The Girl from Bare Cove, an original folk opera written and composed by Jillie Mae Eddy ’11, will debut its showcase performance this summer in New York City. The 24-song piece was written as part of Eddy’s dissertation during her studies in Music Theatre at Central School of Speech and Drama in London, a year-long MFA program.
Eddy set out to “define what is folk opera, because no one had done it before.” After completing her research, the singer-songwriter concluded folk opera is “music drama as living social practice. It’s constantly changing and growing, and has a narrative.”
“The folk are the people of any group or community united by a mutual history of marginalization and a shared body of traditional arts, artifacts, and practices,” she explained.
As Eddy wrote the songs that would form the basis for her folk opera, she knew she wanted to set the storyline in her native New England. Having grown up in historic Hingham, Mass., Eddy remembers the way the people of the region construct their personal narratives on a “tall-tale level.”
“My dad would tell these stories to us as kids, and my sister and I would always be the main characters,” she recalled. Similarly, in The Girl from Bare Cove, there are two sisters and two parents living in a fictional seaside town in Massachusetts.
However, Eddy struggled with who her “folk” really were. Though there were historically many marginalized groups who came to occupy this region, such as the Irish in the 19th century or even the original Puritans themselves, Eddy noted that these groups are no longer easily defined as folk groups in modern-day New England.
Then, she began to see one of her Bare Cove songs in a new light. “You Don’t Know the Night” is a song Eddy wrote about her experience as a sexual assault survivor. Though she didn’t intentionally set out to write “a rape play,” Eddy knew that with this song, her folk opera would come to reflect the story of a survivor.
“That is the folk for my opera,” Eddy said of survivors and their loved ones. “We are not a folk yet, but we should be. We are marginalized. We have been separated geographically, oppressed with silence. Yet, we don’t have a shared body of art to express our experience, which could bring us together and bring us into a group. We can use art to fight back and find a place in society. That’s what I wanted to do with my show.”
After receiving her masters in September 2012, Eddy moved back to Boston to continue freelancing in the area. In spring of 2013, she and two other Bowdoin alumni, Zach Perez ’12 and Coral Sandler ’12, launched The Folkland, “a digital art gallery dedicated to the work of sexual violence survivors and their loved ones.” Eddy’s demo recordings from Bare Cove were the first submission.
“We settled on the name ‘The Folkland’ because we wanted it to be a metaphorical sense of space, to have that sense of homeland or promised land for survivors and their loved ones,” said Eddy.
An important element of The Folkland is its inclusion of “loved ones” into its community.
“I am not personally a survivor, but I have many loved ones who are survivors and I have firsthand experience with how sexual violence can affect more than just the survivor,” said Cofounder Sandler, who was on the Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention, or ASAP, during her time at Bowdoin, which encompasses all student groups active in eliminating sexual violence.
Though he is not a cofounder of The Folkland, but rather “the company jack” in charge of logistical support and communication, Perez cites his longtime friendship with Eddy as the main reason why he became involved with the project.
“As one of Jill’s closest friends back at Bowdoin, I always felt very aware of her struggles and pain from what had happened to her — but more so than that, her compassion for others amazed me. I knew that Jill had the sort of mind to develop new ways of bringing people together, and The Folkland is the product of that deep love,” he said.
Perez is now the general manager and producer for the Bare Cove showcase.
Though Eddy and Perez face financial and logistical challenges on the road to bringing The Girl from Bare Cove to life, both have confidence in the collaborative power of theater to stage the showcase either in July or September this year.
“Anyone who gets their hands on this project will shape its development, and I simply cannot wait to see it continue to evolve,” said Perez. “Once we complete this showcase we will have an even more powerful piece than before and the possibilities for it from there are endless.”
Ultimately, Eddy, who self-designed her Stage and Screen Studies major and minored in Gender and Women’s Studies, is grateful to her Bowdoin experience for encouraging her in developing her talent as a creative artist and for providing relationships with people like Sandler and Perez. She concluded, “If I hadn’t gone to Bowdoin, I don’t know that I would be doing what I’m doing right now.”
—Written by Margot Howard ’13.