Thank you to all the performers for making this such a truly wonderful, deeply emotional night! Your stories are pieces of yourselves quite generously given, pieces we will be honored to carry with us, always.
If you could not tell from all the recent posts, Suffolk University hosted its very own story slam last Friday for the second time and reading the other posts as well as hearing the feedback from other attendees, with myself included, the story slam was a splendid success! It was simply an excellent and heartwarming finale as the spring semester of 2016 comes swiftly trickling down to an end as all students rush to finish projects and essays while studying for finals next week and teachers pressured to grade paper after paper. It certainly helped that it was hosted on such a nice warm Friday as well.
Now that we have established that the grand success of the story slam, let’s talk about why and how. If you did not attend, do not worry; there are two other posts describing the highlights and the performances of what transpired. However, it should be said that reading about the performance and the story is much more different than actually seeing the performance live and hearing the story in person. There is an intimate connection that is created between the storyteller and the audience member even if it lasts for a mere five minutes.
We view a tiny glimpse of this individual’s life-a person that we may or may not know personally-and it is wicked emotional and impactful because this is obviously an important piece of their life whether it be humorous or bittersweet. This is where they are coming from after all. This is what shaped them into the person they are today. So, the story they told could be a significant factor in either reaffirming any aspect of their personality or acting as a stepping stone into piecing together their identity. On the other side of the coin, it could be a little endearing story about their hometown that may even bring feelings of homesickness, nostalgia, or that warm, fuzzy, and uplifting feeling in your chest that not’s quite nostalgia or homesickness as you remember the place you grew up in.
If you could not tell already, the range of emotions that each story presented to the audience member was wide. There were bellowing laughs as one man burst into a brief yet actually pleasant rendition of Adele and another describes how her old Brooklyn self would not stand for some pompous hipster’s attitude. There were cheerful chuckles and soft giggles as another describes his friend’s passionate ardor for his hometown as well as his own-keep on doing whatever you’re doing, Bronx and Lexington. There were the glistening tears from either sympathy or empathy as our ears strained to hear every last word that fell from a storyteller’s mouth as they described their hardships from losing a wonderful mother, reuniting with your precious father after many years, or surviving familial adversities. There were quietly surprised faces from the intense performance of a storyteller’s experience of lost friend.
Even the host of the story slam, Nora Dooley, chimed in between each stories to tell her own stories and managed to get the audience to participate with everybody telling other people around them where they were from with a one minute exercise. It was a fantastic feeling because it felt casual and comfortable when you could hear excited chatter all around you sharing little snippets of your life regardless of whether you were acquaintances, great friends, best friends for life, or just plain strangers-nobody was not going to judge in a negative or callous way. Also, it helped that the theatre itself was cozy; it was not the biggest, but it was small enough for the storytellers to create that intimate connection between them and the audience.
Moreover, the story slam was a casual, friendly, and intimate event. It was a cozy and tranquil Friday evening on a warm April night that relaxed the minds of any stressed person, at least for me. Personally, it was the first Suffolk University official event I had gone to all year and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Should it happen again, I would not mind attending once more. In contrast to the bustling city of Boston filled to the brim with employees dressed in chic outfits and sleek shoes constantly checking their phones for text messages or calls from coworkers, tired students rushing out of Park Street Station to get to class on time, and other busy individuals, the words that fell from the lips of the ten storytellers transformed my lethargic fatigue from the endless projects and essays into a comfortable and calm exhaustion like the feeling when you fall into bed after a long day of work or going out with friends.
This is one of the reasons why I hope Suffolk University will host another story slam is because of how storytelling can be used a healing agent for others. One of the books I had read for another class focuses on this aspect. If you want to know the name of this book, it is called the In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Rattner. It is a fantastic book, one of my personal favorites, although rather depressing, but it teaches you the importance of storytelling especially in one important scene. Long story short, after Raami, the seven year old protagonist, mistakenly reveals her father’s identity to the Kamaphibal, the invading group searching for Raami’s family, her father tells her, “Words, you see…allow us to make permanent what is essentially transient. Turn a world filed with injustice and hurt into a place that is beautiful and lyrical. Even if only on paper. I wrote the poem for you the day you lay sick with polio. I stood over your crib and you looked at me with such mournful eyes I thought you understood my grief.” (106) allows the reader a glimpse of how storytelling can be a powerful tool in empowering the individual. Storytelling, no matter what form it may be presented in whether it be from orally or verbally, will always be a subjective experience and has this magical ability to conjure powerful emotions. In this case, storytelling can produce a sense of healing and comfort to the reader. The story itself, weaved by the words that the author utilizes, acts as a silent yet substantial companion to the reader. There is no judgement in the aftermath of the finale because there is only everlasting introspection since as Raami’s father stated, “Words…allow us to make permanent what is essentially transient.”
In addition, storytellers are able to compose stories, poems, narratives, and more that could turn tragedies intro triumph in the end because they held the power of creation. This quote, “We’d been talking about storytelling, how there could be many versions of the same story, many ways of telling it, and how each versions of the same story, many ways of telling it, and how each version was a kind of manifestation, as if the story itself was a living, evolving entity, a god capable of many guises.” (103) along with the quote above displays the magical quality of storytelling. After Raami leads her own precious father to his own death, one of the most tragic and heartbreaking moments in the novel, the family begins to lose more control over their lives as they constantly are victims in a war they cannot stop.
Storytelling allows the individual the power to create their own story and their own ending. It allows them to transcend reality and give them the chance to find their own wings so they can soar through the memories of their own life to find the closest thing to tranquility.
On April 26th, I attended a poetry reading by Kristine Doll and Peter Thabit Jones. Kristine Doll is the author of the poetry collection Speak to Me Again. Twice now, she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in poetry. One of Doll’s most noteworthy works is her translation of Catalan Poetry. Doll’s work has been published internationally and is a Professor of World Languages and Cultures at Salem State University in Salem, MA.
Peter Thabit Jones is a Welsh poet who currently lives in Swansea, United Kingdom. His work has been translated into 22 languages, and is the recipient of many awards, among them is the Eric Gregory Award for Poetry. In addition, Thabit Jones is also a former Professor at the University of Swansea.
The reading was held at the Grolter Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. This bookshop is small, intimate, and quiet, but once it filled up with poetry-lovers, it came to life with ideas. Its small size makes for a quiet atmosphere, except for the rolling Red Line trains beneath our feet.
As soon as I walked through the door (that I finally was able to close on the third try), the walls came to life because of the passionate writers who had come from as far as Gloucester, MA to share their love for poetry. Once I sat down, I realized as soon as I was offered a glass of wine that this wasn’t a lecture, but a group of poets sharing and appreciating each other’s work. (I declined the wine offer, for obvious reasons.)
Doll’s poetry that she shared had two main foci: translations, and the love she has for her deceased parents. The work Doll shared about her parents were the ones that I enjoyed the most, because although she shared just a few words, the passion and love that she has for her parents was evident. Doll shared a piece titled My Aunt, which tells the story of Doll’s belief that her Aunt came down from heaven to retrieve her mother.
Thabit Jones’ showed his passion for poetry through his relaxed persona, which really invited those in the audience to really become engaged. Thabit Jones began his readings by telling the audience that he felt “drunk” due to the extreme jet-lag he was experiencing. Thabit Jones shared that his humble beginnings of living in the “ugly” part of Swansea still inspire his work today.
The most noteworthy piece of Thabit Jones’ incorporates humor with a message, which was a great technique for him to employ, as it pulled in the audience. Stones is about a stone wall that Thabit Jones attempted to build, but failed, however, he still never viewed it as a waste of time as he got to make a poem about it, and that is “all that matters to a poet.”
This poetry reading was far more than people gathering to listen; it was a small community within Boston where people share their work with one another. The bookshop where the reading is held is the vehicle, the people are the drivers, and the poetry is the fuel that ignites the engine, which inspires and pushes writers to keep writing.
-Mitchell O’Connor, Class of 2019
The First House | A Memoir in Progress | 21 4 26
Amy Agigian is a Suffolk University Sociology professor and the founding director of the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights. She is a known professor, writer and feminist. Agigian is well respected within the Suffolk community and that was quickly known when I entered the room for her reading and the seats were full.
Along with me in the room were fellow classmates, professors and Amy’s personal friends, it was exciting to see such a big group of supporters and interested listeners.
Before starting her reading she told us that the selected chapters she would be reading from her book were mainly about her mom and she admitted that she was “probably going to cry.” The vulnerability announced in the beginning of the reading session allowed for there to be be a comfortable and relaxed mood/environment and when she began reading it was as if I have been knowing her for my entire life. Amy had that ‘I was a cool and rebellious teen’ vibe going on and it only made me want to connect with her even more.
She described her book as having ‘difficult and funny stories that needed to be told.’ She confessed proudly that her book was 90% done and that feedback after the reading was over would be greatly appreciated. The books timeline goes from she was very young to almost the present day.
She began with “A Life in Beverages.” In this chapter Amy recounts her life and her moms life through an array of beverages. She tells us that her memories of her childhood spent with her mom can be remembered through holidays too and what was beverages were served there. A thing that I noticed from Amy’s style of writing was that she loves to write in lists and it was obvious from the first chapter read to the last. Through the use of lists she was able to convey striking images and described life as it actually is, just a bunch of lists and images stacked one on top of the other
A chapter I particularly enjoyed was “How I Became A Sociologist.” Amy recounts her time as a child when she got diagnosed with heart arrhythmia. She had an extra beat every 50 beats and she thought that was the coolest thing, like ever. When Amy says that getting diagnosed with heart arrhythmia it kind of throws the listeners off and question why?, but then she flat out says ‘I was not an athletic child.” She loved the fact that she was restricted from doing physical activities and basked in the glory when her classmates would all go outside for recess and she remained inside and kept herself preoccupied with snooping around her classmates desks. This chapter provided the listeners with laughter after previous, heavy chapters were read. She was like any other kid…curious.
The First House surrounded her mom but it also encompassed her family and her friends and it was full of love. She wrote about happy times, confusing times and funny times but she her goal was to write an authentic Amy Agigian book so of course she wrote about the bad times. A couple of the chapters she read like ‘I Do Not Want My Mom To Fall In Love With Anyone Else But Me” and “Coming Out To Clara” describe times of jealousy and times full of doubt and fear. By adding the bad in with the good Amy creates a ‘real’ mom, a mom that people can relate to and who’s relationship can reflect that of others. This is why her book will be successful, there is no extra fluff or padding, Amy gives it to you and she gives it to you good.
The stories within each chapter add up to the woman the Amy Agigian is today. It is obvious that she was built strong. The reading took me through a timeline of her life and it was like I saw it all happening, from wanting to be her moms favorite to wanting to protect her mom and the accusations that can come from her being a lesbian to thinking one day at summer camp how when she grows up she wants to be a bisexual too just like her camp leader!
Great read, genuine person and awesome experience!
The 2nd annual Suffolk University Story Slam took place this past Friday night and was a great success. The theme for the story slam was “Where I Am From.” There were ten storytellers set for the evening, five from Grub Street and five from Suffolk University. The two teams competed for the top story of the night and trust me there were some great ones. The stories ranged from making you laugh hysterically to having you fighting off tears. Each contestant had 5 minutes and 59 seconds to complete their story. The competition of great storytelling had begun.
The Story Slam took place at Suffolk University’s own Modern Theater. The cozy welcoming atmosphere of the venue hit you the second you walked in the door. Whether it was the opportunity to take a picture with Ramy the Suffolk University mascot, or the excited rumblings of the audience in anticipation of the performance we were all about to see. The night started off when the theater lights dimmed and the spotlight focused on our own Professor Amy Monticello standing at center stage.
Amy Started off by giving a background of how the whole Story Slam took place and all of the hard work that was dedicated to making it a possibility . She gave everyone there that was part of the Suffolk community a sense of pride. She recounted on the total fiasco with the President and Board of trustees. Specifically the way that the Suffolk University really came together to stand up for what was right. She expressed to the audience that she had found a home at Suffolk just like many others that were there.
Brent Daly from Grub Street was up first and he did a great job breaking the ice of the evening with hilarious dating encounter he had with the Grindr app. He depicted a crazy night of going out to a club and trying to find his date. He played on some pretty funny gay stereotypes that he encountered throughout the night. As well as sprinkling in some great dick size jokes that had the whole crowd roaring early. He described the club as separated into sort of clicks until it happened. The playing of Adele which brought the entire club together in song and dance.
Elizabeth Hadley from Suffolk was up next and her story was about why are we the way we are. She described a time in middle school when she found these absolutely kick ass socks. She loved them and wore them to school but was sadly bullied for them. Her Mom told her not to worry about what other people think, to do what she wanted. She then explained that ever since that moment she hasn’t cared about other people’s judgement and has done what has made her happy. Which is the way that everyone should live.
John Doole was then up for Grub Street who told a deeply sad life story that had the whole audience so quiet you could hear a pin drop. He told the story of his friend Frank that had suffered a traumatic brain injury from a gunshot. Frank recovered and worked to help others that were going through the same horrible situation, and that’s when the two met for the first time. John described to the audience how hard recovering from that type of injury is, how depressed and alone a person could get. His story showed how he overcame addiction and how he eventually lost his good friend Frank to suicide. He had to compose himself a couple times during the story which showed everyone how deeply his friend’s death had effected him and still does. It made one think about how important the gift of life is and that we should never take it for granted.
The show’s host Nora Dooly then came on with an amusing anecdote about the meaning of her last name. She had been bullied as well as a kid but for the name Dooly. This made her determined to find out what her name meant later in life. Dooly means dark warrior in Gaelic which is bad ass. However she also found that it was slang term for a penis in Ireland.
Jennifer Morasca from Suffolk had a sad story about how last semester her life had gotten turned upside down. Her family had gone through a tragic period of reoccurring drug abuse. From her sister to her mother she had to watch how drugs can effect a person. But she stayed strong and battled through adversity. It was an inspiring and deeply moving story.
Grant Patch from Grub Street is from Lexington, which until recently wasn’t a fact he was that proud of. He described it as a place where people stick to themselves. He never felt the same sense of community as his friend from the Bronx did about his home. That was until the Westboro Baptist Church decided to protest against his old high school for strongly supporting gay rights. His entire community came together out of nowhere to tell those hateful bigots where they could shove it. Making him feel for the first time a real sense of pride in his home town.
Janaye Kerr from Suffolk University is from Jamaica. She told the audience the story of how her father had to leave her family to get work in America to provide for his family. She described how not having her father there effected her childhood. She had an eating disorder and was getting into fights at school. Until one day her father surprised her by coming home, and taking her and her mother back to live with him in America as happy reunited family.
Michele Ferrari of Grub Street told about a time where her Brooklyn roots stood out at a party in a hilarious way. She was at a fancy party with her mother when all of a sudden her mom goes to grab a crumb cake from the car. She then offered the crumb cake to the party only to have it called a “poison cake” by some fitness snob. Having to be talked out of fighting her by her friends only to see the snob stuff her face with it by the end of the night.
Dan Hurley from Suffolk described how to him his mom was always home . She was his best friend. She was a teacher and always went out of her way to help someone in need. Sadly she was diagnosed with early onset dementia and passed away when he was only 15. She is still his hero, and he proudly told the audience that he tries to model his life by what she would have done.
Katherine Iannarone was Grub Street’s last storyteller. She told the story of how she was tried to conform into her perfect family. She had her problems and sadly her mother hid it from everyone saying that she was at school instead of getting help. She was not the golden child anymore and she accepted it and is proud of not being like her parents.
Sofia Ohrynowicz from Suffolk University was the last performer of the night. She talked about her favorite thing in school was theater. Putting on plays and musicals with her friends. Unfortunately after her friends graduated and her brother moved out, her parents got separated. She couldn’t handle that change and became depressed, until she started reading and writing more. She found a way to control her life in her writing and now proudly is a writer.
Overall the Ram Slam was a huge success for everyone involved. The storytellers did truly amazing jobs and moved everyone in the audience. It was a proud moment for the Suffolk and the Literary communities, and I for one was glad to be part of it.
What if you were to see what was written on a page performed on stage? The city of Boston dives deeper into literature than what is confined by words printed on a piece of paper. Boston’s large theater district brings millions of people into the city each year. With more than ten theaters located within Boston’s theater district, Boston brings writer’s stories to life on stage. Broadway in Boston, an organization which brings talented groups of traveling shows to the Boston area, host Broadway’s most famous and big name shows at the Boston Opera House, one of Boston’s most respected and established theaters.
One of the Opera House’s most recent traveling performances was Pippin.
Pippin is a fabulous musical filled with magic, murder, lust, illusions, and as they say the climax of the century; it is one of the most complicated shows in Broadway history. If you are interested in reading more about the production you can click here.
Pippin was originally produced in 1978, with Stephen Schwartz as writer and composer and Bob Fosse as director. Bob Fosse is one of Broadway’s most famous directors and choreographers. He is known for directing sassy and mysterious musicals and films such as Chicago, Chabert, Sweet Charity, and White Christmas. After its closing on Broadway, Pippin was given a revival, which one Best Musical Revival in 2013.
With the revival currently on tour and news buzzing about the newly developed show, Pippin is now one of the most commonly produced musicals in high school theaters. Director’s across the country enjoy the shows dark and mysterious music yet light hearted morals and humor. However, regardless of the shows admiration, there has been many cases of censorship within high school productions. Cities, such as Boston, advertise Pippin to families and musical lovers, producing the show in its entirety, without cut scenes, modifications, or censorship. Does the censorship of these show ruin the intentions of composers such as Stephen Schwartz? Does it degrade the morals and messages portrayed by the literature itself?
Censorship in literature frequently backfires on its imposters, for the banning or censoring of a literary piece or theater production encourages readers and viewers to become more attached to the work. Psychology suggests that viewers are more enticed to read a book or view a production that authorities suggest they should not view. In the case of high schools throughout Massachusetts, family members, students, and faculty were more curious about what was changed in the script than the actual production itself. Surprisingly, knowing that changes would be made to the script, parents brought their children to see Pippin at the Boston Opera House to experience the show in its entirety.
The city of Boston has a great amount of literary citizenship. Theater programs, literary journals, and other literary production companies thrive in the small, family-like city. Bostonian writers and producers are proud of the work created and showcased within city limits. We are proud of our work. We are proud of others’ work. We are proud to be Bostonians. Boston’s literary and theater district is like no other, I encourage you to explore the world beyond the pages of a book; explore Boston’s theater district.
By Lindsay Doyle