ETSU/Umoja Storytelling Festival and Institute to feature Jeff Gere


JOHNSON CITY (Aug. 1, 2013) – For the ninth year, the East Tennessee State University Storytelling Program will partner with Johnson City’s Umoja Festival to bring a renowned teller and other storytelling activities to the annual cultural event in downtown Johnson City.

Jeff Gere hails from Hawaii, where he is one of the state’s most prolific storytellers.  His storytelling style blends his talents as a painter, puppeteer, mime, teacher and director with his wide range of voices, elastic faces and characterizations.  He will be in the region as the featured Teller-in-Residence from Aug. 6-10 at the International Storytelling Center (ISC) in Jonesborough.

Gere’s performances at the ETSU/Umoja Storytelling Festival/Institute will take place at 6 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, Aug. 9 and 10, at the Gazebo Storytelling Stage between Main and Market streets.  His appearance is co-sponsored by the ISC.

Other ETSU/Umoja Storytelling Festival/Institute activities at the Gazebo Storytelling Stage on Aug. 9-10 include stories and songs from Dr. Joseph Sobol and his friends and colleagues from the ETSU graduate program in storytelling beginning at 4 p.m., followed at 5 p.m. by the Re-Generation Story Slam. 

During the Slam, audience members who wish to tell a story may drop their names into a hat, from which seven will be drawn.  Stories should be true (or mostly true) and no longer than 10 minutes.  Three judges selected from the audience will pick the winners.

The Re-Generation Story Slam – often combining storytelling with poetry – has been running in Johnson City since 2011, and this marks the event’s ETSU/Umoja Storytelling Festival/Institute debut.  The guest host for the Aug. 9 Slam will be ETSU Storytelling Program graduate Cathy Jo Janssen, who founded the first Johnson City Story Slam at the Down Home in 2011.

Since 1997, the Umoja/Unity Festival has showcased music, art, dance and food from various cultures and peoples of the region, nation and world.  It is presented free of charge through funding by a broad coalition of churches, businesses, citizens, organizations and grants.  In 2005, the ETSU Storytelling Program began a partnership with the festival to bring noted ethnic traditional and contemporary storytellers to the Umoja stage.

For more information on the ETSU/Umoja Storytelling Festival/Institute, contact Sobol, coordinator of the university’s Storytelling Program, at (423) 439-7863.  For more information on the Umoja Festival, visit or call (423) 426-2851.
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