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Discovering the Narrator April 1, 2010

Posted by jayocallahan in Jonesborough.

I think I’ve discovered a narrator for the Jonesborough story. He’s relaxed, loves Jonesborough and his ease delights me. It’s clear he’s spent his life in Jonesborough and acts as a tour guide who we can trust and enjoy. One of the nice things about the narrator is he’s not bound by time. He’s clear at the beginning that it’s the late 1950s then in moments he takes us to the early 1970s.

The narrator tells us about these beautiful old brick buildings that he loves and he says that the bricks were made by both black and white hands and that the craftsmen were so able that the buildings are still standing. He also tells us that the Nolachucky River is only six miles away and that everyone in his audience has the Nolachucky River inside them. Way beyond are the Appalachian Mountains.

It’s been very helpful to email Jim Rhein and Janet Browning whenever I have questions about the river or the Main Street or the barbershop or the beauty parlor. And it’s also been very helpful to work here at home with storytelling colleagues. It’s with them I’ve tried out the narrator. In any story there are certain moments that stand out. The discovery of the narrator is one of those moments.

I hope April 22 to tell some snippets of the Jonesborough story. It’ll be a chance for the narrator to leave my living room and enter into the bigger world. The threads that are appearing as I work on the story are: time, the ability to listen deeply, the beauty of East Main Street, the possible death of downtown Jonesborough and the strength of some of the ordinary folks there. In the early scenes we’ll meet Pearl and Jim Jackson. Pearl Jackson was famous for her cream pies at Rush’s Restaurant. Jim Jackson, her husband, was a farmer who grew up in extraordinary poverty, but he had the strength of character to make a fine life for himself. If there’s time we’ll also meet Eva Taylor and Curtis Buchanan.

I feel that the Nolachucky River is flowing through me and the story has begun.



1. Karen Cormie - April 7, 2010


This is off topic, but, I wanted to let you know how moved and enlightened I was with your performance. You made me laugh, you made me cry and you made me think. The following is a paragraph from a critique I am in the proccess of writing for my Public Speaking class. You have influenced me to do my next speech, a persuasive speech on Bridging the Human Gap on Healthcare Reform, in a story format. It is about the journey of a middle-class Average Joe family (my own) starting in the early 1930’s and how they had to deal with the healthcare system from then, till now. Hope I can give its justice with one tenth of the flare that you do with your stories. Wish me luck!

Forged in the Stars Critique:
In February of 2010 I was fortunate enough to have witnessed the thrill of a lifetime. My English Professor, Courtney Reid, is in charge of running the Writer’s Project at SunyAdirondack Community College (ACC) in upstate New York. Her immense devotion and immeasurable efforts to provide her students and faculty of ACC, as well as her community, with mesmerizing and talented literature presentations rises to the top with one of her latest choices, an unforgettable evening with a highly profound one-man performance from Jay O’Callahan. Anyone that was in attendance of Jay’s brilliant and stellar performance, Forged in the Stars, a love letter to NASA, at the ACC theatre on February 23rd, and left with a dry eye, untouched and unenlightened, better check their pulses. This was a top-rate show by a top-rated storyteller and nothing less than spectacular.

Karen Cormie, Queensbury, N.Y.
SunyAdirondack Freshman Student Spring 2010

2. Ken Iverson - April 26, 2010

Jay, Listening to your description of the Narrartor makes me remember the grace and ease of the Narrator in Thorton Wilders ‘Our Town’ play. How he oversaw the unfolding story and would set the scene, all the images created with his evocative descriptions. Time did not trap him either. – Ken

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