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Storycrafters wrap up Storytelling Live!

October 22nd, 2011 7:13 pm by staff report

The 10th anniversary of the International Storytelling Center’s popular teller-in-residence series will conclude with a string of performances by The Storycrafters.

A duo in performance and in life, Jeri Burns and Barry Marshall are experts in reworking traditional stories to make them current for today’s audience.

Finding the right balance between classic elements and modern details is an ongoing challenge for the storytellers.

“When we’re doing classic stories that are based in traditional repertoire, one of the issues that always screams at me is how to make the gender issues relevant,” says Burns. “A lot of the old stories, given when they were written down and by whom they were written down, cast men and women in gender roles that aren’t relevant in 2011. It takes time to find a way to honor the traditions while calling out to those that are coming next, and bridging that.”

Their goal is to bring out the best in the original story without feeling chained to the source material. It’s a subtle art.

“If you’re doing a play, there’s the lighting,” Burns says. “They put a spotlight here and they put soft lights there. The lighting director is pointing the way as you witness the story take place. We, too, look at these characters as lighting directors, highlighting certain aspects of the characters in the story.”

The Storycrafters’ residency, which will run Oct. 25-29, will feature daily matinee concerts in downtown Jonesborough. All afternoon performances will begin at 2 p.m. in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall, an intimate theater in the heart of the International Storytelling Center. Tickets are limited, and reservations are highly recommended.

While the bulk of their material is traditional, The Storycrafters also plan to share a smattering of personal stories and a selection of their unique raps. Music — including harp, banjo, guitar and other instruments — will play a part in every performance. And the couple has recently added in an element of traditional dance, which they encourage the audience to participate in.

Just in time for Halloween, The Storycrafters have planned a ghost story concert for 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 27. “The Crack Between Worlds” will include a wide variety of tales, running the spectrum from spooky to silly. Tickets are $15, and reservations are highly recommended.

“We have our own kind of philosophy and take on what ghost stories are all about,” Marshall explains. “During a ghost story concert, there probably will be points along the way where you’ll be scared, but we want you to be open to the idea that at some point in the evening you’ll be more than scared.

“The whole subject of life after death is mysterious, so it brings up a lot of different feelings in people when they really take the time to reflect on it,” he continues. “Some people get very excited by the idea of stories that explore that. Some people get very nervous. So you have to honor the fact that what happens on the other side is a huge question.”

Tickets for The Storycrafters’ matinee performances are just $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.

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

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