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Jessica Fischer

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Storyteller adds family tales to repertoire

September 10th, 2011 2:15 pm by Jessica Fischer

Storyteller adds family tales to repertoire

Antonio Rocha

The International Storytelling Center’s teller-in-residence series continues to celebrate its 10th anniversary season with a week’s worth of performances by storyteller and mime Antonio Rocha.

Rocha will offer daily matinees throughout his residency, which runs Sept. 13-17. All concerts begin at 2 p.m. in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall, an intimate theater in the heart of the Center’s headquarters in downtown Jonesborough.

Tickets are limited and reservations are highly recommended.

Rocha is celebrated for his unique take on traditional storytelling, which incorporates fluid movement into the spoken form. (He studied under master mime Tony Montanaro.)

“Mime is an eloquent body language,” Rocha says, observing that it’s used, to some extent, in all storytelling. “When somebody is on stage making facial expressions and gestures or leaning towards the microphone, that’s all body language. Even when you’re sitting down, you’re doing it. So to a certain extent, everybody mimes a little bit, whether they realize it or not.”

While Rocha is widely known for his folk tales, he has recently expanded his range to include a number of more personal tales.

“For the last five years, I’ve been developing a very rich repertoire of family stories,” he says. “When I started storytelling I thought I was too young to tell stories about myself, so I thought I’d stick with folk tales.”

But the more he worked with traditional stories, the more Rocha realized his own life followed similar rhythms and rules.

“Folk tales eventually helped me recognize all those archetypal characters in my own life,” he explains. “Folk tales aren’t about crocodiles and chickens; they’re human characters played by animals. I woke up to the fact that, my gosh, there’s a lot of stuff from my own life that I want to bring to the stage.”

In addition to stories about his childhood in Brazil, some of Rocha’s favorite personal pieces revisit his first years in the U.S.

“There are all these little snippets of my life in America, such as my story about being a millionaire for five minutes,” he says. “Now, you have to understand that I was a college student. I didn’t know much about American culture at the time. I got a letter from Mr. McMahon saying I had won a million dollars. I almost had a heart attack. My name was spelled right. Nobody spelled my name right in those days. I have five names, and they were all written correctly!”

It was a dark hour when Rocha’s American friends had to explain the phenomenon that is Publishers Clearing House.

“I was like, what do you mean I didn’t win anything!” he recalls, laughing. For someone who gained and lost a fortune in the course of one day, he was a very good sport.

During his week in Jonesborough, Rocha also looks forward to sharing a wide range of Brazilian and African folk tales. He relishes the opportunity to play with new forms and showcase new material for the Storytelling Live! series.

“It’s always good to come back to TIR,” he says. “It’s great to present new material and connect with new faces and the folks who know my work.”

Tickets for Rocha’s performances are $12 for adults and $11 for seniors, students and children under 18. Ticket stubs will save audience members 10 percent on same-day dining at Bistro 105, The Cranberry Thistle, The Dining Room or Main Street Café.

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

Storytelling Live! is sponsored by Mountain States Health Alliance and Phil Bachman Toyota Scion. Media sponsors are News 5-WCYB, FOX Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities CW4, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News and Citadel Broadcasting.

A detailed schedule of the 2011 Storytelling Live! season is available at www.storytellingcenter.net.

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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