Dolores Hydock rummages in a storage bin and plops an important tool onto the patio table in her backyard.
It's a bright yellow baseball cap with the word "Cheerios" (her favorite breakfast cereal) stitched into the peak. A dramatic gesture. A prosaic piece of clothing. But it would be foolish to underestimate the utility of the cap for Hydock, a Birmingham actress, writer and storyteller.
She wears it while gardening at her Irondale home, reciting pieces of the works she creates and performs.
"I'm always talking to myself," Hydock says. "I have to explain to new neighbors that I'm not crazy."
On the contrary: While planting bulbs and pulling weeds, Hydock develops, tweaks and memorizes the tales in her extensive repertoire. These range from "Wash Me," an original anecdote that clocks in at 1 minute and 48 seconds, to the 70-minute "Silence: A Medieval Adventure in Story and Song."
Lately, the Cheerios cap has been much in evidence among the impatiens and Japanese maples, shielding Hydock's face from the sun as she has nurtured her latest project: "Eglamore and Cristobel: A Love Story."
Hydock adapted the story from a 44-page poem that's archaic yet evocative. Originally composed in Middle English, it provided the seeds of an 80-minute tale that includes jousting knights, faithful ladies, meddlesome counts and perilous journeys.
J.R.R. Tolkien fans will be happy to hear that at least one dragon makes a fire-breathing appearance. There's also a series of epic tasks to be accomplished by the steadfast hero.
Working on "Eglamore and Cristobel," Hydock says, was "like being an archaeologist on a scavenger hunt." The poem was obscure and therefore difficult to unearth, unlike Arthurian legends or literary standards such as "Beowulf."