There have been two main categories of research for Malevolent Creatures. First is the folklore itself: stories, traditions, rituals and beliefs from the British Isles that center around fairies and other supernatural creatures. The second is how those beliefs fit together, how they have changed over the years and the various theories about where they came from and the meanings behind them.
One of my favorite pieces of reading has been Karen Armstrong’s book A Short History of Myth, which traces the evolution of mythology from the Paleolithic period to the present day. In considering the place of mythology in our world Armstrong writes that “The imagination is the faculty that produces religion and mythology…the imagination is also the faculty that has enabled scientists to bring new knowledge to light.” She also points out that “…like science and technology, mythology…is not about opting out of this world but about enabling us to live more intensely within it.”
That intensity is evident in nearly all of the individual stories and beliefs we discovered and is one of the reasons they have been retold and appropriated over and over; by poets, by scholars and by writers of literature for all ages. I am personally very interested in how fairy stories have been rewritten by authors of young adult and children’s literature and one of the pleasures of this research process for me is that it has given me an excuse to re-read some old favorite children’s books that incorporate British and Celtic myth. If you are interested in British folklore but maybe don’t feel like getting into the heavy academic side of things, I recommend these titles as both fun and worthwhile.
Names, as anyone familiar with myth and supernatural creatures will tell you, have great power. So we are beyond excited to be able to announce the name of our next devised theater piece:
Selkie, artwork by Jordis Brier
Inspired by traditional fairy beliefs of the British Isles, we are creating puppets of various malevolent creatures based on designs by artists from across the US and beyond. We will be inviting audiences to interact with supernatural creatures of legend and mythology in the spirit of a choose-your-own-adventure book.
Follow this blog (or Facebook and Twitter) for more updates and mark your calendars for our work-in-progress showing on June 26 & 27 at GALA Hispanic Theatre!
A description of the bean-nighe, one of the folklore characters we’re researching.
Our next devised piece is inspired by the vast treasure trove of British and Celtic folklore and especially the supernatural creatures usually known as fairies. Thanks to a number of cultural factors (most prominently, Disney), we have a tendency to think of fairies as tiny and pretty, with sparkles, wings and magic wands. According to tradition however, they are far stranger and more dangerous. For centuries, people feared the fairies, calling them a number of euphemistic names (the Good Folk, the gentry, the Little Poeple) to avoid drawing their attention. To be suspected of dealing with fairies or being related to them led to persecution and on occasion, injury and death. Where did these beliefs come from? What are the rules for dealing with fairies and what happens when we break them? What does that say about our fears, hopes and wishes as humans? These are all questions we will be exploring as we begin to build puppets and create performance material in preparation for a workshop in June. We hope you will join us for the journey!