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World tale-teller Oba William King to host live concert series

Contributed • Jul 22, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Dipping into tall tales, African folk tales, music and personal stories, acclaimed storyteller Oba William King will soon begin a weeklong artistic residency at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough.

With five days of live programming, July 23 to 27, King plans to share a variety of stories from his repertoire, accompanying himself on a traditional djembe drum. The versatile storyteller has a background in Shakespearean drama, dance and underground theater.

King is also a veteran of the spoken word poetry scene in Chicago. When he first moved there in the late 1980s, he organized a poetry night at a popular jazz club that attracted the likes of Gwendolyn Brooks. One evening when she was in attendance, King spotted Brooks and asked her to perform.

“When she came to the stage, she looked at me and smiled and said, ‘I could listen to you talk all day,’ ” he said. “It was like she knighted me. I'm an actor, I'm a writer, I'm a poet, and when she said that, the door opened up for something more.”

As a kid from a military family, King was born in South Carolina and raised mostly in San Bernardino, California, but has lived all over the United States. Before he became a performer, he spent several years in the military himself, which helped pay for his education.

As a performer, some of King’s favorite genres are ancestral stories and West African folk tales, including traditional stories about the trickster Anansi. But most of his work is a curious blend of the past and the present, with modern details livening up older tales.

King, who is also a children’s book author, will host a special children’s and family concert on Saturday, July 27, at 10:30 a.m., in addition to his daily matinees. The show will be geared toward ages 6 through 10, with all ages welcome. Tickets are just $5, 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.

Advance purchase for tickets for King’s performances at the ISC is recommended, but not required, with walk-in seating available while supplies last. Tickets for all 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.

More 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.

ISC’s “Storytelling Live!” series will host a new performer for matinee performances each week through the end of October. The series includes special evening performances and workshops.

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!” will run through the end of October, with special encore performances through the rest of the year.

The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. to 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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