Hearkening back to his earliest days as a storyteller in the 1970s, Holt has recently found himself returning to some of the folk tales he first learned as a young man studying his craft. Early in his career, he sought out musicians and storytellers living in the far reaches of the South to learn treasured tales, songs, and techniques.
During his time in Jonesborough, Holt plans to share many of these stories and songs.
“Every day I try to do something different,” he says. “I also tell some personal true-life stories, but I hate that we’ve put so many of the folk tales aside. They’re really for anybody who wants to hear a good story.
“I’ve been telling some of these stories for so long, they’re like elements of my personality,” he adds. “I try to inhabit the story.”
Holt likes to perform with large photographs of the people he’s talking about, portraits that he made himself during his visits. “It puts folks in context,” he says. “You can see the person who the story came from and get the feeling that folk tales were told by people, not just stories that came out of books and libraries. I tried to capture people with that moment of wisdom in their face. Most of those folks were pretty darn smart — very intelligent — even though many of them weren’t educated. So I tried to get that look in their eye.”
During his time at the International Storytelling Center, Aug. 20-24, Holt will offer daily matinees beginning at 2 p.m. All performances will take place in ISC’s downtown headquarters.
“I love the audience there,” Holt says. “They give great feedback, which is what you want as a performer. I also love Jonesborough, and just being there for a week. It’s the people and the place.” He plans to bring an array of instruments, including several banjos, regular and slide guitars, the washboard, a jaw harp that was a gift from Dizzy Gillespie, and others.
In addition to the stories he collected from the mountains, Holt will share stories from his 14 years on the road touring with the late Doc Watson, the folk music icon. “At the hotels where we’d stay, I was always in the next room,” Holt says. “I could hear him playing songs he never played at any other time onstage. I’d just lie in bed and listen. So I wrote a song about that, and I’m also going to sing some of those songs I heard through the hotel wall.”
Storytelling Live! tickets can be purchased via the International Storytelling Center in advance (which is recommended), but walk-in seating remains available while supplies last. 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.
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 its regular programming through the end of October before hosting a few seasonal performances through the remainder of the year.
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.