Tuesday, October 10, 2017

massmouth starts - summer 2008

Blast from the past:  Summer 2008 or The origins of massmouth.org
by Norah Dooley (originally posted at massmouth.blogspot in August of 2011) Photos are from this article which is no longer archived at the TAB but can be found here at the old massmouth.ning now mass-story.com

Here is a blast from the past... Looking backward on the 'birthday' or anniversary of massmouth's first public performance, August 11, 2008.  Below is a "history" (big air quotes!) and then some pictures from a Cambridge TAB article from August 11th.  Lastly, there are the results from our survey of storytellers in Massachusetts.
This is just a bit of the "way back when" story... it is not a deposition, just what I can remember. Others may have clearer hindsight. And if I left anyone out? Please help me add you in...

Co-founder, Doria Hughes
 In June 2008 the idea for a what a group like massmouth would eventually become was born in a coffee shop in Government Center. Andrea Lovett, Doria Hughes and I called a meeting of a group of storytellers working with ReadBoston for the summer. We saw how New Hampshire and New York had active storytelling groups and we noted how little work there was for full time performers. We asked, “How can we make some noise, some waves and raise the visibility and social capital of storytelling in Massachusetts? How can we help storytellers get connected? And stronger?” At that meeting were many traditional storytellers we knew through LANES; Bob Reiser, Tony Toledo, Cindy Rivka Marshall, George Cappaccio, Libby Franck, Diane Edgecomb, Katie Green, Mark Binder and likely some others I may have forgotten. The name massmouth popped up - dunno who said it first, but Libby Franck said, "See that? 'massmouth' - we put "u" in the MOTH." Based on that meeting, we set up an adhoc group and settled on the name massmouth. I sent out a survey to MA storytellers and posted the results. A social networking site was created by Andrea Lovett at .ning, I started a blog and our dream to use video and audio to promote storytelling became a reality when I bought a cheap digital video camera, a tripod and a good lavaliere mic. I designed designed a logo and some business cards that described storytelling as theater of the mind. We were in business.

By AUGUST 2008 we were doing things... With stories and a good mic, amplification and a video camera, Andrea, Doria, Stu Mendleson and I took to urban street corners, ice cream parlors, cafés and later, even apple orchards. We began filling our interactive website with photos, audio clips, and videos of massmouth storytellers in live performance. We were joined in those first days by Brother Blue and Ruth Hill, Michael Anderson, Elsa Zuniga, Laura Packer, Kevin Brooks, Cindy Rivka Marshall, Bruce Marcus, Lani Peterson, Leeny Del Seamonds. In our first few months:

Co-founder, Andrea Lovett
SEPT 2008 We were featured in the Boston Metro newspaper, were featured in the Cambridge TAB with some lovely pics and a great article and within 6 months, our social network had over 80 members. By DECEMBER 2008 we created an archive of over 70 videos of Massachusetts storytellers. Our non-budget for the first year consisted of equipment, material and donations of time from founding members and storytellers Stu Mendelson, Doria Hughes, Andrea Lovett and myself.
We raised $500 for an exchange between Boston and New York Storytellers from Club Passim to Cornelia Street Café. And our “sweat equity” was used to edit and post video, create PR and for web development.  Here is an exchange between Andrea and I about the start of the slams.

Andrea Lovett on July 16, 2008 at 6:29pm "What about looking at venues differently. i.e. places that are unaccustomed to storytellers but are made for telling. Like a bar on an off night? A few of us have been talking about this idea thinking about trying it out with some interactive storytelling. Get people involved, perhaps build new audiences."
Reply by Norah Dooley on July 17, 2008 at 10:19pm  "We do need to go where people are and open our mouths and 'expose' ourselves. Yeah, that's the ticket!"

The rest, as they say, is history. And it is  not over - " not until the fuller-figured woman vocalizes."
Co-founder, Stu Mendleson
A somewhat pc version of "It ain't over until the fat lady sings" - I always thought this was a Yogi Berra quote, but wikipedia has it attributed to sportscasters Dan Cook and Ralph Carpenter. "The imagery of Richard Wagner's opera suite Der Ring des Nibelungen and its last part, Götterdämmerung, is typically the one used as accompanying reference to the phrase. The 'lady' is the valkyrie Brünnhilde, who is traditionally presented as a very buxom lady with horned helmet, spear and round shield. Her aria lasts almost twenty minutes and leads directly to the end of the opera, though the character Hagen has one final line, 'Zurück vom Ring!', to sing after Brünnhilde's death, and there is also a substantial orchestral finale. Since Götterdämmerung is about the end of the world (or at least the world of the Norse gods), in a very significant way 'it is [all] over when the fat lady sings.'"

Here is some data from the survey we sent out in summer of 2008:
Survey results
Some of the Questions:
1. Are you are working storyteller? And a member of a group that supports your work as a performer?
25% said working on it
35% said I make my living talking
32% said my job uses story
92% said they are Lanes members
10% said they were past LANES member
14% said they were a guild member
14 % ad hoc
71% said they are working storytellers

Question 2
I am interested in joining others, live and in person to:
Work on my craft 80%
Learn about recording 36%
Learn about video 35%
Leaning about posting blogs and videos on the internet 48%
Expand performing opportunities 65%

Question 3
Are you willing to meet in a central location?
A café 95.7%
A club 95.0%
A tavern 95.0%
A restaurant 95%
A library 95.8%
A school 95.2%
A museum 100%

Question 4
Are you able to join a phone conference?
38% yes
60% sometimes
8% never

Question 5
Are you able to meet regularly?
38% said bi monthly
80% said not weekly
45% 4x a year

Question 6
What can you bring or share with the group?
100% various performing, musical and mentoring skills
95% said they could offer a location
35% said equipment

Thanks for reading -- keep an eye out for our next survey, coming soon!

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