Reflections on a Creative Leadership Awardby Guest Blogger: Norah Dooley, Co-Founder of massmouth, inc.
This I am honored to receive a Creative Leadership Award at Puppet Showplace Theatre at the Garden Party Gala, celebrating the occasion of their 39th birthday.
When we first approached Puppet Showplace, in 2010, with the idea of a collaboration, massmouth was just over one year old. We had long known and respected Puppet Showplace Theatre as a venue that supported the art form of puppetry which, much like storytelling, it is an art form with ancient roots that evokes rather than replaces imagination. We also knew that Puppet Showplace Theatre were successful. They had a history that showed grit and commitment that we could admire and aspire to; they had survived as artists and had maintained a continuously operating theater right in the heart of Greater Boston for over 3 decades.
Three years ago, we were whippersnappers, who had just finished our first season of story slams and believed we had a some social capital to share. And if leadership is boldly asking for what one needs, whether appropriate or not, then I have earned some part of this honor - although Cheeky Monkey Award would be a name better fitted to my style. We were beggars at the Puppet Theatre gate and very seriously in need of inexpensive or free office space because our operations had outgrown bedroom/living room arrangement. I suggested a collaboration based on our needs. Ultimately and not surprisingly, the first date between massmouth and Puppet Showplace Theatre did not lead to a relationship.
|Norah Dooley Introducing Maria Tatar at our first "Grimm and Twisted" fairytale slam at PST|
- also the 200th anniversary of the Grimms
This closer reading revealed a mind-blowing truth - The Creative Leadership Award was being given to me and Roxie had been my nominator. I know. It was crazy! Immediately I was on the phone asking Maria Finison, PST Board Member, if the award could be expanded to include the other organizers and founders of massmouth who are still active in Boston. Specifically, Doria Hughes who co-hosted and planned the series at Puppet Showplace Theatre with me and Andrea Lovett, who is always actively promoting the art of storytelling. They both are leaders in the very best in contemporary performance of traditional material. But, no dice. This is an award for one person and Puppet Showplace Theatre wanted me. They cited the other areas of my work as fitting their criteria; my picture books, workshops, curricula etc. and so, although it is awkward to be so honored, I realized that I had to man-up and take one for the team. So I accept this award for me as a representative of the art of storytelling.
Last summer after a different kind of overture we shared a proposal with Puppet Showplace Theatre and created a project that worked. It had been a dream at massmouth,inc. that we would one day be able to entice a theater or another arts group to support traditional storytelling. This was an area of storytelling that we had mastered and worked in for decades. When we saw all storytelling on the wane, we started massmouth. When we saw the new energy slams brought to the art form we came up with an idea to mimic our successful 1st person story slams only using traditional content.
Doria Hughes, storyteller fabulosa, traditional storytellers from Greater Boston and the region and I presented a monthly series of folk & fairy tale slams events right here. Our Slamming the Tradition: Six traditional storytelling events for adults were part open slam, where tellers presented stories no longer than 7 minutes, that were fiction and in some traditional form and part featured performer. Unlike our other story slams, tellers could include props, costumes and music BUT no notes. We secured the prizes and the audience chose winners: A bag of magic beans, magic wishing stone and a small bale of hay were award each month along with a gift card, donated by the Brookline Booksmith. Our first event was written up in ArtsFuse OCT 21 2012.
|Performing with Susan Miron on February 14th, 2013 at PST|
Audiences and performers enjoyed the project and you can read more about specific nights here. One of the highlights of our series for me was that I was able to create a program and present a feature on Feb 14th, 2013, telling longer stories from Boccaccio's 14th century collection of tales, The Decameron. Giovanni Boccaccio, a favorite of mine. He was an Italian author and poet, and an important Renaissance humanist. Boccaccio is particularly noted for his natural, his skewering of hypocrites in high places, witty dialogue and his sympathetic female characters.
My stories ranged from naughty to lusty, and included romantic tales that came from ancient story traditions of India and the bards of the Holy Roman Empire. Susan Miron accompanied me on the harp. She drew on various ancient folk melodies and dances from Southern Italy. The music comes from authentic folk songs of Campagnia, Calabria, Puglia & Napoli as transcribed by John LaBarbera, mandolinist.
|All the performers at "Love, sex and heads may roll." at PST|