BWW Interview: Bernadette Nason and TEA IN TRIPOLI Stage Work Becomes Book Memoir

BWW Interview: Bernadette Nason and TEA IN TRIPOLI Stage Work Becomes Book Memoir

In 2011, Bernadette Nason wrote and performed her one-woman show, TEA IN TRIPOLI, which was about the fifteen months she spent in Libya in 1984-85. The overwhelmingly positive reaction led to four award nominations: Best Actress, Best Original Script, and two for Best Production. This encouraged Nason to turn the show into a book. The end result is "Tea in Tripoli: A Memoir" which is now available in paperback and electronic form from Amazon.

Bernadette has been delighting Austin audiences for years with her original work. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with her to find out more about her first foray as an author.

BWW: When did you first perform the original show that became this book?
BN: I first performed the original show, TEA IN TRIPOLI, at the City Theatre in the summer of 2011. Before then, I'd performed individual stories, which I then worked on and developed to add to the main piece.

BWW: What prompted you to turn your stage piece into a book?
BN: The idea for the book came from friends and audience members suggesting it. TEA (the show) was made up of 6 or 7 different stories linked together along a time-line with an introduction and a closing paragraph. According to pretty much everyone I spoke to, it wasn't enough. Folks wanted more: more stories, more specifics in the stories I'd told, more about North Africa and expatriate life. Everyone had a lot of questions to be answered about what took me there and why I stayed. Women wanted to know what it was like to live as a western woman in an Islamic country. With all of this interest, I sat with my documents from 1984-85 (journal, letters, newspaper articles, photos, etc.) and when I looked at the time-line, I could see loads of new stories worth writing. I could also see a true and clear arc in my personal life, and many themes arising. The more I spoke of this to writers and storytellers, the more people said, "This is a book you need to write." It took about 2 years of mulling and research, and then I got started.

BWW: How does the book differ from the stage piece?
BN: The main difference between book and stage show would be the length: TEA (the show) from 2011 had, as I mentioned, 6 or 7 stories, etc. The presentation you saw last Sunday had 3 of the original 2011 stories with my original 2-paragraph intro and a couple of new bits to connect the stories. Each story forms a chapter (or a part of a chapter) of the book. TEA IN TRIPOLI (the book) has 34 chapters.

The onstage stories are essentially the same as the stories on the page, but with a few significant differences. For a start, the book is more clearly and precisely written than the stories I tell onstage because I can't see my audience and must therefore ensure they understand what I'm saying. When storytelling in public, it's more about timing and connecting with the audience, so things change in the telling, ad-libs are thrown in, bits are cut to keep the wording clear and tight, to keep the momentum going. A storyteller can feel if an audience understands, by their reaction. In the book, there are places where I've been careful to explain my experience really specifically so as to create a vivid picture in a reader's mind. This isn't always required in a performance. For example, when telling a tale onstage, so many physical elements can be done right there and then: the tone of voice, a hand gesture or shake of the head, an eye roll or a scowl, a sigh or laugh, etc.

BWW: What was your personal goal with the book?
BN: With both the book and the stage presentation, my primary motivation is to entertain and lift spirits. If I manage that, everything else is lagniappe!

Nason has certainly managed to entertain and lift and has been doing so for many years. We hope that will continue for many more to come. The book is available at in paperback ($17.95) and Kindle ($3.99). We're glad that the joy she has given us now extends to a much wider audience. A review of her book can be found here: /bwwbooks/article/BWW-Review-TEA-IN-TRIPOLI-by-Bernadette-Nason-20170822

by Bernadette Nason
2017, Brave Bear & Company


1. The Twig Bookstore in San Antonio, Texas -- Presentation, Q&A, Signing on Friday, October 13, 2017 from 5:00 - 7:00 PM
2. Boerne Arts Festival in Boerne, Texas, on Saturday, October 14, 2017 -- Biography Writing Panel at 11:00 AM and Storytelling Stage at 12:30 PM
3. Texas Book Festival at the Writers' League of Texas table -- book signing on Sunday, November 5, 2017 (time TBA)

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