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Bil Lepp Opens Storytelling Season with Exclusive One-Night Concert

Contributed • Apr 15, 2019 at 8:58 AM

Thursday, April 25, will herald the start of the 2019 tourist season in Jonesborough, where the first flush of tourists take their seats to watch Bil Lepp perform at the International Storytelling Center.

Local fans will be in attendance, too, of course, but these days they compete with visitors from around the region and beyond for the limited number of tickets available for seating in the center’s intimate downtown theater.

Originally conceived as a program to stretch opportunities to hear live storytelling beyond the busy weekend of the National Storytelling Festival, the center’s Storytelling Live! is a much different scene than the Festival’s circus-top tents and folding chairs.

The quiet theater setting brings out a different side of the tellers, often performers who have become stars in their own right since storytelling went viral.

Core Storytelling Live! programming will stretch through October, with a few encore performances to follow. Resident storytellers have about a week each to perform, a unique format that gives them the opportunity to settle in, stretch their legs and experiment with new material if they wish.

Lepp’s season-opening performance will consist of a single nighttime concert, a change of pace in the program’s 18-year run. The storyteller will then return to Jonesborough in September for a full weeklong residency.

Throughout the season, daily matinees run through most of the week, Tuesday through Saturday, with a start time of 2 p.m.

Another change this year is that the series has expanded to include more opportunities to see evening concerts and Saturday morning children’s shows, which are scattered throughout the schedule.

Children’s concert ticket holders will receive coupons for 15 percent off at The Lollipop Shop, a Main Street store that sells old-fashioned sweets and toys.

And a variety of special discounts are available to all ticket holders, who can present their ticket stubs for a discount on same-day dining at most downtown eateries.

Topical workshops led by storytellers Tim Lowry, Noa Baum and Lyn Ford will also be offered at three points in the season.

Tickets for matinee shows are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students and anyone under 18. (Pricing for special events varies.) While supplies last, season passes are available with a steep discount off the retail price of regular admission.

By the end of the season, 26 storytellers will have traveled to Jonesborough for a weeklong storytelling residency. Highlights include Waddie Mitchell, the renowned cowboy poet; Irish teller Niall de Burca; Appalachian teller Connie Regan-Blake, and a one-day performance by Hiroya Tsukamoto, an exceptional guitarist from Japan.

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

Storytelling Live! Evening Concert Schedule

All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

• April 25: Bil Lepp, season-opening concert.

• May 9: Barbara McBride Smith, “Greek…or Whut?”

• May 23: The Rev. Robert B. Jones, “Lead Belly: An American Legend.”

• July 18: Andy Offutt Irwin, “Perpetual Calendar.”

• Sept. 12: Bil Lepp, “Chaos Doesn’t Happen on Its Own.”

• Oct. 2: Donald Davis, “Women Who Raised Me, Chapter One.”

• Oct. 24: Laura Simms, “Falling in Love with the World.”

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