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story.lead_photo.caption Storyteller Antonio Rocha performs Monday afternoon for children at Callaway County Public Library. Photo by Olivia Garrett / Fulton Sun.

Storyteller Antonio Rocha can make even an empty room feel full when he starts to tell a tale.

Already a tall man, he looms even larger when he begins to spin together rhythmic lines with his a booming voice paired with rapid hand movements and an expressive face.

Despite inclement weather, several families made the trek Monday to Callaway County Public Library to give Rocha an audience.

"I literally thought nobody was going to come because of the weather," Rocha said after the event. "So this was very exciting to see."

About a dozen people came out to listen to Rocha.

"I call this living-room-telling," Rocha said. "It's almost like an augmented conversation as opposed to a performance."

After a bit of small talk, Rocha donned a pair of pants and a long shirt made of bògòlanfini, or "mud cloth," from Mali and introduced his first story.

"I was wondering whether I was going to tell you or not, but then when I saw the kids coming, I thought yes, I think they're going to get a kick out of this one," he said.

One deep breath later and Rocha was off — it seemed as though he didn't stop to take another until his first story, which centered on a chicken and a crocodile, was done nearly 10 minutes later.

"I thought it was really cool," 8-year-old Lilly Combs said after the event, with her brothers, Noah, 13, Taylor, 7, Asher, 6, and Judah, 3, all nodding in agreement.

Rocha told two more stories, one verbally and another solely through mime gestures, but the Combs family all agreed the first story about chicken and crocodile was their favorite.

"Looking back to when I was your age," Rocha said, pointing toward some of the children in the audience, "some of the stuff that I liked to do in my spare time had a little bit of mime involved and I did not know I was doing mime.

"One of the things I loved doing on the beach in Brazil was to go in the water and pretend I was a drifting bottle," he said.

Rocha clenched his hands to his side and began to bob around as though he was being pushed around by waves, imitating his younger self.

"I did that every time I went to the beach," Rocha said. "I was doing a mime impression of a drifting bottle."

He turned his passions into a career — moving to the U.S. 31 years ago from his native Brazil to train as a mime and attend college. A focus on body movement and facial expressions is still an integral part of his performance.

"I wish for you to be a happy person as an adult and a kind person," Rocha told the audience. "And guess what? When you're kind and happy, it's really magical. Everything falls into place."

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