Jill Jaysen

Jill Jaysen, director of Under the Covers. (Image courtesy The Bijou / September 25, 2012)

Part of MouseMuse Productions' "Real People. Real Stories." series

8 p.m. September 29 at the Bijou Theatre, 275 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport. (203) 332-3228, mousemuse.com


Ina Chadwick has brought storytelling shows to Fairfield Theatre Company, to the Westport Arts Center, to a "Stories on the Green" series at Fairfield Museum, to the Two Boots club, even to Landmark Academy. "Do you know hard it is to do a gym?," Chadwick laughs.

She's had success in all these venues, adjusting to their varying sizes, shapes, audiences and expectations.

When the grand, rejuvenated Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport contacted her, Chadwick's first reaction was that it was "too large a house" for the storytelling shows she was creating through her MouseMuse Productions group with dozens of local storytellers. "This is not the right space," she thought. "But I began to send them other kinds of storytelling shows."

Chadwick calls the Bijou — built in 1911 as a vaudeville theater and moviehouse, active as a cinema for most of the 20th century, then dormant for a decade before being extensively renovated and reopened last year — "the most tricked-out, fabulous space you've ever seen."

"The work I am producing for the Bijou is different from my flagship storytelling program," Chadwick explains.

This week, MouseMuse delivers the latest in its "Real People. Real Stories." series at the Bijou. The shows are acclimated to the fabulousness of the Bijou, but "could move anywhere," Chadwick says. "They're minimally staged — just chairs, mics, music stands." Yet they have their own form of grandiosity. It's a grandness of spirit, of community, of social consciousness, of listen-in-close confessions.

The September 29 event is an original compilation of short monologues created and performed by its cast, shaped and directed by Jill Jaysen. Under the Covers: Where Our Voices Have Been Hiding has a cast of 14, ranging in age from 30-81, and consists of "short pieces strung together," Chadwick says, rather than being plotbound or themebound. It has structural similarities to Eve Ensler's international known monologue play The Vagina Monologues. In fact, nearly half the cast of Under the Covers — Sarah Green, Dee Andrian, Mary Dezso, Mindy Goff, Elizabeth Kessler and Amy van Arsdale — appeared in a staging of Vagina Monologues which Jaysen directed at the Westport Country Playhouse last year to benefit the Domestic Violence Crisis Center. Another cast member, 81-year-old Dee Andrian, is a member of Ina Chadwick's MouseMuse Storytelling troupe and Writers Group.

Chadwick also likens some of the shows she produces to the popular New York-based storytelling series The Moth. Like The Moth, she likes her participants to be confident, but not too professional. "I find that actors and actresses are the worst — there's a bit of a poseur in them." Sincerity and intimacy are key.

Jaysen, founder of Westport's Center Stage Theatre Company, created Under the Covers: Where Our Voices Have Been Hiding as a one-time benefit for the Center Stage Scholarship Fun at the Seabury Center. According to a press release for that debut performance at the center in April, "Under the Covers utilizes humor, drama, tragedy and triumph to play out real-life experiences that transcend all barriers of age, sex and socio-economic status while deeply engaging and entertaining the audience. Topics range from dating to aging, divorce to rebirth and everything in between."

Chadwick herself missed Under the Covers in its first incarnation, but booked it based on the recommendations of trusted friends. She also had to convince the show's creator, Jill Jaysen, to revive it. "She thought she would never do it again, but I talked her into it."