Behind the Scenes with Storyteller Tim Lowry

One of Jonesborough’s most hallowed traditions returns in less than two weeks, with two series of live Christmas shows at the International Storytelling Center.

Storyteller Tim Lowry will be on hand for two performances on December 1. His playful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has become a holiday tradition in its own right, with many listeners returning every year.

For Lowry, the tradition began 21 years ago in his homebase of Charleston, South Carolina, where he worked with a restaurant as a “storyteller sommelier.” “They were going to hire Gerald Dickens, who is Charles Dickens’ great-great grandson,” Lowry recalls. “But when they saw what it would cost to get him from London they called me instead.”

The show was an instant hit, and now Lowry has performed it more times across the United States than Dickens himself, who famously read his popular work from the stage. Lowry is what you might call a superfan of Dickens, who was not just a writer but also a great champion of Christmas spirit. “Dickens is credited for changing Christmas as we know it,” he says. In Victorian times, when the story was published, “many of the old traditions had died away and Christmas was in danger of being a minor holiday in the English-speaking world. And he just was horrified by that.”

The release of “A Christmas Carol” instantly “revived all of those old traditions,” Lowry says. “Many food historians single-handedly credit him as the reason we eat turkey on Christmas. Before that, everybody had goose. But Scrooge buys Bob Cratchit’s family a turkey, and consequently turkey became the norm.”

After more than two decades of collecting fascinating tidbits of historical lore and thinking about the story’s timeless themes, Lowry has finally gathered his thoughts into one place: a book of essays called Haunted by Dickens, which Lowry will have on hand in Jonesborough to sign and personalize. The book is also available online at major retailers.

For his part, Lowry finds new things to appreciate about the classic story every year, which he technically performed for the first time in a second-grade production in which he played Ebeneezer Scrooge.

“People always ask if I get tired of telling it,” Lowry says. “I’ve always said great storytelling is loving a subject in front of people you love. And I think Dickens really had that going on. He so loved the English people, particularly the common everyday man of London. And he really loved writing stories about their experiences and their life.”

Tickets are almost sold out for Lowry’s two December 1 performances. He’ll be followed by “Jingle Tales & Tunes,” a holiday variety show with Bil Lepp, Regi Carpenter, and Andy Offutt Irwin.

Check here for ticket availability for all ISC holiday shows.