Storyteller passes the torch

Sandra Bauchiero will take over Aunt Helen's Closet, an interactive storytelling program.

Sandra Bauchiero will take over Aunt Helen's Closet, an interactive storytelling program. Submitted Photo

— There are trip itineraries and passports, filled with stamps. There are postcards, letters, menus and photos. And those are only the items small enough to fit into scrapbooks Mnich crafted.

Aunt Helen’s escapades are well documented by items she purchased so she could live like the country she was visiting. Mnich has colorful kimonos from Japan, a goatskin coat from Afghanistan, leathers from Egypt, velvets from France, silks from Thailand and an armadillo pocketbook. Many times, even when Aunt Helen returned stateside, she continued to flaunt her mismatched treasures.

“Every wedding, wake, funeral, family gathering, there was Aunt Helen in full regalia and you couldn’t stay away from her,” said Mnich. “Earrings hanging to her shoulders and not one necklace but two. She talked about where she went, what she did.”

Aunt Helen becomes more real when Mnich lets audience members try on a sombrero from Mexico, a poncho from Chili or a handcrafted necklace from Nepal.

Bauchiero said she’s excited to see for herself what a day in Aunt Helen’s closet is like.

“With any performance, you get different feedback from all ages and it’ll be interesting to see from my own eyes,” said Bauchiero. “I’ve heard many stories from Ellen about the reception she’s gotten from the audiences and I can’t wait to see how warmly they open up to Aunt Helen through my own eyes.”

The first Aunt Helen’s Closet sans Mnich is scheduled for April but Bauchiero said she already has plans to expand it.

“There are so many pieces in the collection that don’t get used all the time that I’d like to get more than just me as Aunt Helen,” said Bauchiero. “A couple people spread out so more people can experience who she was as a person.”

Bauchiero is based in Rockland County on the border of New York City and New Jersey, so Aunt Helen’s Closet could eventually make some trips downstate.

“I see her spreading her wings a bit down here but I want to be able to support a lot of venues up here that Ellen has already opened their eyes to Aunt Helen,” said Bauchiero.

Mnich compiled Aunt Helen’s adventures into a picture and activity book, “A Peek into Aunt Helen’s Closet,” published in 2011. For more information about Aunt Helen’s Closet or how to request the program, visit www.aunthelenscloset.com.

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