On October 16, 2019, a sold out crowd in the Lovelace Studio Theater heard stories by seventeen storytellers from the new GRoW @ The Wallis program, Staged Stories. This class gives older adults (55+) a chance to reconnect with their creativity, write their personal stories and share them onstage at The Wallis. For these storytellers many had never been shared with anyone before and others told stories they’ve always wanted to tell but didn’t know how.
Teaching the program was a true joy. I felt I entered sacred space every time I stood before these incredible students. I knew from the first class that I would learn more from them than I could ever teach. Feeling the weight of their collective time on earth filling the room, I stood in reverence to witness their stories and was never disappointed.
The participants were honest, brave, creative, and willing to take chances. Mining memories that sometimes brought up surprising emotions and connecting with each other to build lasting relationships. They worked diligently every week, trusting me, doing their homework and always coming to class prepared.
At GRoW @ The Wallis we believe in celebrating stories that are not always heard. The participants in Staged Stories had so much to say and I am proud that we were able to give them our stage to share their voices and these important stories.
There were stories of forgotten childhood memories.
Stories of resilience, the pain of racism and of a harrowing escape in Nazi Germany.
Stories about the joy of being a grandmother.
The adventures of a birthday clown.
And a loving tribute to a Grandmother and Grandfather.
In addition to awakening the creativity and writing skills of the students, there were many friendships formed. After the curtain call, the first question I had from one of the participants was “when are we getting together again?” They wanted to see each other because of the community formed but they also wanted to continue writing. Tyrone, who swore to me he couldn’t write found himself writing for six hours one night, and he hasn’t stopped since. They were also so excited about performing that they had the idea to take the Staged Stories “show on the road” and bring the stories to local senior centers. The first performance in the community will be later this month.
The 10 week journey brought the participants to a clearer vision of themselves and unearthed forgotten talents. My hope is that they will keep on writing and sharing their stories.
“Staged Stories was an incredible opportunity to dive deep, to share life experiences with a diverse group of older Americans, and — if that wasn’t enough — to stand on the stage at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and tell our collective stories in front of a live audience? Wow. An honor. Humbling. Challenging. Stepping out of our comfort zones. Deep gratitude for the opportunity to grow together. Many thanks to Debra for being such a terrific teacher and guide! She made it safe for us to step out into the unknown.” – Sherry McCoy
Staged Stories will be starting two new sessions in January, 2020. For more information about the program contact Debra Pasquerette, Manager of Community Engagement at [email protected]