Friday, May 22, 2015

Jonesborough, Pt II

I'm now wrapping up my week in Jonesborough and I have learned an awful lot. Here's what I did in the second half of my week here.

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I went back and took pictures of all the things I saw in Jonesborough that I forgot to snap pics of earlier. I often walked around Jonesborough in the afternoon or evening after the library closed, because it was always nice outside, quiet, peaceful, and everyone was friendly. Sometimes the stores were open and I could pop in to the art gallery to look at art or into the music store to jam with my new friend Dean.


This courthouse is all old and stuff. Washington County is the oldest in Tennessee and one of the oldest in the old frontier (back when 'Murikah was just the coastal states).


The General Store sells slightly overpriced sandwiches, but they're not too bad. It's charmingly old-timey.


Creepy doll in the toy shop.


Saw the antique mart but did not go in. I meant to, but kept forgetting and had to be other places. Sorry, mom.


Another historic Jonesborough landmark. There is a nice bench up the street a bit that is a very nice place to sit and go over notes or read a book.


Jonesborough has plenty of churches, and I took pictures of many of them.


Here is another. I believe this one was a Presbyterian church.


This one is definitely a Methodist church. I only took pictures of these three churches, but there were definitely several more.


Here is the concert outside the courthouse on Friday night, an event that happens every Friday in Jonesborough. This week the featured group was called Harpeth Rising, an all-female trio from Nashville that played Appalachian-folk inspired music with some tight harmonies and a bit of an edge.


Here's a cute dog that was listening to the music.

***

On Wednesday morning, I headed to Jonesborough a few hours before the Elizabeth Ellis performance so I could get something to eat and hit the Jonesborough Public Library one last time. The performance itself was fantastic. Elizabeth Ellis has an entrancing way of speaking that comes straight out of the mountains of east Tennessee, and while her historical and folk material is great, it is in her narratives of personal lived experience that are the most powerful.

I had the great opportunity to meet with Elizabeth after the show and talk about storytelling. I had plenty of questions about structure and the way she moves from outlines of plots to full-fledged narratives, and she was very helpful and kind. She answered every question I had with careful thought and wisdom until all my questions were completely exhausted.

I even got the chance to meet with Karin Hensley, the Director of Operations of the National Storytelling Network, an organization that serves as a hub for storytellers and communication between them. We talked for a long time about how to get in touch with storytellers, the resurgence of the movement, and various festivals I could go to.


Karin gave me a huge pile of resources to check out, and later sent me an email with a bunch of links to even more resources. She and the rest of the National Storytelling Network have been incredibly helpful and welcoming to me this week.


The next night I got the chance to see Elizabeth Ellis again in the Mary B. Martin theater, a small and intimate theater in the ISC that really makes you feel like you're sitting on a porch somewhere, listening to a story up close. She was even better the second time. She opened with a short folktale from Hungary about an old woman who successfully cheats Death, and then launched into an ninety-minute tale about her own experience with a stroke in August and the resulting physical therapy. The story was called "A Stroke of Luck", which tells you something about the kind of person she is. She also quoted the Lord of the Rings several times:

"There may come a day when the courage of men will fail, but that day is not today. Today, we fight."

The quote is from Aragorn, addressing the armies of Men and Elves outside the Black Gate of Mordor in Return of the King (the movie, not the book). It seems a ridiculous quote out of context, but her storytelling ability is so great that when she delivered it, several people in the audience were brought to tears.

I had the pleasure of talking to Elizabeth again after the show, and she told me to keep her updated on my progress and let her know if I need anything. The kindness and wisdom that Elizabeth showed me might have been the best part of this trip.


The International Storytelling Center in the afternoon. Today, Friday, I just had two meetings, so I hung out in the sunshine in Jonesborough and the darkness in the ETSU library for the middle of the day. In the morning, I had a meeting with Professor Delanna Reed in the Storytelling program at ETSU, and she was incredibly helpful--most of what I was asking about was on her syllabus, so she was able to answer my questions in great detail and gave me great lists of resources. We talked about games and how they intersected with performing arts, and about various groups I could observe playing my game for my final thesis.

Later in the day I had the chance to have a long phone conversation with Dr. Hannah Harvey, an absolute expert on the intersection of performative storytelling, identity, and performance studies. She had a long list of resources for me to peruse, but she also had very concrete suggestions for me on the topic of making genre modular, encouraging different and unusual plot structures, and ensuring multiple points of view. I found her insight and suggestions perhaps the most helpful of anything I learned this week.


I spent the rest of the daylight doodling in my notebook (I started trying to sketch out some art for the final product, but it became doodling very quickly out in the sunlight) and filling out my little notecards for the prototype 1.0 edition. I am proud to say that it is more or less done at this point.


I had a great time this week in Jonesborough, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of what was recommended to me and finishing up v1. I'm headed back early tomorrow morning. Looking forward to seeing everyone at home. Miss you all. Thanks for reading.

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