Vermont Arts Council

The People’s Choice Award: Keryn Nightingale

59: Keryn Nightingale

 Create and perform a multi-media, solo theater production of “The Dolls in My Pocket”

I am a writer/storyteller currently using photographs of miniature sets projected on a screen to tell a story from my life–always mixed with a Universal story (usually a fairytale.) Telling a story in miniature began with the VW bus I had as a child and the VW bus story (Nuts!) I had to tell. I used a Growing-Up-Skipper to represent me (because it is a growing up story) and Mod Ken to represent my boyfriend at the time. More cast members climb in as I take the audience on a ride. During the process of creating this piece, I realized I was engaging in all my favorite creative activities but without any of their particular drawbacks and, furthermore, I was processing my life experiences the exact way I did as a child, with the first cast I used to tell my stories. I found my voice long ago and now, finally, I have found it’s channel and my audience.

Project description

“The Dolls In My Pocket” will be a stage rendition of the Russian tale,”Vasalisa” woven with my true life stories. The lesson of this old Baba Yaga story is that every woman has her mother and all the mothers before her, right in her pocket, telling her how to proceed in the world. Because the dolls’ life experiences imprint several generations to come, Baba Yaga emphasizes the importance of separating the stories from ourselves, understanding encoded behavior patterns and finally reaching an enlightenment–seeing our true path despite which way we’re pulled by the dolls. The telling of this story will be assisted by a series of photographs (projected) which will include: photographs taken of the dolls arranged in changing miniature sets of my creation, old family photos and pictures from a book my great Aunt Bertha made for my grandmother illustrated with cut-outs from 1930’s Look and LIFE magazines. The book is supposed to be telling the story of my Grandmother’s real life (past and future) but every page is a lie… except the last–a torn and stained illustration of a couple sitting on a bench, painted in high maroon, under which Bertha wrote the word, “depression.” This story will illustrate the difficulty arising in Baba Yaga’s hut when there is so little to sort–when names are lost and stories tossed or changed–but it will also provide a way to decode the dolls’ messages and a looking glass that separates ghosts from myself. Because the core of this piece is laced with sadness, I am keenly aware that the presentation– photographs, writing, miniature set production–must be beautiful, crisp and, at the right times, funny. This particular talent is one of my core strengths thanks to a commitment to Rumpelstiltskin living in my other pocket who is often trying to outwit the dolls fighting him at every turn.

Media Sample 1

On The Road With an Oxymoron. “Any portion of this video (Phantom Theater performance 2021) demonstrates writing/storytelling style. Mini, projected sets begin 20 min in.”

Media Sample 2

She Couldn’t Hear Him. “This photograph from current work includes the Russian nesting dolls that will be used in proposed project.”

Media Sample 3

Writing at Gramma’s. “This photograph from a current project shows the use of levels and set detail. In proposed project the nesting dolls operate on another level.”


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Acadia Klepeis August 24, 2023