bringing her back to the interests she had in university: mythology, world cultures, folk tales. She began by telling stories in her son’s kindergarten class. She was astonished by the children’s reactions. Total attentiveness, immersion in the stories, delight. And the best part was when parents began telling her that their children were retelling the stories to friends and family. “I began by telling them simple folk tales and ended six months later with complex tales usually told to high school and university students. The children loved them.”
Fifteen years later, Donna is still telling stories. She has added traditional Canadian folk songs to the mix. “They tell so much about this nation’s history.” Known primarily as a children’s storyteller, she can be heard on Dial-A-Story, sponsored by the Toronto Public Library system. Recently Donna was a featured teller at the Mosaic Festival, Weaving Words, and The Legless Stocking concert series. A tour of rural schools in Ontario saw her telling stories to thousands of children from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8. She coordinates a weekly StoryTent for Storytelling Toronto where hosts tell stories and encourage others to share theirs, be they family stories or traditional tales. A frequent teller at 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling, Donna is also a member of Storytelling Toronto, Storytellers for Children and Storytellers of Canada.
Just to show life has a way of coming full circle, Donna now lives in Toronto and works in French. She is an ardent Blue Jays fan. By day, she works for Groupe Média TFO, an Ontario-funded French language educational media outlet. By night, she researches stories and traditional songs in English and in French. And every chance she gets, she shares those stories and songs.