People don’t always think of folk music and stand-up comedy as two forms that go hand-in-hand. “Folkies” tend to be on the earnest side, where comedians are a little more, well, sarcastic.
But a deeper look reveals that the songs and the jokes share the same subversive roots—and, of course, both art forms are connected by story.
Perhaps that explains the feeling that storyteller, songwriter, and stand-up comedian Don White had the first time he attended the National Storytelling Festival, where he felt at home right away. The event tied together his different identities as a performer in a totally new way.
“I’m fairly accomplished in the music world, but I’ve never had a weekend like I had down there in Jonesborough,” White says.
“I felt like I found my tribe—that I had found a community who loves storytelling as much as I do. I can’t believe I didn’t know it was there.”
White, who’s played guitar since he was eight years old, has long been a recognizable name in the music industry, having played with the likes of blues legend Taj Mahal. He’s newer to the world of storytelling, but it has familiar echoes. White’s a dedicated fan of folk musician Arlo Guthrie (who he’s opened for in concert), whose recordings frequently featured stories as often as the songs.
“He would talk for the whole side of an album, and he made it seem so easy and normal that I thought everybody could do it,” White says. “Later, after I got to know him and work with him a little bit, I realized that he was the only one doing it. I was just too stupid to know that.”
White will bring his blend of storytelling, music, and comedy to Jonesborough as the next performer for the Storytelling Live! series. Curated by the International Storytelling Center, Storytelling Live! brings a different world-class storyteller to town each week through the end of October.
White’s residency will run Tuesday to Saturday, July 24 – 28, with daily shows at 2 p.m. All performances are in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall.
Tickets for all matinee shows are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. All ticketholders can present their ticket stubs for a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at Main Street Café (lunch only); Medley Vegan Vegetarian; Olde Towne Pancake House; and The Corner Cup. Boone Street Market is offering 10 percent off prepared meals and 5 percent off any other purchase.
Information about all performers, as well as a detailed schedule (including after-dark concerts and one-time workshops) for the 2018 season, is available at www.storytellingcenter.net.
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, 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.
The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live! or to make a group reservation, call (800) 952-8392 ext. 222 or (423) 913-1276.