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Meet Maddie Fay in West End

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maddie Fay.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Maddie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I started doing theater tech my freshman year of high school, and I’ve been writing and involved with theater in some way for as long as I can remember. I did my first tech job outside of school assistant stage managing and doing scenic carpentry for the JCC when I was 14 and spent the next several years doing all the theatre work I could whenever the opportunity arose.

I attended KSU starting in 2013 with a plan to focus on scenic design. While I was there, I took a required class with Dr. Charles Parrott that was an introduction to performance studies. I liked the class a lot more than I anticipated, and as a result, I wound up auditioning and joining The KSU Tellers, which is a student storytelling organization that Dr. Parrott coaches and coordinates. With the Tellers, I learned about performing stories and particularly personal narratives and the powerful tool storytelling can be for connection and growth. I was able to travel for storytelling conferences and perform in a number of different events and locations. I had never really considered storytelling as an art form before, and learning about it definitely changed a lot for me. I had no intention of doing anything performance-based when I was going into college, and now I really can’t imagine my life without storytelling.

Despite the positive experience in Tellers, overall KSU was not a good fit for me, so I dropped out after a couple of years to focus on my career and started taking on much more freelance work. I quit doing unrelated side jobs and began working exclusively as an electrician, carpenter, and stagehand for numerous theatres and venues all over Atlanta and the surrounding areas with the exception of a brief residence at a theatre in Florida.

I also continued with writing and storytelling and auditioned for a storytelling show at 7 Stages with a piece I had originally written for Tellers. I got in, and from that show was invited to a show at Georgia Tech. From there, I was invited to do the Red Clay Storytelling Festival and a show at Manuel’s Tavern and then Write Club, which is the coolest event ever because you go head to head against another writer, and maybe it’s because I grew up playing sports but I love an art show you can win. They also donate all their proceeds to nonprofits chosen by the winning combatants, so I got to send money to Lost N Found Youth, which was a pretty rad use of a night.

I also started going to the poetry open mics at Java Monkey and was inspired by all the incredible talent there to try performance poetry. I have notebooks full of poems that cover just about the full span of my life, but until Java Monkey the thought of sharing them was basically only reserved for my nightmares. But Theresa Davis, who hosts the mic, is so incredibly welcoming to newcomers and encouraged me to keep coming back, so I did. I released my first chapbook, cockroach, a little over a year ago at the encouragement of some other poets from the mic. A self-published poetry collection is an actually terrifying thing to put out into the world, but people were very warm and positive and supportive. I am currently working on competing in Java Monkey’s slam season as well as finishing my second chapbook.

This September, right before my 24th birthday, I sent an email to The Bakery, a newer art venue in West End. I had heard a lot about the space from friends and had walked and driven past it a bunch because it’s right in my area, and it seemed like it might be the perfect space to start a new literary open mic. I got an email back pretty quickly from Amanda Norris, who said she was personally interested in this type of show and that she would be willing to help me make it happen. She showed me the space, which is incredibly cool and constantly has awesome stuff going on, and I gave her my pitch. Between regularly attending Write Club and getting some advice from one of its two producers, Myke Johns (thank you!!), and watching the way Java Monkey is run, I had a pretty solid plan for how the show should run. I’d also been introduced to enough amazing Atlanta writers that I had an awesome lineup to present. Amanda seemed excited about the concept and seemed to really believe in it, and she willingly put in her own effort to help make it happen. I told her the name for the series, Then What (a suggestion by the unbelievably talented writer Marie Dominique Dela Paz) and she designed a promo image and made an event, helped promote and set the space, and even bought a pumpkin for our display.

Our inaugural show was a fully curated lineup of local writers, poets, storytellers, and comedians around the theme of ghost stories, and we filled every seat in the house. Because of the success of the first show, we were given the go-ahead for November. The plan is to have a fully curated show every quarter, and all the other months to have an open mic that begins with a 20-30 minute set from an invited feature. This means the November and December editions of Then What at The Bakery will have open slots for local writers or any other community members with a story to tell.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
School was hard and my years in college were, for various reasons, some of the worst in my life. I thought a lot about leaving town. I had a theatre job in college that was pretty exploitative of young artists and their time and energy, and it really soured me on the idea of working in theatre for the first time since I’d started years before. At one point, I was actually putting in an application at the University of Fairbanks, thinking about leaving everything behind to study marine biology in Alaska. But then I left school and moved into the city, and I stopped doubting my path again when I started working new places and meeting new people.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I am a freelance carpenter, electrician, and lighting designer for theatre, as well as a storyteller and writer. Working freelance really allows me to prioritize the things I care about most in my schedule. I am hoping to do a storytelling/poetry tour in the next couple of years, and it’s helpful knowing I will be able to plan my own schedule.

So far, I am most proud of Then What, the live lit show, because I think creating a space for other people to be able to share their work is really important. It’s a gift that was given to me by other members of the community when I needed somewhere to be heard, so it feels really good to be able to create another space like that now.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I am deeply influenced by the people I surround myself with and I absolutely credit my brilliant and creative circle of personal friends as well as the broader artistic community I’ve started becoming a part of with enabling, encouraging, and inspiring me to make more things and take more risks and try stuff.

I would also say I’m fairly tenacious and always working on something; if I don’t have multiple projects I can be grinding at when I get off work, I feel like I’m wasting my time.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Elizabeth Day, Jason Hill, Tiffany Courtney, Gemini Kaushik, Rebekah Mez, Red Clay Storytelling Festival, Kaylinn Gilstrap, Amanda Norris

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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