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O’Callahan next teller-in-residence

Decorated storyteller Jay O’Callahan, who has performed for the Smithsonian and on NPR, will be the next teller-in-residence for the Storytelling Live series at the International Storytelling Center.
The Massachusetts native is famous for his stories about his eccentric neighbors in Pill Hill, where he grew up among doctors and other medical professionals.
His personal tales are a unique blend of delightful straight talk and theatrical flair.
A veteran of the stage, O’Callahan’s prestigious patrons include the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Geographic Society. The storyteller recently added the International Storytelling Center and the town of Jonesborough to that list when he was asked to develop a custom story about Tennessee’s oldest town.
The result was “Main Street, Jonesborough,” a bespoke tale that celebrates and memorializes 200 years of Jonesborough’s history.
O’Callahan, whose previous commissions include iconic organizations like NASA, spent more than two years developing the piece. The research phase alone included an epic series of interviews with more than 30 Jonesborough residents.
“I never know exactly how I’ll shape a commissioned piece,” he said. “I call it the compost heap. You gather a lot of information and then you begin to see an image. You begin to see a character. My job is to condense those things so you can see them, too.”
O’Callahan’s account of Jonesborough’s development zooms in on the year 1978, when Jonesborough was in a fight for its life. Across America, small cities turned to ghost towns almost overnight as big stores dried up local businesses.
“Jonesborough was teetering between life and death,” he said. “I was interested in why some towns thrive while others just fade away.”
During his weeklong residency, O’Callahan will offer daily matinees at 2 p.m., May 14-18. All performances will be held at the ISC. Tickets are $12.
In addition to his afternoon performances, O’Callahan will perform “Main Street, Jonesborough,” at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 16. Tickets for this one-night-only event are $15.
Additional information about Storytelling Live is available at or by calling 913-1276.