Bil Lepp, a storyteller known for his sharp sense of humor and his wild tall tales, is storytelling season’s opening act.
He’s first up in a line of top-shelf entertainers that the International Storytelling Center (ISC) will host through the end of October as part of one of its signature programs, Storytelling Live! As the town’s teller in residence, Lepp will perform every day, Tuesday through Saturday, in the Center’s downtown headquarters.
Lepp has been telling stories in Jonesborough since 2000, where he has long since reached celebrity status.
He recently took a moment to reflect on his popularity, tracing part of his appeal to his naturalistic style. “Part of what I like to do is look like I’m making up the story on the spot,” he says. “When people ask if I’m ad-libbing, I take it as an incredible compliment. All good storytelling should feel like an extension of the supper table. It shouldn’t feel like a performance.
“Every other person in the world has a thousand stories in their head that they’ve never written down,” he adds. “In conversation, you share those little experiences from your life. Mine are just longer and in a more professional form.”
Lepp’s residency will run May 1 – 5, with performances at 2 p.m. daily. Tickets will be sold in advance, and early reservations are highly recommended. “I generally have full audiences,” Lepp says.
The storyteller often opens storytelling season in Jonesborough. “The audience is fresh,” he says. “They’re ready for storytelling after a long break. We always have a lot of fun with it.”
On the evening of Thursday, May 3, Lepp will offer a special evening concert, “Bil & Skeeter Break the Ocean.” It’s one of the many tall tales he’s written about his real-life best friend, the infamous Skeeter.
“He’s so much cooler in my stories than he is in real life,” Lepp jokes.
The nighttime performance will begin at 7:30 p.m., with tickets priced at just $15. Tickets for all matinee shows are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. Season passes are available at a deep discount for a limited time.
Lepp’s Thursday-night concert is one of many special events scheduled throughout the Storytelling Live! season, including other after-dark shows, Saturday-morning story hours for children, and story-based workshops.
Tickets for all special events are all sold separately. Ticketholders for any matinee or evening performance can present their ticket stubs for a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at JJ’s Eatery and Ice Cream; Main Street Café (lunch only); Medley Vegan Vegetarian; Olde Towne Pancake House; and The Corner Cup. Boone Street Market is offering 10 percent off prepared meals and 5 percent off any other purchase.
Information about all performers, as well as a detailed schedule for 2018, is available at www.storytellingcenter.net. The premier sponsor of Storytelling Live! is Ballad Health. Additional program funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Niswonger Foundation, Eastman Credit Union, and Food City.
The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live! or to make a group reservation, call (800) 952-8392 ext. 222 or (423) 913-1276.
Photo by Jay Huron