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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Pre-festival and special events abound at Storytelling Festival

Take a break from the tales and yarns and enjoy sitting in the festival’s  wine and beer garden. (Photo by Tom Raymond, Fresh Air Photographics)
Take a break from the tales and yarns and enjoy sitting in the festival’s wine and beer garden. (Photo by Tom Raymond, Fresh Air Photographics)
Additional photos below »

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | September 26, 2018

The National Storytelling Festival includes a handful of special events, workshops and pre-festival events in addition to its signature programming.

The Exchange Place features talent new to the National Storytelling Festival stage. It invites storytellers to share their finest tales. This year, they include Paul Strickland, Rachel Ann Harding, Simon Brooks, Jessica Piscitelli Robinson, Nestor Gomez and Willa Brigham. Included with weekend admission ticket.

The Swappin’ Ground is in the center of Storytelling Park. Here anyone can tell a story. Stop by and listen as tellers recapture the humble beginnings of the festival. If you wish to tell your own story, sign up at the Festival Marketplace. Included in the admission price.

School House Stories are just for kindergartners through third graders Saturday, Oct. 6. Free of charge to Festival ticket holders. The Family Tent hosts storytellers who tell tales and spin yarns for the young and young-at-heart. A daytime program runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Included with your weekend admission. A separate Friday only ticket can be purchased.

Story Slam features storytellers who entered for a chance to tell their tales at the festival. All their stories wind the theme of revelation throughout. Finalists are Denise Bennett, Steven James, Mark Lamb, Amanda Lawrence, Rick Merritt and Sufian Zhemukhov. Included in admission.

Separately ticketed events
Crones and gnomes and creepy things fill two nights of fanciful adventures in open-air concerts beneath the stars. Joseph Bruchac and Elizabeth Ellis tell ghost stories Friday and Saturday nights beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are sold separately, $10 for all ages.

The ever-popular Cabaret Night features Josh Gofoth and Sheila Kay Adams at 10:30 p.m., telling rollicking grown-up tales. Tickets are $20 for adults, not recommended for children.

There are two special Storytelling Studios in the theater. These studios are revealing interviews with Abby Roach the Spoon Lady and Chris Rodrigues, and Donald Davis.

The studio with Roach and one-man-band Rodrigues make you feel like you’re inside North Carolina’s lively busking scene. Roach got into street performance to make money for travels across the United Sates by hopping freight trains. She taught herself to play the spoons and became a street performer, percussionist, storyteller, radio personality and free speech activist. Rogrigues, a multi-instrumentalist, has carved out his own blues, Appalachian style, playing the guitar, harmonica and singing his takes on traditional songs. This studio is Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.Tickets are $15.

Donald Davis’ “Dusting off the Past” is Sunday at 11:30 a.m. He’ll talk about ways to access your most passive memories and how your half-forgotten past can become fodder for your own stories. Visit with Davis as he pulls back the curtain on how his stories come together and how to find and share your own. Tickets are $15.

Kevin King returns to the theater for his new one-man show, “The Best Summer Ever,” Friday at 4 p.m., and Saturday at 4 p.m. Maurice is a boy whose overactive imagination tends to get him in trouble. Relive the possibilities and wonder of summer vacation as he hangs out with his ne’er do well brother Marv, his over-achieving sister Emily, their parents and grandpa. Bill Harley provides musical accompaniment. Tickets are $15.

A Yarnspinners’ Party Oct. 6 from 5-7 p.m. supports the center. Enjoy food and fellowship as you meet the festival’s featured tellers. The Jonesborough Novelty Band is joined by some of the musically talented tellers, including Donald Davis, to entertain. Admission is a $100 donation, which supports the International Storytelling Center.

Pre-Festival Events
Two pre-festival concerts are held on the festival grounds. Celebrated storyteller Donald Davis, performs “Back to School” Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. Sometimes the lessons our teachers impart aren’t quite the ones they meant to teach. Under Davis’s expert tutelage, you’ll travel back in time to meet some of his most memorable teachers. Tickets are $20.

The Black Lilies perform Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Their blend of folk, soul, country, blues and rock has won praise from NPR, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal and Billboard. Tickets are $20.

Three workshops are held at the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall.

Elizabeth Ellis presents “Collecting and Preserving Family Stories” from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Oct. 4. Anyone who has a family never lacks for stories and collecting them can be rewarding and fun. This workshop focuses on types of family stories, methods of collection and what to do with the stories you collect. This workshop is $125, and lunch is on your own.

Tim Lowry leads “Essential Stories for Effective Communication” Oct. 4 from 9 a.m. to noon. Stories can communicate vision, goals, values, direction and purpose when strategically placed into personal presentations, advertising campaigns, social media and one-on-one conversations. Learn to replace the sound bite with meaningful stories. Tickets are $75.

Geraldine Buckley presents “Rock the Flock” Oct. 4 from 2-5 p.m. This workshop provides tools for those who desire to change people’s lives through story. Designed for ministers, counselors, Sunday school teachers, volunteers and folks from all faith-based settings. Tickets are $75.

Tickets for all special events can be purchased online at, at the International Storytelling Center in downtown Jonesborough, or on the festival grounds.

For more information or to make reservations, call ISC at 800-952-8392, ext. 221.


Topics: Storytelling

Colorful tents host storytellers and audiences throughout Jonesborough, Tennessee. (Photo by Tom Raymond, Fresh Air Photographics)