Most of us have “issues”: the inner demons of doubt, fear and despair that now and then threaten our relationships, productivity and sense of well-being. Eschewing psychological lingo, Ione – founder and director of the Ministry of Maat, based in a rambling Victorian house in Kingston – prefers to call them “spells.”
A year-and-a-half ago, she published Spell Breaking: Remembered Ways of Being, An Anthology of Women’s Mysteries, a collection of essays by workshop participants chronicling their individual breakthroughs from these self-imposed limitations to a fuller expression of empowerment and creativity. To publicize the book, the 19 contributors – who include artists, musicians, curators, writers and a holistic health practitioner – gave a series of readings, mainly in New York City and the mid-Hudson Valley (although several were given in Prague and Paris). “At our first event, in an old stone house in Brooklyn, I noticed right away that this is more than a reading,” she recalled. “This has visuals; it’s theatrical; and I had the budding idea that one day we’d do it on a stage, rather than in a café or gallery.”
Hence the advent of Spell Breaking: The Traveling Show; Transforming Worlds, One Woman at a Time! which will be held at the Rosendale Theatre on Sunday, March 29 from 2 to 5 p.m. More than 18 performers will create a matrix of words, music and images in a recounting of their journeys from loss to healing: deep grief banished by the awakening of creativity and life purpose, illness overcome by the resolution to live and a full recovery.
The event will open with Sounds of Childhood, an interactive, ritualistic performance by Pauline Oliveros, the world-famous accordion-wielding performer whose experimental compositions employ cutting-edge technology and ambient sounds in an exploration of what she calls “sonic awareness” and “deep listening.”
“My vision was more than a book. It’s a phenomenon – a concept that relates particularly to women, although it can be expanded to men,” said Ione. “These transformational moments in our life I liken to spell-breaking.” In the Women’s Mysteries classes, meditation, journal-writing, exploration of dreams, mythology and oracular forms and ritual are the tools of transformation. “What I’m seeing is that we can continue to open it up through theater and other kinds of stage platforms. Think about the events associated with The Vagina Monologues. It’s akin to that.”
Ione noted that the workshops “strike a chord with most people.” Focusing on topics such as “Memory, Secrets and Immortality,” the workshops are “a crucible for creativity…more strengthening and supportive than a regular writers’ workshop, which sometimes results in such a harsh experience that people shut down, rather than develop their creative capacities.” She believes that each individual has this creative ability, which must be honored and valued, though goals vary widely in terms of its application; she recalled that one participant in her workshops – a teacher living on Long Island – just wanted to be able to write a good letter. Others have produced major novels, and some are distinguished artists. But “We’re just as open to people not in those realms,” said Ione, adding that the prospective letter-writer became “a wonderful friend.”
Ancient Egypt has been a particular inspiration to the Ministry of Maat ever since Ione traveled there in the early 1970s, when she was a freelance writer and contributor to the Village Voice. Hence this Sunday’s Spell Breaking performance will feature projections of images taken from the group’s travels to the country of the Pyramids on a huge movie screen. Visuals created by the participants will also be projected, accompanying some of the readings.
The performers include Carol Chappell, a Taoist martial arts master from Woodstock, performing My Journey from Chaos to Balance; Canadian cellist Anne Bourne, who will play solo as well as accompany Oliveros’ accordion to the recitation of Anne Hemenway’s poem “AIR”; and Lorah Yaccarino, playing 12-string guitar. Andrea Israel, an Emmy-winning television writer, will read her piece Circles in the Sand, and Sadee Brathwaite, an artist, curator and arts facilitator who is one of the Ministry’s 36 priestesses, will perform Secret Languages of Khemet, which references her decade-long studies of ancient Egypt along with her experience of physical healing following surgery. Also performing are Ione herself, Andrea Goodman, Donnaldson Brown, Julia White, Julie Winter, Lisa Kelley, Rachel Koenig, Sangeeta Laura Biagi, Shirley Parker-Benjamin and Ximena Alarcon.
The performance, which features one intermission, will be streamed live on Wave Farm Radio and recorded for a future radio broadcast on WGXC 90.7 FM. The event has an international flavor: The streaming will be the occasion for a big party held by a group of followers in France, and one performer will fly in from the UK to participate.
Tickets cost $15 general admission, $12 for seniors and students. The proceeds will benefit the Ministry – specifically to help fund its quest to establish a permanent sanctuary, which would provide residencies through an international exchange program for women.
Spell Breaking: The Traveling Show, Transforming Worlds, One Woman at a Time! Sunday, March 29, 2-5 p.m., $15/$12, Rosendale Theatre, 408 Main Street, Rosendale; https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1082704.