A Performer's View of Her Audience

WHEN Jennifer Justice talks, children listen. Their eyes fasten upon her as she draws them into her imaginative world. As a professional storyteller, Ms. Justice has performed at more than 300 schools around the country. She has earned the endorsement of the West Suburban Creative Arts Council, a parent group near Boston that brings performing artists into the schools.

``I call them the `hidden underground,''' says Justice. ``Without these groups of women, we performers wouldn't be in the schools.'' Justice began telling stories to adults five years ago. Now she's discovered that kids are her favorite audience. ``I like how accessible children are with their feelings. They're so willing to `jump in' with you,'' she says.

Justice tells stories that reinforce what the children are studying in class, such as Greek myths or American history. She sometimes searches through old diaries, letters, and history books to find a character to tell a story about.

One person she came across was 13-year-old Peter Slater, who sneaked out of his bedroom window so he could participate in the historic Boston Tea Party. ``I thought, `What a great story!''' she exclaims.

Justice does between eight and 13 shows a week. Such a rigorous schedule has ``strengthened my imaginative skills,'' she says, ``because the kids are willing to go anywhere I want to go.''

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