Storytellers and musicians Kim and Reggie Harris will fill one of the final storytelling residency slots for Jonesborough’s 2013 Storytelling Live! season.
The duo will be in residence Oct. 15-19, with matinees at 2 p.m., daily in the International Storytelling Center’s Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall. Tickets are available in advance, and reservations are strongly recommended.
The veteran performers, whose client list includes the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Institution, met as camp counselors just outside their hometown of Philadelphia in the mid-1970s.
During college, “slowly but surely, we found ourselves performing all around the Philadelphia area,” Reggie says. “We got booked as the ‘musical relief’ at a comedy club that had just opened — one of the first on the East coast. We were there about four nights a week, so we didn’t sleep much.”
There, watching young up-and-coming comedians like Jay Leno, “we really started paying attention to the power of story,” Reggie says. “We started to notice that the fabric of the story was going to be important to us as musicians in terms of what we did between songs.”
Soon, the pair became more popular and began to travel outside of Philadelphia.
“We got launched on the road and started touring, performing at colleges and schools and festivals,” Reggie says. “As we went, story became more important to us. We felt a lot of historical connections with heroes who are great examples of how our lives are shaped by those who have gone before us. They are very practical reminders that the obstacles we face have been overcome by others in other ways.”
In addition to highlights from African-American history, the storytellers tell a variety of personal tales, including the story of how they met and the harrowing tale of Reggie’s 2008 liver transplant.
“A normal performance for us, we’re going to go from the historical to the personal to the global,” he says. “Our lives are complex in the way that we live them, so we like to honor that complexity in our performance.”
Their music style, too, is eclectic. With influences that range from Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger to Cat Stevens and James Taylor, they are difficult to pigeonhole.
“We’re very folk-oriented,” Reggie says. “We’re gospel-oriented. We’re rock-oriented. We grew up listening to Mozart and Bach, but we also love show tunes.”
After more than 35 years of performing together, Kim and Reggie are not so much tandem tellers as a single unit.
“People often comment on the fact that we breathe together, that phrases go in and out,” Reggie says. “We exchange dialogue back and forth. It’s harmony in action, really. I think if you watch our performance, it’s sometimes hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. And we love that.”
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.
The Harrises are the latest storytellers 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 the remainder of 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.