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Jonesborough welcomes storyteller and folk tale specialist Len Cabral

Len Cabral will be the next teller in the “Storytelling Live!” series.

From Staff Reports

Before Len Cabral performed as a storyteller at the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Institution, he honed his skills for a much more demanding audience: a large room full of little kids.

One of Cabral’s first jobs as a young man was at a daycare center. Fresh out of the U.S. military, he was working and taking college classes in theater and childhood development. In a desperate moment trying to hold the attention of the children, he found that these skills and interests converged.

“I was in charge of 15 five-year-olds,” he said. “That will make you a storyteller.” 

It was trial by fire, so by the time Cabral finished school and started performing on the local arts scene in Rhode Island, he knew how to hold the attention of any room. 

When Cabral traveled to Jonesborough for the National Storytelling Festival for the first time in the 1980s, the experience focused his creative identity. He finally knew who he was: a storyteller.

He has since performed at the Festival as a featured teller many times. But this is the first time that he will perform as a teller in residence as part of ISC’s innovative Storytelling Live! series, which hosts a new storyteller every week from the months of May through October (with special events running through the end of the year). 

Cabral’s residency will run Tuesday through Saturday, June 21–25. All live matinees begin at 2 p.m., with tickets that are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and military, and $7 for those under age 18. Advance purchase is always recommended but never required, as long as supplies last.

During his week in Jonesborough, Cabral plans to share tales from around the world, including African stories, European folk tales, and more. He’ll also perform original pieces and personal stories. 

In perfecting his fluid performance style, Cabral looked to kinetic performers like Richard Pryor and Fred Astaire. He has always had a keen appreciation for movement, which he brings to the stage. 

“Some people say I’m very animated,” he says. “A little movement goes a long way.”

From Thursday, June 23, until Monday at midnight, one of Cabral’s concerts will be available online for those who wish to enjoy his performance from home. (He will be filmed in Jonesborough.) Online tickets are priced at $15, covering admission for everyone in the purchaser’s household. Viewers can watch the performance as many times as they like over the course of the weekend.  

The Storytelling Live! series will host a new storyteller each week through the end of October. Its premier sponsor is bioPURE. Additional program funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Niswonger Foundation, ETSU, East Tennessee Foundation, Humanities Tennessee, Hillhouse Creative, Carol & Bobby Frist, the Norris Family Fund, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa, and the Frist Foundation. Media sponsors include the Herald & Tribune, Kingsport Times-News, Johnson City Press, Cumulus Media, News Channel 11, WJHL 11, ABC Tri-Cities, and Daytime Tri-Cities.

The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live!, including the full schedule, or to purchase tickets and season passes, visit or call (800) 952-8392.