On Friday evening, ten powerful stories were shared under our very own Modern Theatre’s roof. These ten stories all focused on one thing: Where we’re from. In collaboration with GrubStreet, Friday’s Story Slam set out to tell varying tales of identity. The atmosphere for it was perfect; a warm spring evening after a long week. The lights inside the theatre set the powerful emotional tone that would last the duration of the show. Suffolk’s very own, Amy Monticello’s eloquent introduction only furthered the poignant emotional undertone, and by the time Norah Dooley introduced the first speaker, I knew it was going to be an intense night. First up was Grubstreet writer Brent Daly, who humorously told the tale of a no show Grindr first date that resulted in him finding solace in the LGBT community through Adele’s “Hello”. Following the same humourous note, Suffolk’s Elizabeth Hadley took the stage by storm and delivered a hilarious but equally uplifting monologue that asked us: “Why are we the way we are?” For Elizabeth, this stemmed from wearing a pair of bold socks to school, and even though she was heckled for them on the ride home, ultimately she learned that if she liked them then everyone else’s opinion was of minimal importance. Within her allotted five minutes and fifty nine seconds, Ms.Hadley’s individualistic and confident disposition on life shined through.
The Slam took a more serious turn once John Doole took the stage. Using no vocal aid to project his voice, he immersed the audience into the world of his good friend Frank. A former cab driver who had suffered a traumatic brain injury after a nearly fatal gunshot to the back of his skull. Doole and Frank met at MGH after Doole had suffered a severe stroke that resulted in him needing extensive surgery which removed half of his cerebellum. Through his depression and desolation post surgery, John started to slowly regain his confidence and relearned his worth. Things were not as fortunate for Frank, who was found dead in his apartment after he was laid off from MGH. Doole encapsulated the loneliness many face after suffering traumatic brain injuries, but more importantly he showed us all the value disabled individuals still possess by ending his story with “I wish I could bust down the door and tell Frank he was valued and that I loved him.” Following suit, Jennifer Morasca only further reduced me to tears as she shared a deeply personal aspect of her life before a room of mostly virtual strangers. Jennifer took the audience on an emotional journey that started during the end of her first semester. After her older sister’s suicide attempt, Jennifer found herself between a rock and a hard place. Her mother had relapsed into alcoholism after a year of sobriety and the rest of her family started to fall apart with varying personal issues. For the duration of winter break, Jennifer spent her time in hospitals but learned incredible lessons about her purpose in life: to help people. Through tremendous pain, Jennifer fought her way through it all with beautiful resiliency, evident in her tone of speech throughout her story.
Our next three story slammers were from different locales, but all beautifully shared stories of community that each had their own accompanying themes. Grubstreet storytellers Grant Patch and Michelle Ferrari hail from Lexington and Brooklyn, NY, respectively, and talked about topics like Patch’s entire town rallying together to combat the infamous Westboro Baptist Church from protesting at the local high school. While Ferrari discussed attending a swanky garden top housewarming party with her mother’s crumb cake in tow, only for it to be rejected by a health guru and then eventually consumed by that same guru at the end of the party–showing us all that mother always knows best, and not to mess with her crumb cake.
Most notably however, was Suffolk story slammer Janaye Kerr. Her stage presence was warm and soothing, she provided the audience with a breathtaking description of her true home of Montego Bay, Jamaica. This is where Janaye spent most of her childhood with her family, who ran a foster home and always maintained community in every sense of the word. Around the age of four, Janaye’s father applied for a religious visa in order to found a church and do religious work in the states. Though it was a major career step for her father, it caused major bouts of separation anxiety for the entire family. Kerr’s story ends on Christmas Eve, with her mother letting her stay up all night and inevitably falling asleep only to awake and find the greatest Christmas present ever, her father, standing before her in the doorway. Thankfully her family was reunited, and they made the journey overseas to Nantucket. As Janaye put it “Where I am from made me appreciate where I am today.”
The closing acts brought the heat; Suffolk’s Dan Hurley probably brought the audience (or at least me) to tears as he reiterated the story of losing his mother to early onset Alzheimer’s. Dan’s relationship with his mother solidified his identity, and though he lost his footing after her death, he never let this tragedy consume him to the point of total destruction. On the topic of destruction, Grubstreet’s Katherine Iannarone chronicled her battle with anorexia and her parent’s response to it. Through her family’s turmoil, and her conflict with her mother Katharine learned the power of love, that regardless of how frustrated her parents grew, they loved her unconditionally. Her parent’s helped shape her into the confident woman speaking before us. Sofia Ohrynowicz closed the slam with a piece on her theatre community. It was a place she felt one with after her parents’ divorce, and ultimately inspired her to pursue her passion of writing; where she has control of her destiny and finds her truest sense of self.
In only an hour and a half, I learned a tremendous amount about five strangers, three classmates, and two acquaintances. Here I witnessed brilliant storytelling that all somehow managed to weave into one spectacular story about identity while still zeroing in on each speaker’s story. There was a beautiful vulnerability throughout the theatre that made for a night of magic that would not have been possible without these amazing GrubStreet writers and Suffolk students who made me so proud as they bared a part of their souls so that maybe the audience members would be provoked to the point of questioning where they came from too.