Hydock Does Battle with Medieval Text for 'Silence' -- Mary Colurso, music and arts columnist, The Birmingham News
Ladybugs on the crown molding of Dolores Hydock's house in Irondale have heard the story of "Silence" many times. The pomegranate tree near her patio and the muscadine vines in the back yard have heard it, too.
Hydock, a writer, storyteller and actress, has been developing her new performance piece for about two years, adapting a little-known tale from the 13th century into a 90-minute evening of theater. "I'd write some, tell some. Write some, tell some," she says.
Audiences who watch her slip into the character of a grumpy crone, the plain-spoken and opinionated narrator, will very likely be caught up in the adventures of Silence, a brave and beautiful girl pretending to be a boy so she can one day claim her inheritance.
They'll hear of battling knights and jealous minstrels, lustful queens and elusive wizards. If all goes well, Hydock says, modernity will melt away as she relocates her listeners to a drafty castle in England, building the medieval world brick by brick, word by word. In that task, she'll be aided by PanHarmonium, a trio of players from Birmingham that specializes in recreating ancient music.
"The music adds so much to creating a context for the story, a setting for the story," Hydock says. "You hear the harp and recorder on the opening song, and those two minutes of music slowly begin to edge you back, century by century." But what seems nearly effortless on stage - the recitation of a lively and absorbing story, supported by period songs and instrumentals - actually has required much effort.
Those spotted red beetles on the walls of Hydock's place know, because they've watched her reading, editing and working at the computer. Also, while planting, pruning and otherwise tending the garden she loves, Hydock has shaped "Silence" by telling it to herself, out loud, over and over.
If the neighbors think she's crazy, talking animatedly into the air while wearing a wide-brimmed sun hat, Hydock doesn't mind. Art requires a few sacrifices, and she's willing to make them.
Hence, all those hours Hydock has spent pondering ways to turn a thick text - an academic translation of French poetry, no less - into something lighter, tighter, brighter and more theatrical. With the help of Gilbert Ritchie, Susan Marchant and David Cantrell of PanHarmonium, she believes she has succeeded.
But when Hydock discusses the evolution of "Silence," her sentences contain phrases like "struggling hard" and "sweating bullets." She is grateful, she says, for a fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts that allowed her to devote time to the project, and add "Silence" to other performance pieces in her repertoire. Professionally speaking, Hydock can mix, match and tell about 65 stories - and does so frequently at theaters, colleges, businesses, libraries, churches and community gatherings.
Typically, her tales are grouped into thematic programs with titles such as "Holidazed! A Story Tour of the Holiday Calendar," "Made From Scratch and Other Accidental Stories," "Momorabilia: Stories About Mothers" and "No, Really, My Dog Ate It: Stories for Teachers and Students of Life."
Hydock has recorded several of these stories on four spoken-word CDs she sells at shows and bookstores, as well as through her web site at www.storypower.org. She'll sign copies of "Silence," her latest disc, and present an excerpt from it, from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at The Alabama Booksmith in Homewood. Of necessity, that performance will be short, clocking in around 10 minutes. But even a full, in-concert telling of "Silence" zips along for her, Hydock says, despite the program's official length of 63:22, plus intermission. "It goes by in a minute," she says, "particularly if the audience is into it."
During a recent appearance at the UAB Honors House, for example, Hydock was delighted to hear a woman in the front row gasping at every twist and turn of "Silence." The building pleased her almost as much: a beautiful old church equipped with spotlights that cast giant shadows of Hydock in costume as the crone.
The crotchety character's attire includes a stout wooden staff with a ring of colored stones and a claw at the top, clutching a mysterious off-white globe. It's her story stick, Hydock says, designed for leaning, pointing and poking into other people's business.
"The woman who tells this story is so much fun to be," she says. "I imagine her as a person in the background, who sees all but isn't allowed an official voice at court. You might think: How does she know all this? Maybe she hung out in the kitchen in the palace."
Hydock and PanHarmonium have inserted themselves into a courtly setting before, teaming for adaptations of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and "The Juggler of Notre Dame."
Teenagers - "Lord of the Rings" fans, no doubt - have been surprisingly enthusiastic about these stories, and some adults have no qualms about being transported into a realm of kings and queens, dragons and peasants. Hydock realizes she may never convince other folks to accept the idea that 600-year-old literature can sound fresh, exciting or relevant, but she's determined to give it a try.
"They get worried," she says, "thinking, 'I have to be good. I have to sit still and be quiet.' But there was danger and violence and sex in the medieval world. Life was severe. And these were very earthy people. They had to populate the 14th century somehow."
If you'd like to be on Dolores' e-mail list for a personal reminder about upcoming story and theatre performances, send your e-mail address to Dolores at firstname.lastname@example.org
The events listed in yellow below are open to the public. FEBRUARY 2019
Tuesday, February 19: Footprint on the Sky: Voices from Chandler Mountain. Gadsden Art Association special event.
Thursday, February 21: Through the Back Door ~ The Music that Bridged the Bayou. 2 - 3 p.m., Childersburg Ladies Book Club meeting at the First Baptist Church of Childersburg, Childersburg, AL. The program is free and all are welcome to attend. Sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation.
They say in Southwest Louisiana that you can be a Cajun in one of three ways: by blood (birth), by the ring (marriage), or through the back door (by befriending the culture). This program paints a portrait of Cajun and Creole music and musicians and the role that music played in allowing non-Cajuns to slip "through the back door" into the world of the spirited culture of Southwest Louisiana. It also describes the history of Cajun music in North America from the 1600s to the present day.
Friday - Saturday, February 22 - 23: Retreat for the women of First Baptist Church of Columbus, GA.
Tuesday, February 26: Starch in their Petticoats ~ True Stories of Strong Women Who Settled the West. 10:30 - 11:30 a.m. Galleria Woods meeting room, Hoover, AL. Free. Sponsored by the Panorama Club and the Alabama Humanities Foundation.
They were tough, resourceful, and ready for anything! Storyteller Dolores Hydock brings to life true stories of women of guts and gusto who settled the American West. They were pioneers, homesteaders, pistol-packin' card sharks, entertainers, and "upstairs girls," but they all played a part in putting the shine in the Golden West of the 1800s. Photographs, diary excerpts, letters, and newspaper articles of the day help bring their stories to life.
Tuesday, March 5: Through the Back Door ~ The Music that Bridged the Bayou. Mardi Gras luncheon, Sheffield Public Library, Sheffield, AL.
Wednesday, March 6: Taking Sides - A different look at the controversial life of an Alabama country music legend. Noon - 1 p.m., B. B. Comer Library Auditorium, 314 North Broadway Avenue, Sylacauga, AL. Part of the library's Adult Lecture Series series. Free. Lunchroom open from 11 a.m. to noon; bring a sack lunch, if you like, to enjoy before the program starts at noon. Kind volunteers provide beverages and dessert! Call the library at 256-249--0961 for more information.
An out-of-town preview of a new story! Audrey Sheppard grew up in Brundidge, Alabama, and became half of one of the most famous couples in country music history when she married Hank Williams. Her life -- and her story -- is a controversial one. Are there really two sides to every story -- even hers? Can the two sides be opposite and still both be true? This new story lets you decide: Whose side are you on?
Please note: This story will have its official Birmingham debut on Friday, April 12th, at the Homewood Public Library Auditorium. Details below; reservation info coming soon!
Saturday, March 9: Soldiers in Greasepaint ~ USO Camp Show Entertainers of WWII. 7 - 8 p.m., Leeds Performing Arts Center 8140 Parkway Drive, Leeds, AL. Free. Sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation.
It was bigger than Bob Hope! From Utah Beach to the Philippines, from wrestlers and tap dancers to the biggest names in show business, from 16,000 servicemen in an amphitheatre in southern France to 20 GIs in Jeeps in a lonely stateside outpost, USO Camp Shows during WWII were part of a diverse, hilarious, moving, and inspiring story of voluntarism and service. Storyteller Dolores Hydock shares a small slice of this big-hearted story from a remarkable time in U.S. history.
Wednesday, March 13: In Her Own Fashion. Mary K. Craig Class, Dallas, TX.
Sunday, March 17: Silence ~ The Adventure of a Medieval Warrior Woman. 3:30 - 5 p.m., Carolina Music Museum, 516 Buncombe Streret, Greenville, SC.
Tuesday - Wednesday, March 19 - 20:Eglamore and Cristobel ~ A Medieval Love Story.DePauw University, Greencastle, IN. With the music of PanHarmonium.
Friday, March 22: Eglamore and Cristobel ~ A Medieval Love Story. With the music of PanHarmonium. St Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, Zionsville, IN.
Saturday, March 23: Silence ~ The Adventure of a Medieval Warrior Woman. 7 - 9 p.m., Indiana History Center, downtown Indianapolis. Sponsored by Storytelling Arts of Indiana. Tickets: $20. For more info, click here.
A wickedly funny, plot-twisting tale of greed, desire, deceit, revenge, and the rewards of finding your true voice. Accompanied by medieval music trio PanHarmonium.
Thursday, April 4: Don't Make Me Come Back There ~ Stories of Moms and Dads. First UMC Supper Club, downtown Birmingham.
Sunday, April 7: A Sweet Strangeness Thrills My Heart ~ The Journals of Sallie Independence Foster, 1861 - 1887. 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. Emmet O'Neal Library, 50 Oak Street, Crestline Village, Mountain Brook. The program is free, but seating is limited, so registration is essential! To register, AFTER MARCH 1st, visit eolib.org
Sallie Independence Foster was 12 years old and living in Florence, Alabama in 1861 when the War Between the States began. She was keeping a diary at the time, and kept on keeping a diary for 26 years. In this performance, storyteller Dolores Hydock and music historian Bobby Horton interweave Sallie’s diary entries with camp songs, popular tunes of the times, and original melodies to tell a funny, touching, and uniquely personal true story of a world of innocence turned upside-down.
Friday, April 12: Taking Sides ~ A new look at the controversial life of Audrey Williams. 6:30 - 9 p.m., Homewood Library Auditorium, 1721 Oxmoor Road, Homewood. Tickets are $30 and include an hors d'oeuvres buffet starting at 6:30, with the stories to start around 7:15. Ticket are available AFTER MARCH 11th. For tickets, visit homewoodpubliclibrary.org or visit the Adult Services Desk at the library.
As part of Homewood Public Library's Alabama Bicentennial celebration, this new story makes its Birmingham debut. Audrey Sheppard grew up in Brundidge, Alabama, and became half of one of the most famous couples in country music history when she married Hank Williams. Her life -- like her story -- is a controversial one. Are there really two sides to every story -- even hers? Can the two sides be opposite and still both be true? This new story lets you decide: Whose side are you on?
Saturday, May 4: Momorabilia ~ Stories about Mothers. Morgan Memorial UMC Women's Luncheon.
Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18: Shoals Storytelling Festival, Florence, AL. Info at shoalsstorytelling.com
Sunday, May 19: It's the Little Things ~ Five small objects that connect us to the Dutch Golden Age. 11 a.m. to noon, UU Congregation of the Shoals, Florence, AL.
The story is part of the 11 a.m. service. All are welcome to attend! You could hold them all in the palm of your hand: five little things that played a big role in shaping the world of 17th century Holland -- and that helped shape the world we live in today. Join storyteller Dolores Hydock on a journey from the Arctic Sea to Singapore for the story of five tiny things that changed history in unexpected ways.
Wednesday, May 22: Southern Comfort in a Cast-Iron Skillet.Salvation Army fund raiser special event. Birmingham, AL
Thursday, May 23: Footprint on the Sky ~ Voices from Chandler Mountain. Heritage Hall Museum, Talladega, AL. Free and open to the public. An Alabama Bicentennial event sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation.
Bonnets, bow-tie quilts, tomato stakes, the recipe for Scripture Cake, an old-timey cure for hiccups and other folk remedies, superstitions, and family stories are all part of this affectionate portrait of a close-knit Alabama mountain community in the 1970s, where modern-day life mixed with old-fashioned ways. The spirit and voices of special mountain friends come to life in this story of strong women, Southern hospitality, and the generous spirit of a close-knit community.
Thursday, May 30: St. Luke's Episcopal Church Seniors supper, Birmingham, AL.
Thursday, August 8: In Her Own Fashion.7 - 9 p.m., Hoover Library Theatre, Hoover, AL. Sponsored by the Friends of the Hoover Library. Ticket info TBA.