Martha’s Vineyard has a long history of Vineyarders entertaining each other in living rooms, backyards, church basements, barns — almost any space will do. Last night I went to SOOP MV. I’m pleased to report that we’re still doing it, and damn are we good.
SOOP stands for Stories of Our People. Jonah Lipsky discovered it in Boston and imported it to MV. This was only the second SOOP MV, but already it seems to have put down strong roots. The idea is that you bring something to perform (poem, story, song, whatever), though coming just to listen is fine, and a vegetable for the soup pot. After the performances, you hang out and eat the soup.
When I arrived, vegetable chopping was well under way and two pots were already bubbling on the stove. The place was a cozy summer apartment on the second floor of a small barn. The performances took place outside. The heat of the last few days had broken, the evening air was perfect, and if being directly under the flyway into the county airport caused frequent audio interruptions, these were gracefully accommodated.
Kanta Lipsky bravely broke the ice with a tale of a red tow truck summoned to right an overturned ice cream wagon. In the story the bystanders got to eat the ice cream, and wonder of wonders, so did we. See that red cooler at Kanta’s side? It was full of ice cream sandwiches, neatly halved, which she passed out at the end of the story. Talk about hard acts to follow!
The next act followed undaunted, however, as did the one after that and all the ones following.
The audience reoriented itself 90 degrees clockwise so that Jonah Lipsky and Casey Hayward could include some trees in the set for their short play, in which a man meditating under a tree at night is interrupted by a woman with a flashlight who thinks she is looking for the beach. The actors co-wrote the play, one writing four lines then the other writing four lines.
Dan Waters sang about a black umbrella, and performance poet Ben Williams displayed his impressive range with one poem about difficult family legacies and another created for the kids he works with at Sense of Wonder day camp. Stories followed songs, poems followed plays. All were good, some were considerably more, and no one hogged the time. Everyone seemed to know the performer’s axiom “Leave them wanting more,” and in every case we would happily have listened to another song, another poem. The transitions between performances were so smooth they seemed to have been scripted.
Dusk was falling when the performances ended and we moved upstairs for hearty soup and excellent bread. When the evening started, I hardly knew anybody, but once someone has shared their work with you, it’s easy to get a conversation going with a complete stranger. As one woman noted, many creative people love to talk about how they do what they do. No surprise then that pretty much everybody was talking as if they were old friends, whether they were or not.
Keep your eye out for the next SOOP! SOOP MV is on Facebook, and the word is spreading in other ways as well.