Tickets are on sale now for the nation’s premier storytelling event, the National Storytelling Festival, held October 5-7.
In the age of fast-moving technology, it seems unlikely that thousands of audience members could spend a weekend spellbound by storytellers, but that’s exactly what happens in Tennessee’s oldest town during the first full weekend of October each year. A beloved tradition since 1973, the three-day celebration of the world’s oldest art form is expected to draw more than 11,000 fans from across the country.
The Festival’s core programming consists of meticulously produced storytelling shows held beneath big-top tents scattered across downtown Jonesborough. Those performances will run from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. The diverse lineup includes Japanese-Korean storyteller Alton Chung, who grew up with the stories, superstitions, and magic of the Hawaiian Islands; Brazilian born dynamo Antonio Rocha; Cowboy poet Andy Hedges; and Chirine El Ansary, internationally known for her performances of The Arabian Nights, the Banu Hilal epic, and Sufi tales.
This year’s featured tellers also include perennial southern favorites such as Donald Davis, Connie Regan-Blake, and Bil Lepp. By showcasing oral traditions from the South and all over the world, the Festival inspires unexpected connections and promotes cultural understanding.
To complement the Festival’s signature storytelling concerts, many of the special events scheduled throughout the weekend are included in the price of the ticket, including Exchange Place, a concert focusing on new talent; the Swappin’ Ground, where anyone can tell a story; and a Story Slam competition that offers cash prizes.
Separately ticketed events include two pre-Festival concerts also held on the Festival grounds: celebrated storyteller Donald Davis, on Wednesday, October 3, and internationally-known and locally loved band The Black Lilies on Thursday, October 4. A blend of folk, soul, country, blues, and rock, the band’s sound crosses both generations and genres. Both all-ages shows begin at 7:30 p.m., and tickets can be reserved in advance or purchased on site for as long as supplies last.
Visitors can also expect two nights of ghost stories, which are told in the open autumn air beneath the stars. On Friday night, our Midnight Cabaret will feature award-winning raconteurs of mountain life, Sheila Kay Adams and Josh Goforth, for an evening of toe-tapping music and tales.
Three workshops led by nationally-known artists will also be held on Thursday, October 4, in Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall: Collecting and Preserving Family Stories with Elizabeth Ellis, Essential Stories for Effective Communication with Tim Lowry, and National Storytelling Festival to Celebrate 46 Years of World-Renowned Storytelling Rock the Flock, a workshop aimed at motivating others through story with Geraldine Buckley.
All tickets for the National Storytelling Festival, including separate ticketed events, can be purchased online at www.storytellingcenter.net, at the International Storytelling Center (ISC) in downtown Jonesborough, or on the Festival grounds. The National Storytelling Festival is sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Tennessee Arts Commission, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa. For more information or to make reservations, call ISC at (800) 952-8392, ext. 221.