Storycrafters’ latest project a bit of a stretch — literally

Jessica Fischer • Jul 15, 2013 at 1:58 PM

The Storycrafters, an internationally acclaimed duo that has been wowing audiences since 1991, will soon take a turn as Jonesborough’s tellers in residence.

During their week in downtown Jonesborough, the Storycrafters plan to share a wide variety of traditional tales, personal stories and original songs.

A husband-and-wife team that has perfected the difficult art of the tandem tale, Jeri Burns and Barry Marshall have been very busy since their last residency in 2011.

One of their newest projects has required a bit of a stretch — literally. Recently, their work was adapted by Tanner Creative Dance Program at University of Utah, which staged an elaborate production of “The Snow Queen,” the Storycrafters’ fairy tale masterpiece.

“We’ve always wanted to work with either an orchestra or a dance company,” Burns says. “It’s just been like a thing that we’ve always hoped for. And boom! It happened. They basically took our story and adapted it, developing these dances in conversation with us and the text to make sure it was working.”

The storytellers were thrilled when the production finally came to fruition. Watching the dancers breathe life into a story they had worked on for so many years was exciting.

“It was like a vision,” Burns says. “We were in tears.”

Burns has also been developing a production of Alice in Wonderland with a dance troupe near the team’s home in New York.

In working with dancers, the Storycrafters are part of the vanguard of American writers and storytellers whose modern takes on fairy tales are influencing other branches of the arts. These unique interdisciplinary collaborations are, perhaps, the future of story.

“It was a really good thing for storytelling,” Burns says. “We always want to do good things for storytelling. It’s part of our mission statement.”

The Storycrafters have also branched out into therapeutic storytelling, working with psychiatric patients in a closed-ward facility.

“Storytelling is inherently therapeutic,” Burns explains. “But because I’m also a social worker, I understand the therapeutic issues on a different level than I suppose the average storyteller would. I understand clinical issues. I used to do a lot of group therapy stuff.”

With Marshall, Burns leads roundtable storytelling sessions that incorporate elements of performance and music.

“We’re using imagery that’s healing, imagery that they can hold onto like a port in the storm,” she says. “Because that’s really what’s going on for them — a storm.” She compares this sort of goal-oriented storytelling with the programs the duo has used in schools to teach language skills and model critical thinking.

The Storycrafters’ residency runs July 16-20, with performances at 2 p.m., daily in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall, an intimate theater in the heart of the International Storytelling Center. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

The Storycrafters will also host a children’s program at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, July 20. Tickets are $5 for all ages, and ticket holders will receive coupons for 15 percent off at The Lollipop Shop, a popular Main Street store that sells old-fashioned sweets and toys.

Tickets for the Storycrafters’ matinee performances are $12 for adults and $11 for seniors, students and children under 18. (Season passes that offer savings of nearly 50 percent are also available while supplies last.) Ticket holders for all performances will save 10 percent on same-day dining at The Olde Courthouse Diner, The Dining Room or Main Street Café.

Information about all TIR performers, as well as a detailed schedule for 2013, is available at www.storytellingcenter.net

The International Storytelling Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Storytelling Live! is sponsored in part by Eastman Credit Union. Media sponsors are News 5-WCYB, FOX Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities CW, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News, Herald & Tribune and Cumulus Media.

For more information about Storytelling Live! or to make a group reservation, call (800) 952-8392 ext. 222 or (423) 913-1276.

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