Mitch Capel / “Gran’daddy Junebug”… storyteller, recording artist, poet, actor and author was born and raised in the small town of Southern Pines, North Carolina. Since 1985, he has been bringing stories to life and delighting audiences throughout the United States with his warmth, wit and compelling storytelling style. Elnora Leak Capel, (his grandmother) read to Mitch at the tender age of three from “The Life & Works of Paul Laurence Dunbar”(1872-1906) and the rhythm of the story was planted like a seed. The genius of Dunbar’s work coupled with the joy in his grandmother’s eyes and the passion of her delivery left an indelible impression in Mitch’s heart. Later, Mitch and his brothers were encouraged by their parents to memorize the works of great poets to recite at church and civic events. It wasn’t until Mitch finished college that Dunbar would re-enter his life. His father, Felton Capel, shared stories of his youth and “creek talk”(a term he used to describe the dialect of his hometown of Windblow, NC) and one day gave Mitch the same Dunbar book that had been used by his grandmother and the source of his family’s entertainment for generations. His father said, “If you love that ‘creek talk’ you’ll love this…”and he handed over the book. Mitch’s father was right…the next seven years he studied that book, examining every word, every nuance, every moral and every intention of the author.
After re-discovering “A Cabin Tale”, Mitch started reading the story poem to his kids every night and memorized it. He told a friend the story one day, was invited to tell it at a banquet where there were teachers in the audience, who subsequently invited him to their school. The seed that was planted over twenty-seven years earlier was being nourished and beginning to sprout. Using make-up and baggy clothes, he developed the older character “Gran’daddy Junebug” to deliver the words because he felt a young man (such as himself) wouldn’t be as convincing. The character is a tribute to his own grandfathers who passed when he was young, two elderly gentlemen he adopted to fill the void and a way to pay respect to the elders. The “blossoming” was evident when Mitch’s grandmother reached a point where her memory was failing her…he sat on her bed and started reciting “A Cabin Tale” at which point she started reciting with him…then laughed and said, “boy, you remembered that story!” Not only did he remember, he is now one of the most sought after storytellers in the world!
Mitch Capel / “Gran’daddy Junebug”since his first step on the journey of storytelling in 1985, has memorized over 70% of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s work and is considered the “national interpreter” of the poet laureate. He claims that now he doesn’t need “make up” for his character…he just “shows up!” He has used his talent for voiceovers as Dunbar on film; is considered the “national interpreter” of the famous poet laureate and it is Mitch’s voice you hear as Paul Dunbar on the kiosk at The Wright/Dunbar Interpretation Center in Dayton, OH. While researching Dunbar he discovered other poets such as William Cullen Bryant, James David Corruthers, Henry Franklin Bryant, Raymond Garfield Dandridge, Helen Wheeler Wilcox, Oscar Brown, Jr., (and others) and in the interim, Mitch became a poet. He has over 33 hours of stories and poems stored into his memory with over 90% of those works in the form of rhyme.
Mitch Capel / “Gran’daddy Junebug”,who calls his style of storytelling “sto’etry” (stories recited poetically), has been described as a “word magician”, a “national treasure”, “unexpectedly powerful”and a “transformer of lives”. He has been featured at numerous festivals including The National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN & The Timpanogas Storytelling Festival in Orem, Utah; The Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC; The 2009 Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC and annually at both The National Black Storytelling Festival (since 1988) and The Signifyin’ & Testifyin’ Storytelling Festival in Minnesota (since 1994)…where he is the official emcee of both “Liar’s Contests”. He has performed at hundreds of venues including The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC; The United Nations & Aaron Davis Hall in New York; The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH; The DuSable Museum in Chicago; Newark Symphony Hall and at AAPAC in Albuquerque, NM. He was Artist-In-Residence at The International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, TN and invited by the Smithsonian to perform in Washington, DC for the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama. He has been featured on National & International Public Radio, has performed his character education programs in over 2,000 schools and has received numerous awards from local, state and national organizations for his work as a storyteller, including “The Zora Neale Hurston Award”, the highest honor given by the National Association of Black Storytellers. Mitch also co-founded the African American Storytellers’ Retreat held annually in the spring at various sites throughout the state of North Carolina since 1990.
Mitch Capel / “Gran’daddy Junebug” has created award winning cassettes, CD’s, DVD’s as well as a motivational book, “The Jealous Farmer”. He has produced, collaborated and performed on a series of DVD’s including “Jump Back, Honey, Jump Back”, “In Days Gone By”, “Stories for Grown Folks”and “The Kings & Queens of Storytelling”. Mitch has also performed on documentaries with Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka (on Paul Laurence Dunbar) as well as with Ruby Dee (on Langston Hughes). He played a union soldier in the historical PBS documentary “Filling the Gap”(which was nominated for a NAACP Image Award). He also premiered a program “W’en Dey ‘Listed Colored Soldiers”(a journey through the eyes of individuals who fought in the civil war) at the “National Teacher Institute” at The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC in 2005 and subsequently performed the program twenty three times the following February for various attendees’ schools. His stage credits include “Driving Miss Daisy”, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a new production by Walter Allen Bennett (which had its world premiere in Fayetteville, NC)“And Then Came Tomorrow”.
Mitch Capel, / “Gran’daddy Junebug”,hobbies include: collecting the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar, writing, landscaping, and collecting art. He is also an avid golfer because he says it was a pre-requisite growing up in the Pinehurst/Southern Pines area...“I love the challenge, the beauty, the tranquility and the camaraderie that golf offers. Besides, golf is a lot like storytelling in that it teaches us valuable life lessons.” He attended A&T State University in Greensboro, NC and Howard University in Washington, DC studying speech and theater but, more importantly, he is “a full time honors student at the University of Life”.
Gran’daddy Junebug Writes…
“Good storytelling is like poetry to your ears…good poetry is storytelling at its best. Storytelling and poetry go together like hand in glove. Ninety percent of the stories I tell are in rhyme so I coined the term “sto’etry” to describe my unique style of telling.”
“At the tender age of three, my paternal Grandmother read to me the story poem “A Cabin Tale” from the ‘Life and Works of Paul Laurence Dunbar’. The genius of this work coupled with the joy in my Grandmother’s eyes and the passion in her delivery left an indelible impression in my heart. Since 1985 I have been performing the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar, myself and others at festivals, schools and various venues throughout the United States.”
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