Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Curtain—The Back Story

Monica Brown

My one-woman show, “Branch & Bough”, was presented at this year’s RhinoFest. This was my first time performing at RhinoFest and my first time performing a full-length piece. It was an amazing experience—from writing to working with CreativePush Collective to realizing it for the stage and to actually presenting it to an audience.

“Branch & Bough” is a piece that I wrote to honor my maternal ancestors. The writing began in Word class, and the manifestation of the performance began in Drama. It came about as an imagining of the lives of my grandmothers. There were many stories that my mother had told me and others told by my aunts. I took their stories and filled in the ellipsis with creative writing to imagine the range of these women’s experiences. Collapsing a few of those moments into monologues and storytelling, I intended to paint a picture of the lives of my grandmother, Flora, my great-grandmother, Grace, and my great-great-grandmother, Ora.

When I was 7 years old, my grandmother Flora told me that she would love to see me at 14 years old. What about that age made her request that wish? She passed away not too long after that… Another lifetime passed for me between seven and fourteen, but I always remembered her having said to me that she wanted to see me. What was she like at that age?… Did she spend a lot of time with her grandmother? On my 14th birthday, I waited for her ghost… I waited intermittently all of my 14th year…checking all of my senses for hints at her presence, listening quietly at night to see if I could hear her whispering to me that she could see me. I waited…

Wanting to imagine each of my grandmothers with their granddaughters at the age of 14, I chose this time in each woman’s life to present her story. Ora speaks to her granddaughter Flora, telling her to get her clothes ready for church in the morning and asking her to sing her favorite song, “Further Along“. Grace speaks about her obstinate granddaughter Elizabeth (my mother) who doesn’t bite her tongue and challenges her mother (Flora) to rebel in some way against the abuse she receives from her husband. Flora’s ghost appears to make it known that she does see me.

What a wonderful opportunity to present this piece to an audience and especially to my mother, who this piece is dedicated to as “the keeper of the stories”. There is such magic in being able to tell a story and having it well-received. I am appreciative of those who came out to support me in this endeavor. Dynamic energy is shared between audience and performer; it’s an in-the-moment experience that I absolutely cherish.

Curtain—The Back Story

My one-woman show, “Branch & Bough”, was presented at this year’s RhinoFest. This was my first time performing at RhinoFest and my first time performing a full-length piece. It was …

Interdisciplinary Arts MA Monica Brown, monica.brown@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

The Graduate Experience