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Jody Christopherson: The Storyteller’s Storyteller

Photo: Natalie Deryn Johnson

by G.W. Mercure

St. Kilda, running at the Provincetown Theater as part of its “4-Star Solo Show Festival” is a theatrical mono-concert using elements of horror, suspense, and folk music to tell the story of a woman’s journey through an eerie supernatural landscape. If that doesn’t sound like Death of a Salesman to you, then the description has landed right in creator, performer, composer Jody Christopherson’s wheelhouse.

“I like big risks and attempting to subvert expectations,” she says during an interview that features deft references to Shakespeare and Walt Whitman and a keen awareness of her peculiar creative courage.

Christopherson is the most dangerous kind of creative talent: the kind with an overflowing reserve of ideas. She has been called a visionary, and her work is recognized worldwide for its daring, deep drama and frontier-pushing aesthetic liberty. Christopherson is a 2021 Drama League Award nominee and a recipient of the New York Society Library Grant. She’s a playwright, a musician, actress, composer, and, in St. Kilda, the lighting department, sound effects department, special effects department, and orchestra. Which is to say that Christopherson is a storyteller’s storyteller.

“What a press quote that was to receive!” she says of being called a visionary by Abigail Weil from The Theatre Times. “It’s encouraging that this wild idea has been welcomed. I like the label ‘storyteller.’”

She says St. Kilda is “a story about a woman traveling alone narratively and also seemingly alone onstage in every way possible.”

St. Kilda features live foley and vocal-looping pedals to create a disquieting soundscape for the audience as they join her journey of survival on a remote Scottish island. It is harrowing: Violin bows on bowls of water, monochords, pie tins full of salt, and traditional folk singing offer audiences an experience designed to be simultaneously disorienting and isolating.

“I set up St. Kilda entirely alone, mix and loop my sound while I perform, play 13 different ‘instruments,’ operate and create my lighting and costumes, and activate loads of EPA-approved water-based haze.” But it is all in service to the story.

“That’s the fun about this,” she says. “Navigating a real-time Olympic feat of theater live. I once blew a pie tin filled with fine sea salt into my eyes mid-show…Luckily the scene was an emotional one, and letting my eyes water for the next five minutes didn’t take away from the story.”

The daring side of Christopherson is real. Not content with the logistical demands, which are notable, she appreciates having to adapt all that, once set, once mastered, to new and unusual venues. “Each place I go has a different acoustics. The majority of my tech and pre-show time is spent learning about the space and how to best mix the sound for that specific venue. I’ve played cathedrals, rock venues, theaters, a brownstone living room, gardens, museums. A boat and a cemetery are on my wish list.” Note that, Provincetown mariners.

“I’m excited to come back to the Cape. My life partner Michael Niederman’s family has been coming to Provincetown or Wellfleet for the past 50 years. I’ve used my experiences on the Cape as kinesthetic research to create St. Kilda – climbing the Dune Shacks Trail, sailing, swimming in the haze at Great Pond, searching for sharks at Newcomb Hollow, walking through the overgrowth of forbs in the woods.”

It’s not surprising that the landscape of the Outer Cape contributed to Christopherson’s physical ideas for St. Kilda – the Cape nurtures storytellers, draws them in, and inspires them. And Christopherson has been on the storytelling wavelength for as long as she can remember. She is a storytelling lifer.

“I come from storytellers who gather wherever they can, entertain and challenge each other,” she says. “I’m fortunate that many of the women in my family have had space to share their stories and hold space for me and others. They’re my legendary storytellers and role models. St. Kilda is inspired by and dedicated to the memory of my grandmother, who we lost in 2020—all the things she taught me and the things I wish she’d had the opportunity to do.”

Her dedication to storytelling is plain, and her daring seems to be limitless. So with her acumen and the creative achievement of St. Kilda, where does Christopherson go? Her potential is unbound.

“I like creating physical manifestations of experiences. St. Kilda embodies the experience of traveling alone. It needed to be a physically Olympic type feat with big potential for failure as well as somewhat uncharted territory for me,” she says. What frontiers can be left for this eager explorer?

“Theater is a response to and a reflection of the world around us—which is ever-changing,” she says. “I think there will be more wonderful manifestations of theatre than can be dreamt of in our philosophy.” For example, “a Gothic French Revolution feminist horror” called Tussaud Antoinette, which will tour next year; and an as yet unnamed collaboration with New Orlean playwright Amelia Parenteau that has as its catalyst the career of Nebraska legislator Machaela Cavanaugh (Cavanaugh is known for being the first senator to breastfeed on the Capitol floor).

Christopherson occupies lives and figures and characters that seem difficult to occupy. But that’s acting. The inverse is more provocative: “St. Kilda is the embodiment of the idea that one person can contain multitudes, not only the words of the narrative, but quite literally command the atmosphere of the entire world they inhabit.” And that might be a working definition of “a storyteller’s storyteller:” Inhabiting, and inhabited. Like Jody Christopherson.

St. Kilda is performed at Provincetown Theater, 238 Bradford St. as the final installment of the 4-Star Solo Show Festival, June 28 – 30, 7 p.m. For information or tickets call 508.487.7487 or visit

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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