Mystic Paper Beasts and affiliate the Dragon’s Egg are two of the most dynamic cultural perks and well-kept secrets the area has to offer.
Looking for a feel-good Kirtan in a vaulted octagonal space, a cardboard mask making workshop, yoga classes with an indoor swing or original dance performances by resident artists you might otherwise see in New York?
What originally began as a theater company in 1976 founded by artist Dan Potter, evolved further as dancer, actor and mime Marya Ursin joined in 1989.
Together the duo creates their trademark cardboard costuming and masks while Ursin, writes, casts and performs at around 30 venues a year. Their collaborative efforts travel the East Coast but remain local at the Dragon’s Egg for rehearsals.
“We do a lot of interactive performances at festivals, museums, first nights, festivals and libraries.” Ursine continued, ”I am a very shy person so the interactive performances have been a very wonderful development.”
I met Ursin at the Dragon’s Egg on Shewville Road in Ledyard, a performance space designed and created by , which based in Stonington. It’s easy to lose oneself in a sense of awe both for the magnificence of the space but also for Potter's hidden sculptures casually propped at every turn.
Colorful Mystic Paper Beasts peek out the window of the adjacent barn and I somehow felt Potter and Ursin's masks were waiting in anticipation for their next glory day.
“We would rehearse at Stonington Community Center and needed a space,” Ursin said. “The Dragon’s Egg was literally a dream of mine.”
Potter’s mother owned the property and left it to the family when she passed—allowing their dream to come to fruition. Potter, with a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard, drew the plans and then what Ursin calls the sacred circus tent, came to life.
The Dragon's Egg is not just a rehearsal space for the group but also a space for visiting artists and a location for workshops, classes and spiritual growth.
Ursin, 61 is the embodiment of a renaissance woman and with her honey rich background, is now Co-Director of Mystic Paper Beasts and Managing Director of the Dragon’s Egg.
Born in New York, Ursin was raised mostly in Germany and France.
“My father was a doctor in the army,” Ursin said. “I moved 41 times by the time I was 40."
A formally trained dancer and mime, Ursin studied under Merce Cunningham and took classes at Martha Graham’s studio in New York.
At the age of 26 involved in a car crash that broke her break she was forced to take a pause from her craft.
“I continued to dance—how can you not if that’s what you love? But, it slowed me down,” Ursin said.
A fully recovered Ursin, taught in New York for years before moving to the area with her daughter Ana in 1983 to teach in New London.
Ursin and Potter met, developed a creative partnership and later married. The couple eventually moved to Stonington Borough and thoroughly enjoy their burgeoning gardens, house swing and view off of Stonington Point.
Much like their garden, Potter and Ursin continue to grow their creative collaboration and vision.
“The magic of Mystic Paper Beasts is to build something out of nothing,” Ursin said. "Work that’s on the crisp edge of creation, its breathtaking for me to be here—I love what I do.”