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
On Thursday, April 21st, I attended a short reading of The First House, a work in process written and read by Amy Agigian. Amy Agigian is a Suffolk University Sociology professor as well
as an author (Baby Steps: How Lesbian Alternative Insemination is Changing the World), and the Founding Director of the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights. When first arriving to the Poetry Center in the Sawyer Library, the room was loud, where friends, students, and faculty were all talking among themselves as Amy set up.
The room instantly quieted, however, about five minutes later when she began to speak. Professor Agigian passed around a piece of paper first, to write down each of our names and email addresses, so we could receive a notice when the book was published, and then started into how she began her new book. She describes, “There are these stories inside me that just want to come out,” and discussed that she had started by writing a list of all these different stories, and then realized that the list was interconnected and has been combining the stories on that list ever since. At this point, she says, she is about 90% finished with her work in progress, and realizes now that the majority of the snapshots of her life she wrote about were actually centered around her mom.
The first chapter she read from, “A Life in Beverages” tracked her mom’s life and moods, as Amy grew up and learned to recognize what each drink meant to her mother. She lists ice tea, soda, water, alcohol, etc. and how each drink either revealed to Amy how her mother was feeling or what mood she was in, from when she was pretty young, up to when her mother was getting more and more sick. Amy’s stories actually started from when she was in grade school all the way up to when her son started 9th grade, some cute and funny, while others more serious and dark, however all were honest and real. While the stories were definitely nonfiction chapter excerpts, they were also poetic and rhythmic in the way she wrote and read each piece.
Through the stories, Agigian goes into her life growing up in detail, as she developed from a mischievous young student who had a heart arrhythmia, to having a lesbian mom and coming out to her friend about it, to being in summer camp and functioning while having a sick mom. All these stories illustrate how Amy has developed into a strong advocate for women, and how through all the different experiences she had growing up with her mother, shaped her into becoming the person she is. While Amy is finishing her stories that will become the finishing pieces to The First House, I’ll be patiently waiting for that email alert.
By Shelby Stubbs
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.
Just a few weeks ago, our story slam coordinator and emcee Norah Dooley, stopped by for a class visit. Sporting a warm and welcoming smile, Dooley took hold of her clicker, and wasted no time diving into her spiel on how we all have a story to tell, enthusiastically stating “we’re hardwired for that!” Dooley all the while conjured up some sort of joke that members of the class couldn’t help but chuckle at. Closer to the end of her presentation, Dooley evoked some class participation, beckoning us all to close our eyes, and to picture somewhere we think of when we hear the phrase “where I am from,” just to properly acquaint us with this year’s story slam theme. Meandering through all five senses, Dooley, in a cool, calm voice inquired: “What do you see to right? If you reach out and touch it, what does it feel like? Is it rough? Cold? Hot?” After being instructed to open our eyes, we were then challenged to tell our story to the person sitting closest to us in one minute. Of course a majority of us however, were unwilling to quit, even when Dooley called time, which was proof that Dooley’s pitch on storytelling was nothing far from the truth. Left fascinated by all that Dooley’s class visit had to offer, we caught up with Dooley, curious to know more about what stories she has to tell.
Now a storytelling course professor at Lesley University, as well as a professor at Tufts University’s Experimental College, Dooley says that twenty-five years ago, she never would have thought that she’d be a storyteller. “I was getting a degree in Creative Arts and learning, and I wanted to take a theater course as an elective my senior year, but they didn’t offer any.” Dooley’s mentors then nudged her in the direction of a storytelling course, and well, the rest is history. “I love it! It’s something very one of a kind, I’m always excited to hear other people’s stories, and it’s always fascinating to me what people bring.” Dooley is also a visiting author, and frequents homeless shelters, centers that host retirees, and youth developmental institutions.
When asked what advice she has for others who may want to get into storytelling, she replied: “Tell your story to just one other person, go to open mics, and remember to be engaged and present in the moment, and think only about the experience you’re talking about!”
Come out to Suffolk University’s story slam, and see what Dooley, some of Suffolk’s student storytellers, and what some GrubStreet storytellers have to offer, on Friday at 7 pm at the Modern Theater.