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Storytelling Live Launch Celebrates 20 Seasons

(Jonesborough, Tenn.)  Spring is storytelling season in Tennessee’s oldest town. Storytelling Live, the International Storytelling Center’s visionary performer-in-residence program, brings a new teller to Jonesborough each week for daily matinee concerts and other service-based performances in the wider community. 

The lineup for the program’s milestone 20th season has been announced, with storytellers offering regular performances at the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall in downtown Jonesborough through the end of October. The 26 artists represent a range of storytelling traditions, music, and more from across the United States and all over the world.

Storytelling Live was created to showcase the country’s best talent for residents and regional tourists who want to get a taste of one of Appalachia’s oldest folk arts. Inspired by the seasonal calendars in adjacent performing arts like opera and ballet—or sports seasons, if you prefer—the six-month storytelling season gives people the chance to hear a wide variety of voices in an intimate setting. The unique format allows performers room to experiment and innovate as they spend the week getting to know the storytelling capital of the world.

The 2023 season will begin with an entertainer who has become one of the National Storytelling Festival’s most popular voices, South Carolina storyteller Tim Lowry. A high-energy performer who’s inspired by show business and his love for humor, history, and holidays, Lowry will take to the stage for daily matinees Tuesday to Saturday, May 2 – 6, at 2 p.m.

A number of evening concerts are sprinkled throughout the season, including a Father’s Day concert by Bill Harley, Western music and cowboy poetry from Brigid Reedy, personal stories from Donald Davis, Regi Carpenter, and Peter Chand; and a stunning Middle Eastern folk tale from Chirine El Ansary.

In addition to live concerts, one virtual performance will be offered each week. This state-of-the-art option works well for people who aren’t available to travel, as well as anyone who prefers to watch from home.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to drop in for a show,” says Susan O’Connor, ISC’s director of programs. “Accessibility is one of ISC’s core values, so we’ve worked hard to design an online experience that is simple to set up and delightful to watch.”  

In-person tickets for matinee concerts are $14 each for most adults, with discounts for seniors, military, students, and children under 18; all tickets are just $7 on Saturdays. Reservations are recommended (but not required), as many performances sell out in advance. During their weeklong residencies, most storytellers craft a completely different performance each day to accommodate audiences who wish to attend more than once.

All in-person performances will be staged in ISC’s on-site theater, which can accommodate up to 95 listeners. The price of virtual admission is just $15 per household, allowing people to share the performance with anyone in their home from Friday at 2 p.m. until Monday at midnight. A limited number of season passes are available for just $175, almost 50 percent less than the price of regular admission.

The premier sponsor of Storytelling Live is Ballad Health. Additional program funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, Niswonger Foundation, East Tennessee Foundation, ETSU, Carol & Bobby Frist, the Norris Family Fund, Eastman Credit Union, Bank of Tennessee, and Trail Head Lodge. Media sponsors include the Herald & Tribune, Kingsport Times-News, Johnson City Press, News Channel 11, WJHL 11, ABC Tri-Cities and Daytime Tri-Cities.  

The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live, including the full schedule, or to purchase tickets and season passes, visit www.storytellingcenter.netor call (800) 952-8392.