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Joe Wos in the news with Once Upon a Toon!
I have been honored to have many fine journalists and authors write about me and my program. Here are just a few reprinted.
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article reprinted from Tribune Review Entertainment - Special Events - December 30, 1999
Storyteller Joe Wos draws his inspiration from crowd
By William Loeffler
On New Year's Eve, Joe Wos will be inking instead of drinking. It's safe to say that of all the choirs, dancers and musicians at this Friday's First Night celebration Downtown, Wos will be the only cartoonist/storyteller performing there.
How does a cartoonist perform? By drawing the stories as he tells them, sort of a comic strip in progress. Wos, 29, of Penn Hills has developed an interactive storytelling show for children that he calls "Once Upon A 'Toon." He performs his act hundreds of times per year around the country, as well as at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum and at local schools.
To see the rest of this article, visit the Pittsburgh Live website by following this link. Storyteller Joe Wos continued...
article reprinted from The Review, November 1999
In word and picture: The king of Toon Tales weaves colorful yarns
STACY WOLFORD, Staff Writer
Bringing out the imagination in the children is a mission that Joe Wos has turned into his life's work.
But to the Pittsburgh native, being able to bring to life interesting characters on paper, and through his storytelling, is more like entertainment than a job.
WhenWos, 19, of Penn Hills, surrounds himself with a group of youngsters and their families, storytelling takes on a whole new meaning.
A Freelance cartoonist and storyteller, Wos will be a special guest performer a the Pittsburgh Children's Museum during its celebration of National Storytelling Week Nov. 15-21.
Wos is one of the few storytellers in the country who can blend his quick wit with lightning-speed drawings of original stories. A single presentation yields an average of 30 original drawings that audience members get to keep.
Wos has been working as a freelance cartoonist since he was 14. His experience led him to create the program "Once Upon a Toon." The fascinating program is an imaginative multimedia blend of storytelling and cartooning that entertains children, students and adults.
He has been performing at schools, festivals and community events through the Children's Museum's outreach program for the past five years. A cartooning instructor for 10 years, he currently teaches at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
While Wos went to college majoring in history, he never received any formal training for drawing. He now uses his background in history when telling folk tales and making stories of historic value "interesting."
"I feel lucky to be doing what I love as a profession," Wos said. "I love working with children."
Wos admits, however, that storytelling for him is even more enjoyable when he watches the adults become as mesmerized with a story as the children.
His creative performances and teaching are an important part of the Children's Museum's mission, which is to "nurture children's innate joy, creativity and curiosity."
"Joe inspires and delights the young and young-at-heart with his fascinating combination of storytelling and drawing. Audiences are fascinated when he performs "Once Upon a Toon" in the Children's Museum's Theatre," according to a biography prepared on Wos by the theatre organization.
According to Wos, his favorite orginal story, "The Smartest Dragon," is delightful, while his spin on classics and folk tales tickle the funnybone every time.
Wos says it takes a lot of practice to become skilled at storytelling and cartoon drawing, and it's a rare commodity to find someone who can combine both at the same time.
"You're not just reading but 'telling' to children, Wos said. "We sometimes tend to forget how important imagination is."
A member of the National Storytelling Association and the local organization called "Story Swap" in Pittsburgh, Wos will be a part of "Tellabration" event Nov. 20, held in conjunction with National Storytelling Week. Wos, along with eight tellers, will tell stories from 8 to 11 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
His artwork has been exhibited at Borders Books and Music. He recently completed a four by 6-foot maze, dubbed "The World's Most Difficult" by Ripley's Belive it or Not! The maze, which was intricately hand drawn by Wos and features characters that Ripley's has made famous, is on exhibit worldwide in Ripley's Belive it or Not! Museums. He has worked for such clients like presidential canidate and comedian Pat Paulsen and a Slovenian goat cheese farm.
When not writing or performing, Wos spends his time writing stories for his program, and is currently working on a children's book based on original stories perormed during "Once Upon a Toon."
Article reprinted from The Derrick, Oil City August 18, 1999
Unusual artists draw crowds at fair
By Paul Frderick, correspondent
A storyteller who uses his cartoon skills and a chain saw artist are entertaining fair-goers.
Artists don't always use traditional brushes and canvas to create.
At the Venango County Fair, there's a storyteller who utilizes his skills as a cartoonist to illustrate his stories. There's another fellow who uses his chain saws to create statues of wood.
Joe Wos of Pittsburgh kept the younger set entertained Tuesday afternoon with his folk tales and other yarns. As he talked, he drew cartoons of the quirky animals and funny people he was talking about.
"Sometimes I draw as many as 20 cartoons for a single story," said Wos, who works as a freelance cartoonist when he's not on the road telling tales.
Wos, 28, the son of a Pittsburgh steelworker, started working as a cartoonist at age 14.
"I drew for kids," Wos said. "They always asked questions about the characters I was drawing. They were curious about those figures. That's where I got the idea for this show. I figured, "why not give them the stories they want, drawing cartoons as I go along." When I tried it for the first time, the concept was an immediate hit. I've been doing it ever since."
Wos now supports himself traveling to fairs, festivals, and other public events, telling stories at each location.
"I use a lot of folk tales from western Pennsylvania," he said. "This area is rich in folk tales."
Tuesday's story, "Sam McSnead and the Squonk," is a good example. Wos said the story came from the Mt. Alto region of south-central Pennsylvania to become a commonly-told story in the lumber region of Pennsylvania a century ago.
A Squonk, he explained, is the "ugliest creature who ever lived, an animal so ugly it hid in the bushes for fear of being seen."
Sam McSnead, he said, was a mighty hunter who tried to capture a Squonk using a paper bag. Other stories come from Wos' own fertile imagination.
"Occasionally, I'll tell a classic tale, but I'll always put a different twist to it," he said.
Wos got the youngsters involved by asking them a lot of questions.
"My shows are interactive," he said. "Sometimes the kids themselves give me the idea for characters. I like it when that happens."
For this reason, no two shows are ever exactly alike," he said.
All images and text ©2000 Joe Wos Productions, Once Upon a Toon except for that of the work on this page which belongs to the respective publications and authors.