Beginning in January of 2015, two friends named Melissa Bergstrom and Kate Maple founded the Perpetual Theatre Company. The focus of the company is to “foster understanding,empathy, and human connection through theatre that explores uncommon human experiences, and to tell entertaining, compelling true stories,” explained Bergstrom. She added that they “believe that each human being has a unique story of life as a ‘visitor’, when a vital part of who we are and how we experience the world impedes our sense of belonging in the community around us.” Bergstrom mentioned that the feeling can be perpetual and that people can feel connected by story tellings and witnessing. They both believe that the theatre has the ability to captivate the audience with a “facilitate dialogue” and that “the human experience becomes richer when all voices are celebrated on stage.”
Meeting at the age of fifteen, Bergstrom and Maple discovered their love for storytelling and theatre. Maple traveled to Boston and Scotland to study human Services, history, and nationalism. Bergstrom attended SUNY Geneseo and Emerson College to study theatre and history. Ten years later, the two reunited in Boston and “realized that they took different paths to examine the same questions, and began imagining how and where to have these conversations in their community.” They believed that “visiting” could create a powerful impact and create understanding “when someone sees a story unlike their own.”
Melissa and Kate look to work with actors who have a love for theatre, storytelling, and are “interested in being part of a larger community of artists.” While they do not require actors to have experience in documentary theatre, they want to find people “who are interested in the form” and to be apart of the creative process. Actors with backgrounds in theatre or “non-actors” can also participate. The importance of having diverse actors is for every voice to be represented on the stage and to have actors who are “just as diverse as the stories.”
In 2005, Bergstrom received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance from the State University of New York at Geneseo. Since then she has been acting and taking classes, while doing both stage and film acting. In January 2012, she came to MHS as a student teacher in Sean Walsh’s Theatre and English classes to complete her master’s degree in Theater and Community at Emerson College.
She wanted to “get experience working with high school students in Boston.” Bergstrom also collaborated with the Dramatic Literature classes for a documentary theatre project. The classes chose a topic where one picked the MBTA fare hikes and the other class chose a proposed law, which required all pit bulls in Malden to be muzzled. She helped the students to interviewmembers in the community and research the issues. Based on the interviews, they then wrote monologues and scenes, rehearsed them and performed a show for the everyone at MHS. Melissa recalled that it was her first time working on documentary theatre with students and it was one she feels the proudest of.
Bergstrom believes the company is unique because they are one of the few companies in Boston, and the country for that matter, “that is committed to documentary theatre specifically.” Both Bergstrom and Maple want to tell real stories of people who lived in Boston or in the United States on the stage. They hope that people can feel connected to one another and to the issues that affect us.
The first step in their process to retain stories is to interview their person of interest either on the phone, Skype, email and “take those transcripts [to] turn them into a play.” They are currently working on their first original documentary play called “Big Work,” which focuses on the “modern day relationship to our jobs,” and the chaos it causes in people’s daily lives. Forty people in the U.S were interviewed by The Visitors about the job they have, and some of the most important values in their lives. The play was inspired by the conversations between Bergstrom and Maple over the years about jobs they had. The play will debut on Mar. 5 followed by other performance on Mar. 6 and 7 of 2016 at the Outpost in Inman Square in Cambridge, MA.