Storytellers bring holiday cheer to Jonesborough

The concept of “No Assembly Required,” the International Storytelling Center’s holiday-themed variety show, began as an in-joke or a promise, depending on who you ask.

In-jokes are common with the stars of the show, the Uncalled for Trio. This is the the stage name that storytellers Kim Weitkamp, Bil Lepp, and Andy Offutt Irwin use when they perform together. The jokes are part of the show, but they’re also part of the storytellers’ longstanding friendship, which includes board games — no assembly required.

“We’re party animals,” Lepp says. “Traditionally, after the shows we play Monopoly or Risk. Kim really wants to win. Andy and I don’t care who wins as long as it’s not Kim, so we conspire against her. She gets frustrated and it’s hilarious.”

Irwin offers a slightly different, if equally unserious, take. “The Uncalled for Trio is here to offer hope,” Irwin says, “so we made the title hopeful. All too often we encounter the words ‘Some Assembly Required’ on the packaging. No one wants to read that.”

As the Trio’s all-new variety show for 2018, “No Assembly Required” will be offered in Jonesborough for three days of story and song, from Nov. 29-Dec. 1. The short run will include matinee and evening performances (at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) on all three days — Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Complimentary refreshments and a meet-and-greet with the tellers will take place after each show.

All performances will be held in ISC’s intimate theater in downtown Jonesborough, located on Main Street. Tickets are on sale now and reservations are recommended. Note that admission is only guaranteed for advance ticketholders, since the shows have historically sold out. Tickets are just $20, with reservations available in person, over the phone and on the International Storytelling Center’s website.

The Uncalled for Trio has brought their holiday extravaganza to Jonesborough now for 11 years (off and on), a tradition that Lepp jokes he’s “pretty sure is all Kim’s fault.” Conceived of as a modern-day variety show, the concert changes from year to year, but always features the tellers’ individual material, as well as songs and stories the three perform on stage together.

Lepp, who is not musically inclined, says he is rarely permitted to sing.

Exactly two weeks after the Trio’s final performance, on Saturday, Dec. 15, storyteller Tim Lowry will reprise his performance of “A Christmas Carol,” the Charles Dickens classic. Costumed in Victorian period garb, Lowry’s one-man show is a tour de force.

He’ll be presenting it in Jonesborough for one day only, giving ticketholders only two chances to catch the show, at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. The cost of admission is only $20, and reservations are recommended. As with the Uncalled for Trio’s performances, the price of admission includes refreshments in the lobby after the show.

More information about ISC’s roster of holiday performances and other upcoming events at ISC is available at www.storytellingcenter.net. The lineup for next year’s Storytelling Live! season, which will bring a new storyteller to Jonesborough each week beginning in May, will be announced in early 2019.

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 423-913-1276.