Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Looking back at An Evening of Stories 1.0

the storytellers: Iris Nelissen, Deb Williams, Tonya Russell, Becky Aud-Jennison (myself), Kate Broughton, Joanna Davison
on the set earlier in the day

Stage set and testing the zone with Tonya

Deb & Iris chatting with our lovely caterer in the background

the afterglow

the alter for our loves-- the production began with Sanctuary by Eliza Gilkyson playing while we each walked in with a tealight and put it in the seat by by the alter to represent and call in our loves

the calm before the storm

Maybe it's taken this long to share about the April production: an evening of stories 1.0 because we are still coming down from the experience.

Maybe it's because there aren't really words to describe the magic in the theatre that evening.

Maybe it's because if we talk about it we acknowledge that it's finished.

I wasn't really sure what we were getting into as I planned this production but after the cast was assembled and the ladies shared but a glimpse into their stories, their stories formed an unbreakable bond. The cast wanted to meet more frequently than I had planned and so we did.

We had Iris whose husband and then father had died years ago and had never really shared her story and felt the need to bring it out in the world after attending our debut event.

There's Tonya, whose sweet Isla's crib death was over 30 years ago followed by Isla's daddy's death two years later–– and all these many years have passed with those around her rarely acknowledging a baby ever lived. Or died.

There was Kate, a dear friend of mine, whose story of heart connection with her dear friend Kirsty at the end of her life, and her death, had moved me so that I knew the audience would also be moved by her beautiful storytelling.

Joanna's loss was more recent when her dear Paulie died on a gorgeous bike ride they were on. Out of nowhere. A photo of him smiling minutes before and then, he's off, hitching a ride on a shooting star. Listening to the anguish and then laughter as we hear how she was converted from card carrying atheist to believer of afterlife, sharing her uncanny tales of connection brought our hearts full circle.

And Deb, who I bonded with when we both were set to do a PechaKucha talk. She would be speaking of her daughter's death by suicide and my cousin had just recently died by suicide. We have become soul-sisters and I quietly mark time of how old her dear Cloud would be by the age of my daughter. We journey together in the realm of death, dying and the aftermath. Her words are always heartfelt, descriptive and bring you something big you did not hold before.

I was blown away from the first rehearsal meeting at how well formed these stories were from their first draft. They all wanted help in the formation and they needed little of it. Their hearts and their loves spoke through them in a way that was quite magical.

And then the stage, with their loved ones image taking up the wall behind them, they spoke their truth to an audience who were giving their hearts to the process and something beautiful was born that you don't frequently see on the stage.

A local and NZ and beyond acting/directing/teaching theatre icon was in the audience and hopped up after the applause died down and thanked us for this production in a very beautiful way. (at the time I did not know who he was, but we connected later and have since been in contact)  He was very touched to see that it wasn't actors playing out these stories and the emotion and experience was something he'd not witnessed before on stage.

One of the reasons that miracle of a recipe could happen was that not only was I serving as producer and director but my life career had been as a therapist–– holding very difficult stories. I had no fear of walking into this territory in the realm of theatre and then bringing it on stage because I'd held many a tragic story and storyteller in the past and if we needed to pause to process or work through any issues that surfaced  we could do so.

And in fact, within our group process, that is exactly what happened. Our entire process became somewhat of a therapeutic event, from the first meeting to the birth of the beautiful production with each storytellers experience around their loss and their lives was gracefully and supportively wrapped around anyone who needed it.   My mantra–– ya'll see how this is group therapy right?

Magic happens when we walk up to the things that are too hard, The Real, and befriend it and make a story of it. And if we're lucky enough to form a supportive heart-linked clan in the process– then a miracle has occurred.

Comments about the evening can be found HERE.

Stay with us . . . we might just bring this production around again.

(between each story we played a song relevant to the story that its teller had picked out which was said to be very moving. pre- and post-show songs were also carefully chosen. the below song, which my brother had turned me onto years before he died and relevant to a verbatim production he came to see me in, Laramie Project, we walked out one by one to this song placing a candle in the empty chair and set the stage" 

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