Ford’s unique repertoire includes a broad range of Southern-fried tales, including Jack tales and stories from the Underground Railroad (coded tales that were designed to help people know where to find stops).
She started compiling her extensive catalog of tales early in life, particularly Br’er Rabbit stories — her father’s specialty. A Memphis native and Pennsylvania transplant, his Southern accent would surface occasionally during bedtime stories.
“There would be this kind of Tennessee twang that would come out as he was telling the stories,” Ford recalls. “I think I do the same thing because I start to remember the people who shared their stories when I’m telling them.”
Ghost stories were another family favorite. A fearless child, Ford always requested stories that scared her brother and sister. Today, she has a range of spooky tales — a few silly ones for younger crowds, and some scarier tales for adult audiences.
“Ghost stories are a safe way to face your fears,” Ford says. “They never really scared me when I was a child. My great-grandmother always told me that dead folks don’t bother you much. It’s the living folks you need to worry about.”
Today, Ford considers herself a fourth-generation storyteller, continuing a tradition she learned from her father and his forebears.
“I was the first one to get paid for running my mouth,” Ford says. “At least that’s what I tell people. I think my grand nephew is probably the next storyteller in the family. He’s 5 years old, and he can tell a tall tale in a minute.”
In addition to Appalachian folklore and personal stories, Ford’s residency will showcase a range of teaching stories and the so-called “how and why” tales, which she has collected from many cultures around the world.
“I think people can relate to the stories, regardless of their cultures and traditions,” she says. “It’s jogging memories and helping people to remember their own stories and connect to them.
“I love making that connection with an audience. Suddenly, everybody is like a friend or family. That just feeds my heart.”
During her week-long residency, which runs Aug. 27-31, Ford will perform at 2 p.m., daily at the International Storytelling Center. Each performance is likely to include a mix of music, folk tales and ghost stories appropriate for all ages.
Tickets for $12 for adults and $11 for seniors, students, and children under 18. All ticket holders will save 10 percent on same-day dining at The Olde Courthouse Diner, The Dining Room, Jonesborough General Store and Eatery or Main Street Café.
All concerts will take place in Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall, an intimate theater in the heart of the International Storytelling Center. Shows are appropriate for all ages and reservations are strongly recommended.
The teller-in-residence program is curated by the International Storytelling Center. Also known as the Storytelling Live! series, the popular concerts attract a parade of world-class storytellers to Jonesborough through the month of October.
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.