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Tellers spreading gift of story

November 25th, 2011 4:16 am by staff report

Tellers spreading gift of story

From left, storytellers Bil Lepp, Kim Weitkamp and Andy Offutt Irwin will premiere their new holiday program, 'An Uncalled for Christmas,' Dec. 1-3 at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough. Courtesy of International Storytelling Center

   Storytellers Bil Lepp, Andy Offutt Irwin and Kim Weitkamp will be spreading Christmas cheer across Jonesborough with their new special holiday program, premiering at the International Storytelling Center.

   This year’s show, “An Uncalled for Christmas,” is the last chance for fans to get their storytelling fix before the ISC’s popular Storytelling Live! series resumes in May 2012.

   Lepp, Irwin and Weitkamp — three of the industry’s most popular performers — have planned a holiday showcase full of fresh material, including stories told in tandem and apart.

   “We are all three very, very different tellers,” Weitkamp observes. “I like the blend that we bring to the stage. It is a lot of fun for us and the audience.”

   Irwin, the trio’s self-described executive music director, looks forward to the musical side of the program.

   “We’ll be singing different songs, including a new song that I am writing for Kim to sing for the occasion,” he says. “I’m having Bil play jingle bells. Not the song, but the percussive instrument — an actual mess of the little spherical bells on a stick — because it makes a happy seasonal sound. Also, you know, he can’t sing.”

   “I start playing Christmas music the beginning of November,” Weitkamp adds. “I’m like the department stores in that I try to pull Christmas in as early as I can and I ride it out until the family is telling me to please take the Christmas decorations down in F e b r u a r y. ”

   There will be five opportunities for fans to catch “An Uncalled for Christmas” in a series of concerts scheduled for Dec. 1-3. All performances will be held in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall, an intimate theater in the heart of downtown Jonesborough.

   The series includes two matinee shows (at 2 p.m., Dec. 2 and 3) and three evening performances (at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1-3). The trio sold out all of their 2010 performances, so reservations are highly recommended.

   A reception, including light refreshments and a teller meet-and-greet, will follow each performance. All tickets are $20 and include the reception.

   While the concert is sure to entertain, Weitkamp is hopeful that audience members will go home inspired to weave stories into gatherings with family and friends as they celebrate the holiday season.

   “It only takes one person in the family to casually start asking questions to get the stories rolling,” she says. “At dinner or in the family room, start asking questions like, ‘What was the best toy you ever got for Christmas?’ It’s simple questions like these that can build a solid foundation of heritage and health within the walls of your home.”

   “My mother was born in 1923,” Irwin says, by way of example. “When she was a little girl, Santa Claus knocked over the Christmas tree. It was too close to morning to clean up, so Santa left the room a mess, including tracking ashes into the room from the fireplace. To this day, in our home, Santa leaves boot prints in the ashes, and he tracks soot into the room. My son, Liam, who is 12, is now learning the source of that story, and it connects him with his grandmother and great-grandfather, neither of whom he ever knew. Now he knows who they are through this story. We retell it every year, and we laugh and laugh.” For more information or to reserve a seat, call (800) 952-8392 or (423) 913-1276. 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.

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