“The Lost Diaries of Eve and Adam,” a new piece by acclaimed storytellers Jeff Doyle and Ingrid Nixon, takes its inspiration from Mark Twain’s “Diary of Adam and Eve.”
Doyle and Nixon mine their own experiences as married people, and use some contemporary cultural touch points in this work, which made its world premiere at the Howell Opera House on March 10, 2018.
The piece follows Adam and Eve as they meet in the Garden of Eden, fall in love, have children, and cope with loss and their own mortality. While they’re dealing with the passage of almost 800 years in the story, the pacing is quick and engaging and never feels like too much or too little.
The structure of the play, with the first half taking place before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, and second half taking place after, is logical, and the modern cultural references were well incorporated into the performance.
Doyle and Nixon have a fun and easy chemistry that’s enjoyable to watch. Doyle’s delivery had great personality and character, and he was especially fun to watch at Adam’s more exasperated moments. Nixon’s use of movement and mime helped advance the story without drawing too much attention to it, and her emotional range in delivery was noticeable and appreciated.
The storytellers held the sold-out crowd at the Howell Opera House rapt, and the audience’s frequent peals of laughter were testament to the success of the show, which was developed with coaching from renowned storytelling artists Antonio Rocha and Elizabeth Ellis, and funded, in part, by a members grant from the National Storytelling Network.
The roots of this latest re-telling of the story of Adam and Eve began a decade ago.
“During one sleepless night during the Great Recession, I was thumbing through a collection of Mark Twain stories, and found ‘The Diary of Adam and Eve.’” Doyle said. “I knew immediately that it needed to be a tandem storytelling piece, with a teller on each side of the stage, playing off each other’s alternating diary entries.”
For him, the story had everything: innocence, relationships, love, sex, death, betrayal. What it needed was the perfect partner. And so he carried the idea around with him until two years ago, when he met Nixon at a national storytelling conference in Kansas City.
“She was doing her show ‘Grimm’s with a Twist.’” Doyle said. “Her first piece, ‘Hansel and Gretel (From the Witch’s Point-Of-View)’ had the audience captivated. I knew that I had found Eve.”
After the show, Doyle pitched her the idea. Nixon read Twain’s piece, and was hooked.
“Slowly we began to work on it, rewriting, mixing theater elements and tried-and-true storytelling methods,” Doyle said. “In the end there are only a few remnants of Twain’s writing left, but his ideas and format remain.”
He’s hoping the reworking of this most classic of tales will delight audiences for years to come.
— Maria Stuart contributed to this story.
Jeff Doyle, who founded the annual “Scary Story Festival” at the Howell Opera House in 2006, began his storytelling career around a campfire when his kids were in elementary school. His first story was “The Blue Ape,” which his kids asked to hear over and over again before requesting new material. The Howell resident joined the Ann Arbor Storytellers’ Guild in 2005. While he enjoys telling all types of tales, he specializes in humorous material and stories that range from somewhat scary to truly terrifying. You can check him out at his website at myblueape.com.
Ingrid Nixon is a world-traveling storyteller who specializes in exploration nail-biters, tall tales, traditional and personal stories—and she tells them on international expeditions, and at venues around the country, including the National Storytelling Festival. Her first CD, “Grimm’s with a Twist,” is a Storytelling World award winner; her second recording, “Operation Bouncy Chair,” features personal stories about the important things in life. She holds a master’s degree in storytelling from East Tennessee State University. She currently lives in Washington State. Learn more about her by clicking here.
— Photos by Bob Doyle