…the formless hunch - the basis of everything - that something is pregnant,
something is possible, and all the work is to find the complete,
convincing but temporary form that suits the moment.
I want to write about the content of this new American Myth, but first I want to write on its container, Mythville. I was lucky enough to be in a conversation this morning with Brian Doerris, founder of Theater of War, and he mentioned Peter Brook’s idea of “a formless hunch.” It’s the notion that form cannot be locked in at the beginning of an idea and must be found through the execution of the idea. This is proving true for the entire AMC and, right now, with Mythville. As I mentioned in a preceding post, Mythville began as a podcast with the mission of creating new American Myths with shorter stories and to introduce the community to this tool. It’s fair to say these still exist in some way, but it has grown, prompting new directives, new questions, and perhaps even new forms.
I chose the Grimm brothers' fairy tale, Cinderella, for the first episode because it lent itself to the subject matter I was interested in exploring and it was recognizable. What I didn’t have in mind until I began to write, was its audience. The more and more I dug in, I realized I was writing it to my daughter, Matilda. This is not to say that Mythville cannot be enjoyed by adults or teenagers. I certainly hope it will, but I’m beginning to think that there may be space for these new American Myths within the schools or as a tool for parents at home. In that light, I don’t know if a podcast is the final form for these stories. Maybe there’s an supplemental study guide. Maybe there’s another form for these that travel. Or a form that accompanies larger theatrical events. Your thoughts are welcome.
Finally, there was an idea that the AMC would set the theme that these stories would revolve around. This idea is no more. The flesh of these new American Myths will come from our community. I have begun fieldwork, investigating the stories that need to be told here in Asheville, and new episodes are percolating. More to come on that soon.
As to Ashella, I think of it as our prototype. It was created knowing I didn’t have the form or the reasons spelled out, but also knowing that the only way to find them was to do it. It was, in part, a response to reading the book White Trash by Nancy Isenberg and ruminating on geographical and class prejudice—specifically in the South for poor whites. Setting it in Asheville’s first boom as the railroad burst through gave me a parallel to today’s climate, which I found attractive as well. My hunch was that by specifying the stepsisters’ hatred of Ashella, it would elevate those ideas to the listener. Instead of simply being wicked, they are bullies and bigots, based on nothing but their fear of the southern other.
When I was around 4, my family moved from Burlington to Chapel Hill, which, in some ways, was moving from the country to the city. I remember spending nights in my bed working on changing my accent as it had become clear in school that I had too many syllables in my vowels. I was terrified that I was different and therefore wrong. Maybe if I had heard Ashella, I could have talked about it. But I didn’t and practiced my way into conforming. I can’t stop Matilda from feeling that way at some point, but I can provide her with a reference point and, if we’re lucky, she’ll use it to start a conversation. And that right there is the mission for the American Myth Center.
Adapted from Cinderella as recorded by the Grimm Brothers
Elliot J. Snook
Mom, Ashella, Eldest Stepsister, Youngest Stepsister, Stepmother:
Simone Roos Snook
Adaptor, Composer, Producer:
Special thanks to FreeSFX for their sound effects (http://www.freesfx.co.uk)