Jo Radner is a storyteller for all moods who delights in eccentrics, believes that humor and gravity are good bedfellows, and favors characters who shape admirable lives around unavoidable misfortunes. She has performed and taught from Maine to Hawaii. Although she tends to make stories about the people and history of northern New England, she also performs traditional folktales and her own modern tales and riffs on well-known classics. Her major stories include “Burnt into Memory,” a performance created from oral histories she gathered from survivors of the 1947 wildfire that destroyed the town of Brownfield, Maine, and “Tangled Lives: Native People and English Settlers in Colonial New England,” which examines our troubled history by juxtaposing Native American oral traditions and stories told by Jo’s own New England settler ancestors.
Jo is committed to strengthening communities by helping them find, shape, and present their stories. Her workshops on the art of interviewing have served historical societies, libraries, hospice and home-care organizations, elementary and secondary schools, and intergenerational and multicultural groups. Before taking early retirement and returning to her family's home in western Maine, Jo taught for 31 years at American University. She has also taught storytelling in the curriculum in the Lesley University Creative Arts in Learning M.A. Program. Her first CD, Yankee Ingenuity: Stories of Headstrong and Resourceful People, received a 2013 Storytelling World Award; her second, Burnt into Memory: How Brownfield Faced the Fire, received the Storytelling World Award in 2019. In April 2013 she was given the Brother Blue and Ruth Hill Award by the League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling, “in recognition of extraordinary commitment, dedication and loving encouragement to the New England storytelling community.” Jo holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is past president of the National Storytelling Network and the American Folklore Society.