In the summer of 1977, a year out of college, I joined up with a fun-loving theatre troupe performing on the streets of Milwaukee, calling themselves The Friends Mime Theatre. I was a juggling, clowning, busker in those days, and this was my summer of running with the circus. Barbara Leigh and Mike Moynihan created the FMT in 1974. Their mission was to raise awareness and inspire action on social issues. Over time the company evolved into The Milwaukee Public Theatre and continues under the direction of Barbara Leigh, providing increasingly diverse, egalitarian, multi-disciplinary arts programming for the entire community.
For me, that summer of '77 with FMT proved to be a seminal experience informing the next 38 years of my life.
We created a giant puppet showof the Japanese story, The Stonecutter. As a juggling, clowning, ensemble, we performed the many changes the dissatisfied Stonecutter goes through in search of his true place in the world. The story goes full circle and he finds contentment at last in his original role of stonecutter.
As a boy I greatly enjoyed stories. My mother lured me into the Hundred Acre Woods by reading me "The House at Pooh Corner." I discovered the winding roads of OZ in the many books that followed "The Wizard of Oz" and I repeatedly sailed with Jason and his heroes in Padraic Colum's "The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles."
Over the years I pursued various careers involved with stories: Acting, Playwrighting, Television Journalism, Directing, Pantomime, and Clowning. My experience with FMT showed me that all those special interests and skills could come together into a single pursuit: telling stories. It took a few years, but I eventually came to discover that I could be a storyteller. The first story that I took to the storytelling stage was the story of my life, of going round in a Great Circle to recover my original passion for stories. I told The Stonecutter.
In reflection now, I can see that the mission of FMT and MPT not only works its magic on the local community but also on the artists who are lucky enough to be touched by their magic for these 40 years and counting.
Thank you Barbara Leigh and FMT/MPT for the gift of your vision, integrity, and creativity.