A! Magazine for the Arts

Storytelling: Community Projects in Abingdon and Jonesborough

September 28, 2011

In these storytelling projects, community members record and transcribe stories, then a playwright reads them, identifies common themes and writes a play made of a series of vignettes to be performed by 50-100 volunteer community actors. Led by Community Performance International (CPI), the professional-quality productions blend storytelling, community and memory to create original folk theater.

ONGOING: In Abingdon, Va., a similar project is taking place. The Wolf Hills Project is currently recording and transcribing stories of the Abingdon community that will be turned into a play. Barter Theatre is coordinating the storytelling project, and the play will be performed at Barter by volunteer community members in August 2012.

OCT. 6-Nov. 3: The Town of Jonesborough and the International Storytelling Center (ISC) will present I Am Home in the McKinney Center at the Booker T. Washington School. The Jonesborough Yarn Exchange production celebrates what's special about Jonesborough and the bonds that tie residents together - from the town's 18th century roots to present-day. Performances are Oct. 6-8 at 5:30 p.m. and Oct. 14-Nov. 3 (Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.). $14-$16. 423-753-1010, www.jonesboroughtn.org

During 2010, Jonesborough community members shared their stories and memories of Tennessee's oldest town. This year, they're seeing those stories come to life on stage. I Am Home was crafted using community-submitted stories and performed by community members as part of the Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts. Though written by CPI playwright and artistic director Jules Corriere, the local community shared feedback and co-created the production during rehearsals. The actors are community members, though some have little or no acting experience.

Future plans call for new plays to be crafted each year. In Jonesborough, an additional play will be created and performed in front of a larger audience in 2012 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the National Storytelling Festival and Jonesborough's role as the international epicenter of storytelling.