Liz Weir, an Irish storyteller who specializes in folk tales and traditional stories, will soon begin a week-long residency at the International Storytelling Center.
The popular performer looks forward to exploring the strong Irish-Scots connection in East Tennessee.
“I’m very proud to come from Ireland,” she says. “I come from a really strong oral tradition where we have thousands of folk tales and fairy tales. I want to bring stories up to date, to honor the old stories while showing that new stories have been created.”
In Ireland, the line between history and tradition blurs a bit more than in most parts of the world. Almost everyone there believes in magic at least a little, imbuing the everyday with a sense of wonder that Weir likes to recreate in her work.
“I grew up thinking that storytelling is just something that everybody does,” she says. “Everybody here [in Northern Ireland] tells stories. We could go down the road and I could show you fairy trees. People really believe.”
The trove of tales is so deep that the art of storytelling has developed differently there than Stateside.
“We don’t do personal stories in Ireland,” Weir says. “There are people that do that brilliantly, the Donald Davises of the world. But I’ve got such a rich legacy of traditional stories, I don’t really need to do that.”
Offstage, Weir is heavily involved in community outreach that involves applied storytelling. She has worked with groups ranging from the Alzheimer’s Society to an anti-bullying initiative.
One cause that’s near to her heart is peace and reconciliation.
“Now that Northern Ireland has settled into the peace process, there are a lot of untold stories,” says Weir, who has worked with both victims and perpetrators of violence. “I’m working with some groups to try and get them to retell their own stories. Storytelling is a marvelous means of acknowledging that somebody else is different from you. We share some things, but also you have to recognize difference.”
Weir has been a popular performer in the U.S. since the 1980s, when she first began working with the International Storytelling Center.
“I met my first American storyteller. He told me that in America people got money for telling stories. I just couldn’t believe it!” she said.
Since then, Weir has been a key figure in organizing the professional storytelling movement in the United Kingdom.
In Jonesborough, Weir will spend Sept. 3-7 in residence, offering daily matinees at 2 p.m. in the International Storytelling Center. All performances will include a wide array of traditional songs, spooky stories, historical tales and Irish legends.
The storyteller looks forward to spending a week in one of her favorite spots in the States.
“I just love it,” she says of Jonesborough. “You really get the chance to walk around the street and talk to people. During the festival it’s mad crazy busy — you maybe see a person once and you never see them for the rest of the weekend. But during a residency, you really feel like part of the community.”
Tickets for all performances are $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.
Concerts are held in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall, an intimate theater in the heart of the International Storytelling Center.
Shows are appropriate for all ages. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Weir is the latest storyteller to perform for the teller-in-residence program, which 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.