The SoloWeek DIY interviews continue with Susan Kent. Her show, Into the Belly of the Beast, will premiere on Friday, December 11th at 8:30pm. Bonus facts: the show is directed by Michelle Walson (who directed my show, Generator) and I’m doing the audio design. Get more info and tickets here.
What’s your show about?
When I found out my estranged mom was on hospice care, I went back to South Georgia to try to reconcile our relationship before it was too late. My story’s about that trip home, and what led us to need a reconciliation in the first place.
Why did you create it?
I was at home in Georgia for almost a month, and while I was there, I recorded hours of myself talking through everything that was going on with Mom. Initially the plan was to use the material to write a memoir, but the year after Mom died I discovered storytelling.
I’ve performed lots of pieces about Mom over the last four years, and I’ve always wanted to find a way to incorporate the actual recordings as part of my stories. This solo show is my way of making that happen.
Who is your show for?
Is it shitty if I say it’s for me? Because, that’s the core truth. Writing this show has been hugely therapeutic for me, and I’ve developed a new understanding of my mom through putting our story together in this way.
I think anyone who’s ever lost a parent, or had a strained relationship with one of them, will relate to the show. The hope is that by sharing my story, I can help someone else make sense of their own.
And for people who have a great relationship with their parents, they get the chance to appreciate just how good they really have it.
Have you done anything like this before?
You mean a theater piece? Well, I was in every musical South Georgia’s Fitzgerald High School produced from 1984-1988, so there’s that.
How are you making use of theatrical or technological elements?
Well, there are the recordings I made while I was home in Georgia during the last few weeks of my mom’s life that I’ve incorporated into the script. I’m also going to be projecting old photos as a background element.
What else have you done in storytelling?
I’ve been on The Moth Story Hour, the RISK! podcast, and I recorded a piece for Snap Judgment. I’ve performed at tons of shows around NYC, and I’ve also co-hosted and produced my own storytelling show, Tell It: Brooklyn, for the past four years.
Where do you think storytelling is headed? As an art form? As a commercial medium?
Storytelling is starting to get recognized and respected in a lot of different arenas—business, advertising, entertainment—and more and more people are starting to understand the difference between storytelling in the sense of reading to kids, and storytelling in the way we mean it. (Which is saving me a lot of time when I tell people about the kind of stuff I’m into.)
You know, I wonder if I think storytelling for the sake of sharing and connecting with other people is becoming a big thing just because I’m so enmeshed in the community here in the city. But, then I look at The Moth, and how they’ve now spread to cities across four different continents, and it makes me believe this storytelling thing is catching on.
Either way, I’m excited to watch (and be part of) whatever happens next.
We’re becoming better people through storytelling, both the tellers and the audiences. We’re learning and modeling how to open up and be vulnerable, and we’re actively shutting up for a while to pay attention to what someone else has to share. We’re growing, and connecting, and we’re getting this shit out, and it’s a really good thing.
What else should be know about you and what you’re doing?
I’ve got a few projects in the works. I plan to expand this story and make some headway on that memoir I’ve been harping about, and I’m developing a new storytelling show that’s going to launch next year.
Anything else you’d like to plug?
I want to invite everyone out to Tell It: Brooklyn every month on the 1st Monday at The Fifth Estate in Park Slope. You can drop your name in our can for a chance to tell your own story, or just hang out and enjoy ours. Find out more details by stalking us online: