Anne Shimojima didn’t realize she had it in her.
The storyteller, who will soon appear at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough as a featured performer in its popular Storytelling Live! program, always gravitated to folk tales over personal stories—that is, until she started digging deeper into her own family’s past.
When Shimojima set aside six months to interview family members about their experiences as Japanese-Americans during World War II, she realized she had a tale on her hands that was much bigger and more impactful than the usual anecdotes that families tell and retell around their dinner tables. Her father’s parents lost their livelihoods when they were forced into U.S. imprisonment camps after Pearl Harbor.
The process of piecing together that difficult tale was valuable for the storyteller, personally and as a matter of perspective. “It gives you a better sense of who you are and where you came from,” she says. “And it’s important to pass that on to our children so they have a better sense of where they come from, too.” Part of her mission since then has been to encourage audiences to tap into their own family histories.
During her weeklong residency in Jonesborough, Shimojima plans to share the difficult, fascinating tale. Over the course of the week, she’ll host five matinee concerts, each beginning at 2:00 p.m., most of which will have a heavy focus on folk tales.
“Stories that have lasted for hundreds of years always have a grain of truth in them,” she says. “They’re not necessarily realistic, but there’s an inner truth to the stories. And I think people respond when you’re telling them something true.”
Shimojima originally found her calling as a performer when she was working as a librarian. Like a hero in a story, one day she became aware she had a hidden gift, which led to an adventure. The revelation came about when she put down the books and started sharing folk tales with her young audiences. “When you put the book down and tell the story, it’s a much more intimate experience because you’re looking into their eyes,” she says. “I was immediately hooked because the kids were hanging on to my every word.”
Shimojima’s full residency is June 4-8, with reservations recommended, but not required. Tickets for all matinee shows are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. Heavily discounted season passes are still available while supplies last.
Exclusive discounts are available to all ticketholders. Ticket stubs will earn a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at Main Street Café (lunch only), Olde Towne Pancake House, Texas Burritos & More, Krazy Krepes, Jonesborough Barrel House, the Icing on the Cake (lunch only), and the Corner Cup. Additionally, Boone Street Market is offering 10 percent off prepared meals and 5 percent off any other purchase.
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, the Mooneyhan Family Foundation, and Food City. Media sponsors include News 5-WCYB, FOX Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities CW, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News, Herald & Tribune, and Cumulus Media.
Storytelling Live! is a seasonal program that runs from April to October.
The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live!, including the full 2019 line-up, or to purchase tickets and season passes, visit www.storytellingcenter.net or call (800) 952-8392.