Open Mic, Open Mind

I’ve been writing about the arts this whole semester–what cool things are happening, where to go see them happen. What if you’re someone who wants to make the cool things happen? Any aspiring musician knows that the place to get started is at an open mic night.

There are several places around the Tri-Cities that host weekly open mic nights. It’s something that’s been on my mind recently, something I might like to get into this summer. I’m not a musician, but I do have vague stand-up comedy dreams.

Even if you’re not a performer, open mic nights are a great way to witness up-and-coming local artists. Just think, if you go to enough, you might be able to say, “I knew them when.” Here’s a list of places where you can put yourself out there, or watch other people do it.


  • Acoustic Coffeehouse (7:30 p.m.)
  • Rock’s Wood Fire Pizza & Grill (7 p.m.)


  • Wolf Hills Brewing (6 p.m.)


  • The Willow Tree Coffeehouse & Music Room (6 p.m.)
  • Jiggy Ray’s Pizzeria

Whether or not you perform or attend an open mic night, I challenge all of you to challenge yourselves artistically this summer. It can be in personal pursuits–I joined a writers’ group and am currently waist-deep in a prose project with another right behind it–or it can just be to get out there to see more cool things.

One thing that I’ve learned this semester is that the Tri-Cities have a lot more to offer than I originally thought. Let’s you and I take advantage of that.

Take a Break

It’s dead week at ETSU–or as I like to call it, dead sprint week. There’s this idea of dead week as a time when you have no assignments due, and your lectures are just reviews. In my experience, I always have approximately 50 things due and maybe a test or two just to keep things light and breezy.

Next week is finals week, and after that, we’re home free! Well, most people are, but I’m taking a summer course because I love to suffer. For most students though, this is it the last haul before a three-month break.

As much as studying is important, so is giving yourself breaks and time to relax. I’m a big believer in the sprint study method: study for 45 minutes, break for 15, rinse and repeat. Beyond that, it’s important to get out the house or the library too and remember that there’s more to life that than cumulative biology final at 8 a.m. on Thursday.

What better way to do that than by experiencing some local artistic culture? Here are some events going on this weekend to catch during your study breaks.

Friday (28 April)

  • 17th Annual Short Film Festival (Milligan College, 6 p.m., free)
  • ETSU Bluegrass, Old Time, Country and Celtic Bands (The Down Home, 7 p.m., $10)
  • Underhill Rose (The Willow Tree, 8 p.m., $10)

Saturday (29 April)

  • Celtic Mayday Festival (Tipton-Haynes Historic Site, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., free)
  • Spring Garden Fair (Exchange Place, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., $3)
  • ETSU Bluegrass, Old Time, Country and Celtic Bands (The Down Home, 7 p.m., $10)
  • Bombadil and Hunter Grigg (The Willow Tree, 8 p.m., $10)

Sunday night, you should probably be studying for that final on Monday. If you really need another break though, you can find a list of all events going on in the Johnson City area this weekend here.

Come On and (Story) Slam

Above is a video project I did for a class–the same one this blog is for, actually.

Last Friday I had the absolute pleasure of attending and documenting the ETSU Tale Tellers’ Story Slam. It’s a competitive storytelling event that the Tale Tellers host three times a semester on the third Friday of every month.

The theme for the stories on Friday night was “Runaway.” Performers told stories about running away from home, running from problems, running from bad dates and everything in between. There were some current ETSU students, some alumni, and even faculty members.

Watch the video to meet a few people that were there and learn more about the event. I recommend catching a Story Slam next semester. This fall, they will all be held at the Next Door in downtown Johnson City.

Paradise Will Be a Kind of Library

Yesterday was #WorldBookDay, so I’ve got books on the brain–as per usual. I read a lot, and last summer I decided it would be much more cost effective if I visited the library instead of buying my books. Why buy a book you’re not sure you’ll even like when you can just get it for free?

My library of choice is the Johnson City Public Library. I checked out Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner yesterday after one of my favorite actresses tweeted about it. We’re blessed in this area to have such a great library with a wide selection of books.

Books aren’t all the JCPL has to offer, however. The library also hosts programs for children all the way up to seniors, including classes, books clubs and lectures. It’s an invaluable part of our community because everything that they do is free to the public.

JCPL’s full event calendar can be found here. If the JCPL doesn’t have what you’re looking for, trying checking out one of the other 16 branches of the Organization of Watauga Libraries. I reiterate: free books and free access to arts education! Support your local library!

Made Right Here

Last week I wrote about books set in Southern Appalachia. This week I’ll tackle movies.

The Hunger Games was the first movie I say that made me think, “Wow, that looks like it was shot in my backyard.” It sort of was–all principal filming happened in North Carolina. The familiar terrain made it all the more powerful because it felt so physically immediate to me.

Not everything is filmed in Hollywood. When directors want an authentic look to their films, the best way to do is to shoot on location. What other movies were filmed or set in this area?

  • The River dir. Mark Rydell (1984)
  • The Last of the Mohicans dir. Michael Mann (1992)
  • The Evil Dead dir. Sam Raimi (1981)
  • Big Stone Gap dir. Adriana Trigiani (2014)
  • Cold Mountain dir. Anthony Minghella (2003)
  • Sergeant York dir. Howard Hawks (1941)
  • Deliverance dir. John Boorman (1972)
  • October Sky dir. Joe Johnston (1999)

Tennessee Trivia has a more exhaustive list of movies filmed in this state. Nashville and Memphis are the most popular locations by a wide margin, but there are a few further east as well.

Take Me Home (Through a Book)

The Appalachian Trail winds through over 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Mountains.

The books that have stayed with me the longest are the ones that I can relate to. This is true of most stories: If we can see ourselves in them, there’s a greater chance we’ll keep coming back to them. It’s relatability, it’s visibility–it’s important.

For me, I usually find myself in the characters, but that’s not the only way to relate to a story. I love it when a book gives me a clear sense of space that I can see and navigate as if I were there myself. That’s made endlessly easier when a book is set somewhere that you actually know.

How many books have you read set in Tennessee? Below you’ll find a list of books set in the Southern Appalachia region, primarily east Tennessee and Virginia, though there are a few further flung locations.

  • A Death in the Family by James Agee, Fiction
  • Appalachia: The Voice of Sleeping Birds by Cynthia Rylant, Children’s Fiction
  • Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani, Fiction (Has everyone read this one already? Maybe)
  • Blindside by Catherine Coulter, Mystery/Thriller
  • Bloodroot by Amy Greene, Fiction
  • Child of God by Cormac McCarthy, Fiction/Southern Gothic
  • Christy by Catherine Marshall, Historical Fiction
  • Darwin’s Children by Natasha Larry, Young Adult Fiction
  • The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, YA Fiction (I know it’s Panem, but District 12 is set in Appalachia, which is cool)
  • If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, YA Fiction
  • Pioneers in Paradise: Legends and Stories from Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia by V.N. Phillips, Nonfiction
  • Provinces of Night by William Gay, Fiction/Southern Gothic
  • Suttree by Cormac McCarthy, Fiction/Southern Gothic
  • The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore, Fiction
  • Twilight by William Gay, Horror (I don’t believe there are any vampires)
  • Wash by Margaret Wrinkle, Historical Fiction

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a place for you (and me!) to start. I know what I’ll be picking up from the library next week!

If you have any favorite novels set in our region, please pass along a recommendation.

Nun So Great

The Joneborough Repertory Theatre continues its production of Sister Act this weekend. The show opened on March 31 and runs through April 22.

This is JRT’s sixth production during its 2016-2017 season. Sister Act is a Tony Award-nominated musical comedy with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater and book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner. It is based on the 1992 film of the same name.

“Filled with powerful gospel music, outrageous dancing and a truly moving story, Sister Act will leave audiences breathless,” JRT’s webpage reads.

JRT will put on a total of eight shows during its 2016-2017 season. The Little Princess begins its run on May 12, and auditions for the final production South Pacific were this weekend.

Beyond its productions, JRT hosts many classes for children up to adults through the Town of Jonesborough’s Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts. These include instruction in the Alexander technique, tap dancing, stage lighting and more. JRT also offers many volunteer opportunities.

For more information about productions, classes or volunteering, visit JRT’s website here.

Women Behind the Wheel

Tomorrow night, race to see Speed Sisters, the third and final film of the spring’s Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers. ETSU’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts will screen Speed Sisters at on Monday at 7 p.m.

A documentary by Amber Fares, the film tells the story of the first all-woman car racing team in the Middle East. Five women brave cultural and political obstacles to race through the streets of Palestine. The film has won several awards, including the Audience Award at the Irish Film Institute Festival.

Each semester, Mary B. Martin School of the Arts brings three films and their filmmakers to ETSU. Speed Sisters follows earlier screenings of narrative film Mango Dreams and documentary I Come From.

After the screening, Fares will lead a discussion session with a reception to follow. The screening will take place in the D.P. Culp University Center auditorium. Admittance is free.

For more information, call (423)439-8587 or visit

Sustainable Art

The ETSU Department of Sustainability hosts the 3rd Annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival tonight.

The festival showcases short from the national festival as well as films from middle school, high school, and college students. Each film focuses on environmental themes, and the student filmmakers will give question and answer sessions after their films.

At intermission, local non-profits and advocacy groups provide at opportunity to learn about local environmental issues and groups in the EnviroFair.

The festival begins at 6 p.m. in the D.P. Culp University Center. Check out the Facebook event page here to learn more.

Mountain Stage Comes to ETSU

Long-running public radio music program Mountain Stage with Larry Groce is coming to Johnson City this weekend.

Mountain Stage has been distributed weekly across the country by NPR for more than 30 years. The two hour show is recorded live and features established and emerging artists from across genres. This Sunday, the program comes to ETSU’s D.P. Culp University Center.

Set to perform are Band of Ruhks, Claire Lynch Band, Bumper Jacksons, Otis Gibbs, and the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band. The show is at 7 p.m., with doors at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25, $20 for seniors or $10 with an ETSU student I.D. For more information on the bands and ticket purchases, go here.

Just think: if you cheer loud enough, it could be considered your public radio debut!