the living art of storytelling in Massachusetts

AMAZING MOUTHOFF - 9-21-09 - Who's Who and What Went Down.......

Last night, at the plaza opposite Tosi's in Central Square, nine storytellers made magic. Fate and the gods had decreed that there would be no technological gadgetry at this event, so we enjoyed the intimacy of this very public and non-traditional performance space. Here's what happened:

1) Doria (me) went first, with "Mrs Puccini", the tale of my journey into my new identity/hat as Opera Composer's Wife. My husband is in the midst of birthing his opera "Say It Aint So Joe" about Sarah Palin and the 2008 Vice Presidential debate. There is a mini media circus brewing, which is rather wild for us! For more info on this remarkable work, check out or just google Sarah Palin opera and enjoy the right wing comments.

2) Libby Frank told "Cars and Guys" and took us down Memory Lane to the wilds of Westchester and new Rochelle, where fast cars and fast guys were no match for our Libby! She even crooned a couple of car serenades for us, tributes offered her by her 4-wheeled swains.

3) James McCoy told one of his original rhyming narratives, "Thompson was my only failure", about the life of Francis Thompson, a 19th century poet, Catholic and failed boot-maker. Poignant and sweet, as only James can be.

4) Marty Levine created an impromptu Improvisational work for us, based on three words spat out at him by the audience: "Caleidescope, Fluoridated, Incongruous". He took us on an incredible journey, demonstrating courage and agility along the way. Courage - since he didn't know where he was going any more than we did, but bravely plunged ahead - and a combination of mental and kinetic agility tht has to be seen to be believed. A tour de force!!

5) Kevin Brooks (who NEVER goes by Mr. Packer) told "Cars", a whimsical and hilarious ride through the various cars that have taken him along his life's path to date. That 1972 Volkswagen bus sure brought back memories..... We were all thrilled to hear that his current steed is approaching menopause, and looks to transform into something wonderful and strange in the near future - very abruptly! - which will mean that there will be a sequel to this tale!

6) Laura Packer decided to play, and riffed off of an old familiar tale (The Elves and the Shoemaker) in new and unfamiliar ways. At times frightening, at times sad, but finally hinting at something wondrous and strange and even transcendent, we followed her willingly down unknown paths. Laura doesn't always take us home, but we don't care; we just like to go where she leads. I named this telling "Booty Call".

7) Elsa revealed depths of beauty, sadness, hope and love in her as-yet unnamed story about her Father's story. I think I understand why he only told his stories to her; she has a gift for creating stories that are like the sweetest onion you can possibly imagine: narrative layers unfold like rose petals to reveal new layers, and beyond/beneath them, even more. Beautiful, poignant, heart-breaking, yet strangely fulfilling and satisfying to hear.

8) Marshall gave us a hysterically delightful new/old twist on an old performance telling that he clearly loved as much as we did. "Hello, Davey!" was revealingly funny, current yet timeless. Rarely has a Storyteller incorporated a prop - in this case, a cellphone - so effectively and seamlessly into his telling. I laughed my ass off, but I did not lose my humanity (thank you Marshall!).

9) Maggie Bush generously closed this glorious evening with her retelling of Zora Neale Hurston's "Roy Makes A Car". Not to be outdone by the earlier and brilliantly told car-tales, this grand Lady of Storytelling told us a wonderful whopper about Roy and his Collision-Proof Car (yes, you read that right). Maggie explained that Ms. Hurston, in an effort to get really great stories from her southern informants, would ask them "Do you know any lies?" With this one, she hit pay dirt, and Maggie showed us exactly why "Roy" is a keeper!

Once again, I thank you all, with my heart filled with gratitude, for coming and telling these beautiful tales. Let's do this again, real soon, y'hear?

Happy Tales,

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Thanks Mrs. Puccini! Booty call, guys in cars, our cars and "Do you know any lies?" What a great a prompt. Thanks for this lowdown report. Felt like I was there.

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Grand Prize for South Shore Grand Slam Story Slam generously donated by Nicolette Heavey and Stories In The Streets (A Maine Get Away)

Stories in the Streets in an outreach literacy program that focuses on families in at-risk areas and fosters community engagement in storytelling by: 1) Creating opportunities for public storytelling wherever families gather — a farmer’s market, laundromat, or food line; and, 2) Offering storytelling workshops that raise family engagement in literacy, cultural awareness and community understanding.  The program is currently active in Lawrence, Brockton and Randolph.


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