Last Saturday morning I boarded a Peter Pan Bus at the Port Authority bus station for a five-hour ride to Northampton, Mass. I had to switch buses in Springfield to continue on to Northampton. Bus rides are never fun, but since I was going to meet Danusia there this ride was tolerable.
Danusia was in town to take part in a MOTH main stage, something she’s been doing for a while now. Danusia is the go-to storyteller for the MOTH at the moment.
Danusia is an actress, but I think she is a storyteller first and an actress second. I think that’s part of our mutual attraction, that we are both storytellers and writers.
Since it is the day after Thanksgiving I should say I’m grateful to have hooked up with someone that I have so much in common with.
Danusia loves being on stage, and she loves telling stories. And she’s good at it; most of her stories are a mixture of pathos and hilarity. That’s a hard combination to achieve.
We were at another of her performances at the Astor Theater where the MOTH had teamed up with The Blue Man group the week before and the program director Jenifer told me I should make the trip up to Northampton for the weekend. Danusia was keen on having me come along so we got a bus ticket there and a train ticket for the trip back on the same train as Danusia and one of the MOTH producers on Sunday.
The show was held at The Academy of Music in downtown Northampton, home to Smith College.
It’s a beautiful old theater built in the 1880’s. Danusia was given the “Boris Karloff” dressing room, and a friend pointed out they’d misspelled Karloff as Karlof when I posted a picture on Facebook. But hey, it’s a small town, and misspelling is part of its charm.
Danusia and me goofed around taking pictures in the mirror with my new $23 deerskin gloves, on sale for “Bag day.” I have no idea what bag day is, but every single store on Main Street had a bag day 20% off sign in the window, and who can resist 20% off? There were some snacks and warming up noises from the other dressing rooms and it felt very warm and friendly. All the storytellers were in this together, and since it’s a Main stage there’s no competition and no tension.
The MC was Tara Clancy, a young gay woman I’d met once before when Danusia had embarked on her Main Stage career at The Player’s Club a little less than a year ago. Tara is very funny and high-energy and got the evening off to a great start.
Danusia was third up out of five storytellers, and I have to say that even though I’ve heard her jury duty story dozens of times and even helped in the shaping of it, I still laugh in the funny parts and feel the pain in the sad parts. That’s the beauty of her storytelling.
It was a great show, starting off with an African-American Army vet named Ray from Appalachia who told a story about trying to become a lawyer and failing, but succeeding in becoming literate, unlike his mother. There was a story about a man bonding with a Goth-punk son and a story about being lost in the jungle. The last story was an addiction story, one I could tell myself. All wonderful storytellers.
After the show we all went out to dinner, and I discovered that Ray had been a paratrooper too, we were both in the 82nd Airborne in the early 80’s. And Andy, the guy who bonded with the Goth-punk son had gone to the same high school and college as me, albeit five years earlier. Small world.
On the train ride back I was very glad I’d made the trip, and one of the reasons was that it was inspirational.
I went to the MOTH first and encouraged Danusia to try it, and I felt a little chagrined that she won a slam and had gone on to do this. But I have to remember that she did more work than I at this, so she is more successful at it. If I want to win a slam I’m going to have to do the work, I’ve got the stories, now I have to show up and tell them.
Congratulations to Danusia! And you’re next, Xavier! You’ve got the stories and the ability to tell them.
P.S. I love Northampton! I went to school at U. Mass. Amherst and fell in love with Northampton while I was there.
How wonderful for Danusia. And, how wonderful for the inspiration to be that much closer to giving your stories to Moth audiences and beyond.