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Emmy Award-Winning Storyteller Jim May to Perform in Jonesborough

Storyteller Jim May will perform in Jonesborough June 11 – 15.


With vivid stories of the Illinois prairie and the sweet pleasures of small-town life, veteran performer Jim May will soon begin his weeklong residency at the International Storytelling Center.

Daily matinees will run June 11 – 15, with tickets priced at just $12 for adults. Reservations are recommended, but not required. Shows begin at 2 p.m. each day, and will feature May’s signature blend of personal stories, fictional pieces, and folk tales.

May sees these genres as all part of a much larger story. “Traditional stories are not just simple folk tales about everyday life,” he says. “They were these great myths that told about the arch of human civilization.”

His tales about his childhood home, a tiny farming community called Nippersink Creek, provide a window into a lifestyle that barely exists anymore, even in the American heartland. “Visiting and telling stories were an important part of daily life,” the storyteller says. “They were a means of weaving the social fabric of the community.”

May didn’t understand the value in what he had until he tried to leave. “I tried all my life to get out of here,” he says. “I went from a dairy farm with a population of 7 to a town with a population of 200. When I was 16, I longed for a town that had a movie theater. I longed for a town that had a place for teenagers to dance. I tried to get away, but I found myself always coming back. It’s a hard place to leave when it kind of gets in your blood, I think.”

To craft his stories for the stage, May blends memory and myth. Getting the details right is not unlike writing a tonal poem; these stories have a palpable mood. “I try to capture the kind of spell and pace of the stories I heard growing up,” he says. It’s a breath of fresh air in today’s world, which moves much faster.

Discounted $11 tickets are available for seniors, students, and anyone under 18, and heavily discounted season passes are still available.

Additionally, exclusive discounts are available to all ticketholders. Ticket stubs will earn a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at Main Street Café (lunch only), Olde Towne Pancake House, Texas Burritos & More, Krazy Krepes, Jonesborough Barrel House, the Icing on the Cake (lunch only), and the Corner Cup. Additionally, Boone Street Market is offering 10 percent off prepared meals and 5 percent off any other purchase.

The premier sponsor of Storytelling Live! is Ballad Health. Additional program funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Niswonger Foundation, Eastman Credit Union, the Mooneyhan Family Foundation, and Food City. Media sponsors include News 5-WCYB, FOX Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities CW, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News, Herald & Tribune, and Cumulus Media.

Storytelling Live! is a seasonal program that runs from May to October. 

The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live!, including the full 2019 line-up, or to purchase tickets and season passes, visit or call (800) 952-8392.