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Ed Stivender to be Jonesborough's Teller in Residence this week

Contributed • Jul 29, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Living up to its reputation as the storytelling capital of the world, Jonesborough is perhaps the only town in the world to have a dedicated practitioner of the oral tradition on hand at all times May through October.

Each week, a new performer travels to Tennessee’s oldest town to produce a live concert series, guaranteeing that live storytelling is available to the public at least five days a week.

The “Storytelling Live!” series, as the program is known, gives world-class storytellers a chance to hone new material and share stories in a setting that’s more intimate than the bustling tents of the National Storytelling Festival in October. (Like the Festival, Storytelling Live! is produced by the International Storytelling Center.) With elements of a storytelling lab, these matinee concerts give world-class tellers the chance to collect feedback on experiments and new tales.

For Ed Stivender, who has always enjoyed working with improvisational techniques, the chance to collect such input is invaluable.

“The audience is very important to me in developing material,” he says. “It helps me sculpt a piece. I look at storytelling as a kind of dance where the audience is your partner. These partners are constantly giving you cues about how your work is going.”

For this round of performances, Stivender will share his signature improv, folk tales, literary stories, and other humor-inflected pieces while he accompanies himself on the banjo. Performances are daily, July 30-Aug. 3, Tuesday through Saturday. All matinees begin at 2 p.m.

In addition to daily performances at 2 p.m., Stivender will host a special children’s concert Aug. 3, at 10:30 a.m. The show is especially for kids ages six through 10, but all are welcome. Tickets are $5 for all ages, and ticket holders will receive coupons for 15% off at The Lollipop Shop, a popular Main Street store that sells old-fashioned sweets and toys.

Tickets can be purchased in advance. Walk-in seating will be available, but only while until the theater reaches capacity; some shows sell out in advance. Tickets for all afternoon matinees are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. Discounted season passes are still available for a very limited time.

Exclusive discounts are available to ticketholders for the evening concert and matinee shows. Ticket stubs will earn a 10% 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% off prepared meals and 5% off any other purchase.

Stivender, who has been performing at the National Storytelling Festival since 1980, always appreciates the chance to spend time in the town he considers his second home.

“In some ways, working for the Center is like going back to see my old friends from Jonesborough, neighbors I have known for years,” he says. “It’s always a delight to see old friends from that neighborhood.”

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.

Performances for Storytelling Live! will continue through the end of October, with seasonal specials through the end of 2019.

The International Storytelling Center is open to the public from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about “Storytelling Live!”, including the full 2019 lineup, or to purchase tickets and season passes, visit www.storytellingcenter.net or call 800-952-8392.

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