The 'Mouse' that roared -- Westport story-telling program expands
Ina Chadwick was 13 years old when she got the role of Sharon in a summer camp production of the musical, "Finian's Rainbow," beating soon-to-be pop sensation Leslie Gore, who was her bunkmate, for the singing role.
"I was so terrified on stage that I never wanted to be on script again," said the Westport resident, who prefers working behind the scenes. Chadwick nonetheless went on to become a poet, writer and editor. And though admittedly diminutive in stature, she is big on bringing everyday people to the stage to tell interesting stories from their personal experiences. Stories can be poignant, sad, comedic.
"I'm a change agent who sees creative opportunities for ordinary people to do extraordinary things," said Chadwick, who founded MouseMuse Productions for that purpose. MouseMuse, based in Westport, teams with local arts and entertainment organizations and venues to feature live, amateur story-telling, which she calls StoryMaster's Jams.
Chadwick's latest endeavor will have four veteran storytellers from her "mischief of mice" share their 10-minute stories with an audience at Two Boots bar/restaurant in Bridgeport at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 12, the first of a summer series of Spoken Word events.
"These are exploratory sessions," Chadwick said, adding that the program was prompted by Bijou Square developer, Phil Kuchma, whose passion and vision for his native city is art focused.
Her jams have particular themes, such "Adventures in Parenting" and "Traveling with Kids." The theme for this one is "Wild Things," and it includes stories about encounters with possums, baboons and squirrels.
Chadwick will emcee. On the roster are Gina Ludlow of Fairfield, Maureen Hallock of Westport, Bill Bosch of Oxford and Fran Dorf of Stamford. Grammy Award-winning guitarist Steve Epstein of Fairfield will perform music, a new dimension to the MouseMuse Jams. Epstein will be joined in song by Paula Darlington.
During intermission Chadwick will conduct a contest. Volunteers from the audience will be invited to offer a three-minute impromptu story and people at the tables will rate the storytellers. Everybody who performs will go home with a gift package, she said.
Chadwick said she doesn't put down modern technology to communicate, but said there is something special about standing there face-to-face sharing a story.
"It's a thrill. It's like a football team where you know the team's professional, you know they know what the plays are but you never know what's going to come out," she said.
Chadwick got the idea for her storytelling productions from a group in Maryland, which features amateur storytellers, each of them receiving a bit of coaching before they would take the stage to tell their story. Chadwick's coach is Bill Bosch.
"My partner, Bill is a master at hearing stories, bullet-pointing out where it starts and ends and getting you, within 30 minutes, to tell a ten-minute story," she said.
"What I realized was the ones who wrote it out failed miserably because they were memorizing. Every story well-told changes both the teller and the listener. And it's your story, it has to be personal," Chadwick said.
Chadwick has 56 people who have told stories for MouseMuse Productions, some of whom she invites back to tell their stories at other venues. She recruits new storytellers from the audience during the contest portion of the event.
Chadwick calls each of her storytellers a mouse, and a group of mice is called a "mischief," as crows in a group are called a "murder" and lions a "pride." Why did she choose the name MouseMuse for her business? "I'm 4-foot-11 and I weigh 106 pounds," she said. She said she chose as a logo a mouse with a scroll that resembles the MGM lion. "I know I'm little, but I've done a lot of things in my life that I'm very proud of, and now it's time for me to roar," she said. "I'm hoping I'm setting the bar for a community to involve its friends and neighbors across the borders in hearing and sharing other human experiences."
She is also in the process of designing a singer-songwriter program, which she will produce in Bridgeport.
Chadwick said people from lower Fairfield County have a pre-conceived notion of what Bridgeport is but she said it is becoming a mecca for art in all its forms.
For more information, contact Two Boots, 281 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport, at 203-331-1377.