Journalism, Multimedia, Storytelling — August 25, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Old Style Storytelling, No Digital Cameras

Storyteller Jay O'Callahan tells a story on the sidewalk outside the courthouse in Jonesborough, Tenn.
Storyteller Jay O’Callahan tells a story on the sidewalk outside the courthouse in Jonesborough, Tenn.

Storytelling once relied on oration.

No digital cameras. No high-tech audio. And no Internet. Just great old-school storytelling.

Hard to believe, but true. Good stories relied on great narrative and good character development. These concepts are often lost in modern day glitz.

Oral storytelling has a storied (no pun intended) past, spanning back to 9th Century.Travelling storytellers journeyed from land to land, gathering news and learning the favourite stories of various regions. Storytellers exchanged stories and changed stories so that it is difficult to trace the origins of many stories.

Storytelling evolved long before the printed word and certainly before TV, radio or other forms of media were developed.

Oral storytelling may be less popular than years past, but it has not been forgotten. At least not in Tennessee. Some 10,000 visitors flood into Jonesborough, Tenn., the oldest town (population 5,100) in the state, for the National Storytelling Festival.

The event held in early October is now four decades old. It has made Jonesborough something of a sensation. On street corners, the tourists and locals listen to storytellers weave personal narratives that might leave one in stitchers or in tears. About 12,000 people attend the festival each year.

Chicago Tribune Reporter Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz describes the event is like a rock concert for baby boomers except the setting is in Appalachia. “It is the pre-eminent event for professional story tellers, she writes.

“It’s Cargenie Hall, it’s Broadway,” explained Corinne Stavish, a Michigan storyteller who on this weekend served as emcee for several performances.

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