Thursday, August 29, 2013

Being Mary Read

Photos by: Halldor Sigurdsson from Schoharie Crossing - thanks!
If someone took a notion to sing the "Mary Read Blues" ? It could rightly be said/sung that "If it were not for bad luck, she had no luck at all." Her story starts in poverty but then, most pirate stories do... I created a monologue about her back story that I tell as I take off the skirt and shawl to reveal pants and shirt as I  arm my self and transform into Mark Read, pirate.
and transform into Mark.
I enter as Mary...
" After my dear mother died I went to live in London with Granny. She was not fond of me and she sent me out to earn me keep as a stable boy – which I did.  I had hoped for an apprenticeship or schooling but it was not to be. From her own mouth I heard the reason behind my mother’s disguising me as a boy. My grandmam was not even sure that I was her grand daughter but as my brother was 2 years older, she believed him ( that is me) to be her blood...But after Granny died I had no place and no one… so I joined the army – Some of me mates had gone across the channel to Holland and I heard they could learn the language right quick enough and the food was regular and peace ruled the land and the Army was the place, so I went too. It was there I met my first husband. . .We were tent mates see? ...And got to know each other very well.  After, we got to know each other quite well we opened an Inn –  work was easy. For the first time I dressed as a woman. But we were only married 11 months when he took sick with the same fever and I was just frantic. No issue to show for our union just bills – I took on men's clothing again and I went to the sea – thinking to live again in London..."  I was very excited to be invited to bring this character and bit of history to the  "Not Just For Kids Storytelling"at Schoharie Crossing. A bit about their series from the local paper: "The "Not Just For Kids Storytelling" series was the inspiration of the site manager Janice Fontanella, who said she fell in love with the art form more than two decades ago and was looking for a way to share it with others. "I was just so excited myself that I discovered storytelling and it was something I wanted people to hear," said Fontanella. And she thought the events would be a "perfect fit" at the site."I'm sure there's been storytelling going on here for years," Fontanella said, noting the famed storytelling traditions of both the Mohawk Indians and the area's early European settlers."Storytelling is more of a traditional art form," she added. "It's appropriate for a historic site." 
The storytelling series is funded, in part, by the Fulton-Montgomery Arts Grants, part of the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts administered by Saratoga Arts.It's sponsored by the Friends of Schoharie Crossing, Stewart's Shops, the Garden Bug, Tribes Hill Deli, Southside Coffee Shop and Dolci Sweet Shop.
According to Fontanella, the program is run entirely through sponsorships and donations, and all of the money raised goes to the storytellers themselves, some of whom travel many hours in order to participate. Admission is free to all of the performances and they take place rain or shine. Free refreshments are also served following each show."
l. to r. Claire Nolan, Maddy and Greg Reid, descendants of Mary Read
My intention is to humanize the character and the times as I tell what it was really like to be a pirate and a woman in the late 17th and early18th  century. I have always loved doing the research but much of her story is unknown. I  had decided to make up an ending to her life that I like to think about as being true.  On this trip to Schoharie Crossing, NY I had a very unusual meeting that made me think my idea about the end of her life was more truth than fiction.

In conjunction with my gig I was lucky enough to be invited to teach a workshop for the Children At The Well a group of young storytellers in the Albany, NY/ Capitol District.  Check them out and you will see for yourselves that they are wonderful. That was a lovely turn of events in itself and many thanks Paula Weiss for her generosity and connecting us all.  But... check out this crazy serendipity.  Here is a post-script from Paula: "PS- oh, hey- it turns out that one of our dads- he & his daughter are coming to the workshop- is a descendant of Mary Read's!"  After meeting Reid he told me that his grandmother from CuraƧao always said that they were direct descendants of Mary Read. How cool is that?  You cannot make this stuff up.

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