Mosaic storyteller’s scripts become a book
There is an old saying: Stories are the DNA of our culture.
Local storyteller and historian Ruth Thomas has just sequenced some of our cultural DNA into her first book, ‘Mosaic’.
It includes nine scripts from her popular Mosaic theatrical series which uses skits and the spoken word to highlight Bermuda’s people and traditions.
She has performed her Mosaic shows around the Island for many years, usually with the assistance of Leo Mills, Gary Philips and Grace Rawlins.
There are, so far, 73 different Mosaic shows. Some were written for special occasions such as a church’s anniversary, Black History Month or a celebration of Bermudian women.
“I started doing the Mosaics quite accidentally,” said Miss Thomas. “I was asked to do a monologue, and I hadn’t prepared. Time got closer and closer to the performance date. I gathered together some friends of mine who all acted and gave them bits and pieces to read, mainly from the play ‘Raisin in the Sun’ by Lorraine Hansberry that debuted on Broadway in 1959. Then as a result of that I was asked by someone else to do a performance. I was then working in [the Department of ] Community and Cultural Affairs. The performance we were asked to do was based on heritage.”
She said the first real Mosaic performance she ever did was at the Chapel of Ease in St David’s, which turned out to be a perfect location.
“St David’s was just so full of history,” she said. “Oftentimes after performances people will come to us and say, ‘hey, did you know that ..?’ or ‘you forgot the part about ...’ . That is how Mosaic has just grown and grown.”
And very often after a performance, members of the audience would come up and ask her for a copy of the script. That is one of the reasons she wrote the book.
She said she grew up in a rich culture of storytelling. Family members from different parts of the Caribbean would tell her stories about ‘duppies’ (ghosts), folk medicine and Anancy. Anancy is a spider and storyteller. Some cultures believe that Anancy brought the world into being by telling a story.
“Stories tell you so much about a culture,” said Miss Thomas. “In many cultures, the storyteller is a very important person, because that person knows all that information about the community the good, the bad and the indifferent and people go to them for information. When people tell their stories, you often find out about things that are not written about in history books. Oral history is just as important as written history. People always say afterward ‘we learned so much’ and they are always asking for copies of the script.”
The book contains such scripts as The Vernon Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, Women of Our Time on Whose Shoulders We Stand and a Tribute to Some of Bermuda’s Drum Majors.
Miss Thomas said writing the stories down was a challenge, as she is more of a talker than a writer.
“I agreed to do it after a lot of arm-twisting from Kim Dismont Robinson, folklife officer for the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs,” said Miss Thomas with a laugh. “Mosaics actually come to life and take on significance because of the actors. The four of us gel so well together Grace, Leo and Gary bring life to the words.”
Miss Thomas will be launch her book at a 5.30pm reception at the Bermuda National Gallery today. A Mosaic performance will follow at 6pm. Books will be sold at the launch for $15. ‘Mosaic’ will be on sale from September 19 at the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs and bookstores.
A Mosaic performance is also planned at the Wesley Methodist on Church Street in Hamilton on November 5. It will be based on the life of Methodist minister John Stephenson who was imprisoned in St George in the early 1800s for preaching to the slaves.