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Won-Ldy Paye to bring tales from the rainforest to ISC

Storyteller Won-Ldy Paye, a charming performer who specializes in personal stories and traditional tales from Africa, will be the next teller in residence in Jonesborough’s acclaimed Storytelling Live! series.
As a guest of the International Storytelling Center, Paye will host daily matinees in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall from July 7 – 11, Tuesday through Saturday. All performances start at 2 p.m., and tickets are just $12 for adults and $11 for seniors, students, and children under 18.
Paye, who’s originally from Africa, has lived and worked in the U.S. since the early 1980s. The son of rice farmers, he was raised on traditional stories that helped sustain him during long days working under the sun.
“I’m from Liberia, and the habitat is very much a tropical rainforest,” he said. “I was born in the rainforest. Grew up in the rainforest.”
Now, he resides with his family in what might well be the opposite of the rainforest ­— Hartford, Connecticut.
As you can imagine, the landscape in Liberia is quite different from the one where he lives now. To the kids he works with through the Connecticut Arts Commission, Paye’s origin story is deeply fascinating. “In New England, most of the kids have never seen the rainforest. When I tell them that’s where I’m from, it’s like they can’t comprehend it,” he says. “When they think about it, I think it’s almost like a fairy tale, but there I am standing in front of them. They get real quiet and then the questions start to come.”
In addition to sharing old folk tales, Paye tells the kids about how much Liberia has modernized over the last few years. “Seeing people with cell phones — even five to seven years ago, you didn’t see that,” he explained. Now cell phones are a huge part of the culture. “I can call my mom and she just picks up the phone,” he said. Not so long ago, when the country was embroiled in a civil war, such a thing would have been impossible.
During time in Jonesborough, in addition to his matinee performances, Paye will host a special children’s concert on Saturday, July 11, at 10:30 a.m. The show is just $5 for all ages, and ticket holders will receive coupons for 15 percent off at The Lollipop Shop, a popular Main Street store that sells old-fashioned sweets and toys.
Reservations for all performances are highly recommended.
Information about this season’s performers, as well as a detailed schedule, is available at 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 913-1276.