Charlotte Moroz is a true original. After volunteering with the Peace Corps, training with the acclaimed sketch comedy group the Upright Citizens Brigade (whose alumni include such comedians as Amy Poehler and Adam McKay) and attending a full time conservatory to study musical theater, clowning, and puppetry, she happened across a Navajo creation story in a library and was inspired into her latest project: Begochiddy. Begochiddy, a one-woman puppet musical, is a whimsical coming of age tale that weaves Native American mythology with modern day culture and charming songs to share a message of creativity and self-acceptance. Having recently completed a run of the show in New York, Moroz is now preparing for Begochiddy’s next adventure, including a potential tour, and the release of the show soundtrack this fall. To learn more about this unique musical, and about the new popularity puppets have been receiving on New York stages lately, we asked her a few questions about her background, her process, and the transformative power of theater.
STAGECLOUD: What is your theater background? How has your previous work led you to this particular piece?
CHARLOTTE MOROZ: I was lucky to have parents who siphoned my creative outbursts into kids’ improv comedy classes and not an ADHD diagnosis, and I've been in comedy improv groups and classes ever since – most recently, training and performing at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City. I then had the opportunity to train at a full-time conservatory known as The Studio/New York with instructors from NYU and Yale, where I delved into clowning, devised theater, musical theater and puppeteering. Before coming to NYC, I spent two years in Mozambique as a community volunteer in the Peace Corps, working with youth groups to create dialogue and social change via theater, with Theater of the Oppressed as our guiding practice. With this youth group, I had the chance to learn from, teach and play with some of the best comedic actors and clowns I’ve ever encountered. This one-woman musical brings together these experiences and loves: spontaneous creation and how theater transforms.
S: Tell us about the genesis of this play. How did a Navajo creation story give rise to a puppet musical?
CM: I found this story by chance, flipping through a book in the public library, and I was moved by the main character, Begochiddy, a child who creates without question or doubt. Building mountains and carving rivers without whining about whether it's good enough or in the right spot? This child had some things to teach me. Enthralled with the story, music started a flowin' out of me. The puppets seemed like the next right step . I wanted to make with my hands and the puppets helped me to touch, feel and talk to the characters more tangibly. And the story has such beautiful and rich characters-- it occurred to me once the puppets were in play that I couldn't imagine any other way to give justice to such a fantastic, epic tale.
S: What are the core themes of this play? What is the ideal impact you would hope this play could have on its audiences?
CM: I've been working with the theme of stepping into who we are in the fullest sense and making peace in a real way. This piece pairs the theme of family with self: that our families have taught us everything we need to know (good or bad) and that family can help us find freedom, as opposed to locking us in. This leads to the equally important theme at play in this piece: that transcendence or new life comes to us when we step into who we are. I am a queer woman and this feeling that I was somehow outside of the gender and sexuality norms had never been addressed so directly as in this story. Here we have a slew of gods who express gender and sexuality in diverse and seemingly contradictory, yet divine ways. They may be afraid at times, but they heroically get back up and keep moving. I found this story to be a celebration, a party of sorts, thrown to celebrate my full expression, my full “me-ness.” I would want my audience to walk away considering that who they are is grounds for celebration. Celebration instead of fear!
S: Puppets seems to have made quite the resurgence in American theater over the past few years. What unique opportunities does puppetry provide for storytelling? What does it allow you to accomplish that you couldn't achieve otherwise?
CM: I’d love to say that I’m a puppet master, having trained for many years, but I’m fairly new to the puppetry scene. As I mentioned, I felt an impulse to create with my hands, and I loved how I was experiencing what Begochiddy might experience: creating something tangible with a childlike self-assurance and inspiration. Once created, the puppets helped me to touch, feel and talk to the characters more tangibly. My fun quotient went up indescribably once the puppets were there to play with…maybe it’s my being a twin myself and my adjacent longing to play with others. As other puppeteers have probably said more eloquently, puppeteering has given me a way to experience and express the characters more fully, to really talk with them. With the puppets, I get to do a one-woman show alone and with good company, which I found to be a pretty fabulous compromise.
S: Anything else in the works that you'd like to plug? Or any news about the future of Begochiddy?
CM: We’ll be recording an album of the music from the show this summer! I’m excited to get into the studio and create something to offer those who were able to join us in the audience and for those who were not able to be there. I’ve been working with a wonderful producer and mentor, and we’ll be expanding to play with a string quartet from Minneapolis. In addition, Begochiddy is in the process of finding a second, larger home in New York City as well as setting up a way to tour around the country, bringing adult shows as well as kids’ shows paired with puppet-making and story-telling workshops. I really look forward to expanding upon these exciting beginnings—it feels like I can really honor Begochiddy and its Navajo story-tellers by developing and sharing each piece of what I’ve created here.
For more information on Charlotte Moroz and Begochiddy, visit www.begochiddy.com/