Two local storytellers perform at National Storytelling Festival


Michael Reno Harrell and David Novak, will be featured in what USA Today calls “…the leading event of its kind in America.” The National Storytelling Festival is in its 44th year and showcases the world’s premier storytelling talent. The three-day outdoor festival brings thousands of travelers to Tennessee’s oldest town each autumn.

In Jonesborough, Tennessee, the storytelling capital of the world, tickets are now on sale for the National Storytelling Festival (NSF), an annual gathering of some of the world’s top talent. The oldest and most prestigious festival of its kind, NSF offers one-day and weekend passes for regular programming, as well as one-time admission to special events.

The three-day celebration of oral traditions from around the world—recently named one of the top tourist attractions in the nation by—is the flagship event of its producer, the International Storytelling Center. The Festival runs October 7 – 9, with regular programming scheduled from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. The autumnal celebration of the world’s oral traditions has been an annual tradition since 1973, when the first National Storytelling Festival spawned the American storytelling revival.

The 2016 Festival will feature nearly two dozen storytellers, who will take turns performing under big-top tents scattered across downtown Jonesborough. The diverse lineup includes Irish teller Clare Muireann Murphy; Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, a multi-instrumentalist and teller whose work embodies the spirit of 1920s music; Minton Sparks, who fuses wildly original poetry and an intoxicating gift for storytelling into memories of growing up in a small-town southern family; Motoko, a native of Japan, whose repertoire includes Asian folktales, Zen tales, and mime vignettes; and Barbara McBride-Smith, who transports audiences from the ancient world of the Greek gods and goddesses to the eclectic shenanigans of her Baby Boomer generation.

A homecoming for some of the industry’s finest performers, this year’s featured tellers also include perennial favorites such as Donald Davis, Elizabeth Ellis, Bil Lepp, and Tim Lowry. By showcasing oral traditions from the South and all over the world, the Festival inspires unexpected connections and promotes cultural understanding.

In addition to the Festival’s signature programming, there’s a handful of special events included in the price of the ticket, such as Exchange Place, a concert featuring new talent; the Swappin’ Ground, where anyone can tell a story; and a Story Slam. Separately ticketed events include two nights of al fresco Ghost Stories; and the Friday night Midnight Cabaret, featuring Kevin Kling.

Two pre-Festival concerts will also be held on the Festival grounds on Wednesday, October 5 featuring Donald Davis and Thursday, October 6 with Kathy Mattea. Both all-ages shows begin at 7:30 p.m, and tickets can be reserved in advance or purchased on site, while supplies last.

Tickets for the National Storytelling Festival — as well as all special events throughout the week — can be purchased online at, at the International Storytelling Center (ISC) in downtown Jonesborough, or on the Festival grounds. The National Storytelling Festival is sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, Dunkin’ Donuts, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa, the Mooneyhan Family Foundation, the Niswonger Foundation, and Alliance for Peacebuilding. For more information or to make reservations, call ISC at (800) 952-8392, ext. 221.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. She is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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