From January 23-30, 2015, the nation came together to tell its own stories of the state of the union, those not included in President Obama’s address, which were “then woven into new poetry by notable poets at a performance,” broadcast live on February 1 from New York [via The Des Moines Register].
“Crafted in part as a response to recent tensions in communities across America,” these story circles, happening across 150 communities, gave everyone who had a story to tell the platform to do so, and to ensure that others heard their story as well [via American Theatre].
Megan Carney, director of the Gender and Sexuality Center at University of Illinois, “feel[s] like there aren’t a lot of spaces in our culture where we get to process the experiences we’re having...certainly not with other people, and not with people who are different from us” [via UIC News Center]. These story circles provide that very same safe space to have these conversations.
For Shannon Davies Mancus of dog & pony dc, the main thrust for hosting a story circle is to “ask questions of ourselves and our neighbors about how we as artists can be better allies to those for whom the state of the nation is not so great” [via DCTheatreScene.com].
“There won’t be any strict guidelines as to what people should talk about,” Dave Loewenstein, Cultural Agent, says, “the goal is simply to get people talking” [via Lawrence].
The way they are structured is equally as important as the end result in order to “to cultivate empathy, compassion, and a sense of equality...Once everyone has shared, participants are steered away from embellishing or contradicting other people’s stories. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’” [via openDemocracy].
Finally, it’s that voice, unheeded and allowed to run free, is what the hope of the story circles are. “Structural and institutional oppression still exists, and in order to put our legislators in check, we have to be present and we have to be a voice,” Beth “Root” Schermerhorn, a Harrisonburg resident and a participant in a story circle at Duke Hall, said [via The Breeze].
“Because,” Godfrey Simmons, an organizer of an Ithaca story circle and and actor and director with Civic Ensemble, said, “it’s not just about coming up with answers, it’s also sharing ourselves with each other” [via Tompkins Weekly].
By Storyteller-in-Chief Lauren Zanedis