Of Farms and Fables combines the efforts of professional and non-professional artists by engaging artists in farm work and farm workers in storytelling and acting. The result will be an original performance in October of 2011 which will engage performers and audience in dialogue about local agriculture, farming, and the future of small family farms in Maine.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Please Join Us

We are looking for members of the Southern Maine farming community (and their friends, neighbors, family, and patrons) to participate in our production. No experience is necessary. If you love to act but know NOTHING about farming, you are welcome too! Please attend auditions on Sunday, August 7 and Monday, August 8. The details are below:

Sunday, August 7, 1 pm – 4 pm

Acorn Productions

90 Bridge St., Suite 125

Westbrook, ME 04092


Monday, August 8, 6 pm - 9 pm

Camp Ketcha

336 Black Point Road

Scarborough, Maine 04074


What to Expect:

We heartily invite you to take part in our production by auditioning for the play! No prior experience or preparation is necessary to participate. You may attend at any time during the three-hour session. When you arrive, you will be given a scene from the play and a character to read. You will have time to look at the scene before we ask you to read in front of the director and stage manager. We may ask you to read more than one scene or character. And that’s it!


Acorn Productions is located in the Dana Warp Mill on Bridge Street in Westbrook. From Main Street, turn north at the traffic light onto Bridge Street. Portland Pie Company and CVS are at this intersection. Cross the river on Bridge Street. Acorn Studios is located in the first entrance on your left under a green awning.

Camp Ketcha is located at the intersection of Black Point Road and Spurwink Rd. (Rt. 77) in Scarborough. From Portland, take Rt 77 across the Casco Bay Bridge through Cape Elizabeth, until you see Camp Ketcha on your right (about 9 miles from Portland). From Gorham/Scarborough, take Rt. 141 to Rt. 1 in Scarborough, cross Rt. 1 and continue on Black Point Rd. until you see Camp Ketcha on your left (about 3 miles).

Introducing Gregg (Jennie)

Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll be introducing the members of our production team. We are just beginning the process of designing sets, lights, costumes, props, and sound for our production at Camp Ketcha in October. These are some of the artists who will be bringing our play to life through their considerable expertise, and I am incredibly excited to welcome them to our project. To begin, I'd like to introduce our Production Manager, Gregg Carville. Or rather, I'd like to let him introduce himself:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Turn the Page, Make a Change (Claire)

Whenever we get a new script draft from Cory, it always reminds me of the feeling that came with being 10 years old and opening that last big present on Christmas morning. We've anticipate it for months, talked about what might or might not be included in it, shared ideas that we think might be helpful or interesting, and then we finally get to tear into it and get to see what's there.
There's the blissful free-fall of the first read- usually for me it's done binge style- an hour or so of straight reading with as few interruptions as possible. This usually quickly followed by a brief period of mourning for some of the scenes that didn't make it into this draft and then a second, more careful bit-by-bit reading when I begin to explore this new world of the play.
As the project's dramaturge, its my chance to jump in and ask questions that help us focus our ideas and make sure that we're cleaning up things that might be left from previous drafts. It also means that as we get new drafts, I can see the results of our conversations play out in the conversations our characters have. Now- I know we've written a lot lately about our brand spankin' new second draft, but I wanted to share with you how this process happens in the space of just a few days last week when Cory was here visiting us and how it completely changed the fate of one of our characters, Uncle Ed.

(NOTE: I'm really not trying to give anything big about the script away, but I probably will by mistake. If you are invested in being completely surprised about it, you probably should avert your eyes.)
As of our working draft last week, we know these things about Uncle Ed:
  • He's a ghost.
  • He helped to build the old barn that stands on one of the farms in the play.
  • For most of the play, he only exists for one other character- his descendant, Mitch, the farmer who is currently farming his land.
This character was inspired by the family histories we heard from the farmers we worked with last summer and some of the historical research that we've done, and has been a favorite of mine throughout the various drafts we've gone through. Anyone who has spent any time in Maine can attest to the power of tradition here in the pine tree state, and its been a joy to do readings of the play and watch our actors bring out the voice of this true old timer. He's like everything I love about "Burt and I" rolled up with a healthy dose of the realities of farming in 19th century Maine.
When Cory was here, Jennie and I got to sit her down as ask about some of the changes she had made to the character in the newest draft. A lot had changed especially for Mitch, the character who sees him. We talked about the different stratagies that Cory had tried out to show how those changes would effect Uncle Ed, but they weren't quite... sticking.
Heres one piece of text where Uncle Ed is talking to Mitch:

And so we started talking about ghosts- how our memories of people can change how we remember them, how what we want to remember about people could end up creating a really different idea of who they were than their actual character..... and eventually we asked the question- How is a real person different from their ghost? How do we change someone when we imagine their presence in our lives?
And the next night, at the reading we did with our farmers, I was thrilled to discover that all of a sudden, that portion of the script had morphed into this: (sorry for the blurriness!)

Ta-Da! Dramaturgical process at work!
Thats how it happens, folks. Its details like this that will make our finished product the complete and well developed story it ought to be- and its not even done yet! Will this idea still fit in a week? Who knows! We'll have to evaluate when we get there, but it certainly gave my heart a little pitter-patter when we read it.

Thanks for reading- we'll be in touch soon, but for the mean time, if you're in Portland ME, make a plan to stop in to the Public Market House in Monument Square and check out "Growing Stories; Photos and Writing From the Of Farms and Fables Project" show that will be hanging on the second floor for all of August. See you there!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Being There (Cory)

At the farmer reading of the first draft of our script, back in April, this screenshot captures what my view was like:

I was in the room on Skype, and so I got to see some of the faces (depending on what portion of the circle I was aimed at), and hear the voices (sometimes missing words here and there), and even get some live feedback (though to respond, I had to shout).

At the second farmer reading, on a toasty July evening, the view from where I was sitting was a little fuller:

The difference is really profound. Feedback can be written down and emailed, interviews can be recorded and uploaded, but the energy that's there when you're all in the same room, breathing the same air, eating slices of the same pizza - there's not yet an app that can bottle that. When it comes to a play reading, spoken feedback is really important but so is that feedback that can't be thought out or planned: spontaneous reactions to a line or a scene that happen in the moment, that come from the gut, that are expressed not in words but in a sigh or a shift of the body or a chuckle or a glance. Being back in Maine after 11 months of working long-distance was a powerful reminder of the importance of the little things.

When I started writing the first draft, I felt like I was taking a jump into the dark. Working on the second draft was even scarier: for a long time, it seemed like I was writing a completely new play, and I felt there was no guarantee that it would constitute a step forward. The energy of support in the room during our reading last week, and excitement about the new draft, was something I was thankful to be in the room to feel.

I wanted to share some cool resources I found this week:
  1. Transferring the Family Farm: What Worked, What Didn't for 10 New Jersey Families - This document, available on the NESFI website here, gives 10 fascinating case studies of New Jersey farms transferring their property and business from one generation to the next. Working through them is really helping to give me a better understanding of the issues, tensions, and concerns involved in farm transfer, which has become a central concern of our script. Biggest lesson: Farm transfer is a REALLY involved process. It takes years - sometimes decades - to do it right.
  2. DACUM Occupational Profile for Northeast Small Scale "Sustainable" Farmers - Also found on the NESFI site; this is a profile, developed through farmer focus groups, of the skills and duties it takes to be a "small scale sustainable farmer," but they're definitely widely applicable, for the most part, to all types of farmers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Flash Back! (Jennie)

My blog assignment this week is to share something from the past . . . in a "visual" way. I've been thinking a lot lately about the VERY BEGINNING of this project. For Penny Jordan and I, that's way back in the winter of 2008. Penny is one of our partnering farmers and she was also the first champion of the project, our first Community Partner. Here's a little collage documenting Of Farms and Fables' first year (or two), complete with the very first e-mail. There are currently 1,380 conversations that are tagged "OFAF" in my e-mail account.

Click on the image for a larger version.

And now, to flash forward: Cory left us today after a whirlwind four-day visit. Here she is and off she goes! We'll chat soon, for there's lots of revising to do, and we'll see in her back in Maine in October. Happy travels, Cory!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A day in the life of "Of Farms and Fables" ...in JULY (Claire)

This past week has been a very eventful week for the Of Farms and Fables crew. Summer, with all its humid heat and tourists and hustle and bustle is very much upon us in Southern Maine and our farmers all have that crazed look in their eyes that pants "Its JULY. HELP!"

At "Of Farms and Fables" HQ, We've been feeling the heat and the pressure of putting together all the details of our upcoming production and trying to fortify ourselves as best we could, but we were very very pleased to welcome Cory back from Germany this week for a little visit! We kept her to ourselves for a little while, but after we caught up and worked through the script (a meeting that ended at the beach more out of necessity than anything) we decided we ought to share her with the rest of our collaborators and friends.
The next day we all piled into the car:
And headed out to catch up on all the happenings with our farmers. First stop: Jordan's Farm.
Where we caught PeeWee and Tali having lunch. It was so nice to feel like this was such a familiar scene- we lived it all last summer and wrote back and forth about it all winter long as Cory was developing the script.So we took a seat at the picnic table, chatted about PeeWee's upcoming anniversary and speculated about the rain, and when the guys had to head back out to work, we piled back into the car to check out our performance venue, Camp Ketcha.

The Camp was FULL of summer camp kids (on "rainy day schedule" so the great hall was a little busy with a particularly rousing game of Simon Says.) so we took a little look around and then made our way out to see everyone at the Benson Farm. Not suprisingly, things there were bussiness as usual too- Ryan was helping to get a dry cow's hooves cleaned, Eddie wanted to show us his iphone and newest hunting trophy ("We like to call it "Tacky!" he announced to us as he towards the largest stuffed deer head any of us had ever seen.") before heading out to supervise getting in the hay.

Broadturn Farm was also buzzing when we got there- two weddings this weekend, plus all the regular CSA responsibilities... But we were very excited to get a little peak at the nearly-ready-to-open farmstand they have been working on and the very tail end of farm camp. After catching up on the gossip and goings on in the dooryard, we again motored on to pick up the fresh-off the press copies of the our second draft of the script!
So naturally, back to Jennie's house for a bout 10 minutes to change, pick up dinner and on to the Cape Elisabeth Lion's Club to read it with our farmers, members of the Cape Farm Alliance and our new costume designer! (Welcome, Renee!)
Not bad for a day, eh? Many thanks to all those that took a break from their work days to
say hello and even rallied to come to a reading after a long day. Jennie and I will be keeping in
touch until Cory comes back to us in a few weeks. 'Till then- a little mini photo album of our day
on the road.