Telling Stories without the Written Word

We love stories, and I would guess that most of the time we are reading stories, or watching them unfold visually in a movie.

But yesterday I experienced something new and surprisingly enjoyable, a storytelling performance!

The Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall in Jonesborough, Tennessee –

Storytelling, according to one definition, is the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics or embellishment. Every culture has its own stories or narratives, which are shared as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation or instilling moral values.

I am travelling in the Southeast U.S. and am near Jonesborough, Tennessee, a community established in 1779, where storytelling enthusiasts gather at the International Storytelling Center.

Every October since 1973, thousands of travelers have visited Jonesboro, Tennessee’s oldest town, to hear stories and to tell them at the National Storytelling Festival.

Storytelling Live! also runs in the afternoons every May to October.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the performance, because I generally don’t choose activities that focus on listening, as I tend to be a visual person and am easily distracted by images and movement.

But what made Sam Payne’s performance especially enjoyable was hearing simple stories of his life and family, the varying lilt and volume of his rich voice, his excellent guitar skills, and his intermittent songs (all of which he had written), which were folksy, winsome and comforting.

Sam also shared several stories of creating his art just before the deadline. That inspired me, because his “last-minute” creations were excellent!

I’m sure he has polished them as he presents them, but the fact that he finished them just before performing them, gives this last-minute-deadline writer hope that I, too, can continue to create and finish some worthy pieces!

A sign near the Storytelling Centre

Here is a photo of me near the Storytelling Center, at the Washington County Courthouse in Jonesboro.

I love the sign on the bench! It says, “Love one another and always be kind! In loving memory of Alfred Greenlee. Never forgotten.” (Alfred Greenlee was a Deacon at Bethel Christian Church in Jonesborough, TN.)

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of listening to a storyteller, I recommend it!