As a child Theresa Osborne was delighted to listen to stories — some true, some not — that were spun by her grandmothers. Her father, a Methodist minister, could also spin quite a good tale, so when Theresa developed an interest in storytelling it was a natural evolution in her life.
Today, Osborne, the Appalachian program facilitator at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, is to embark on a one-woman show billed as “Stories from the Cookie Jar” that is to be held April 26 at the Kentucky Coal Museum in Benham. The event will get underway at 6:30 p.m. with a reception, and the performance will begin at 7 p.m.
“I do look forward to presenting my stories,” she said, “and so far I have been focusing on telling the stories from my life and my family, but I am also interested in doing Bible storytelling; I enjoy telling the Jack Tales as well.”
Since collecting and telling the stories, most with an distinctive Appalachian twist, she will now move into the spotlight for a performance being made possible by a Kentucky Arts Council’s Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant in cooperation with the Kentucky Coal Museum, which is managed by SKCTC. Osborne gives much credit to long-time Harlan County storyteller Pam Holcomb for helping her evolve as a storyteller.
“I began talking with Pam about storytelling and began to see the art form as a real vocation, one I would enjoy. Last year she and I applied to the Kentucky Arts Council for an apprenticeship grant and I was lucky to receive the grant,” said Osborne.
She acknowledged that Ms. Holcomb, being a master storyteller who is nationally renowned for her work and stage presence, has served as a trusted mentor, schooling her on techniques and giving her an overview of the business of being a professional storyteller.
“Stories from the Cookie Jar is the culminating event for my year of apprenticeship training,” said Osborne, whose show will run for an hour. The event is free and open to the public.
Osborne, who holds a master’s degree in folklore and anthropology from Western Kentucky University, has worked at SKCTC for 18 years, beginning as a temporary worker.
Born in Louisville, she moved frequently across Kentucky as a youth. “Being in the family of a Methodist minister we loaded our belongings into a moving van every two to four years. I truly am a native of the commonwealth having lived all across this lovely state,” she said.
She came to Harlan County in 1992, taking a job as a reporter with the Harlan Daily Enterprise. “I quickly fell in love with the area — the place, its people. Harlan County is my home.”
Those many recollections of growing up across the state have now been cultivated into a lush collection of imaginative and touching yarns that are certain to delight.
For more information about the event, contact Phyllis Sizemore, Kentucky Coal Museum director, at 606-848-1530.