Today I thought I would share my journey as a storyteller
Theater has always been a part of my life. From epic tales concocted in my parent’s basement to Young Actor’s Theater at the local community center, I have always loved the stage. Growing up in Virginia, I was surrounded by theater of another form – the great Appalachian tradition of storytelling. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are of sitting around a campfire, eating roasted marshmallows, and listening to a good story.
I will never forget the day I learned the true power of story. I was standing in a double-wide trailer in the panhandle of southern Virginia. I watched as my friend Victoria shared her own story and in her sharing, she helped heal a woman whose only son had tragically died the month before. I was fourteen years old.
Theater remained important to me and in college I found ways to combine my love of art and social justice through work with Theatre of the Oppressed. I moved to Philadelphia, joined a company as a resident actor, and tried to embrace my new life. But something was missing.
A few years later, a friend passed along some tapes consisting of interviews she had conducted at the Beijing Women’s Conference. You know those moments where time stands still? This was one of those moments. I wanted to meet these women. I wanted to hear, first hand, what they had experienced. And most of all, I wanted to share their untold stories. The idea for the Letters to Clio project took root.
Over the next years, I traveled the world recording women’s stories and crafting their voices into theatrical shows. It has been a gift to share these shows off-Broadway, in universities, at spiritual retreats, for local high-schools, and for Fortune 500 companies. The award-winning, critically acclaimed, Appearance of Life, quickly became the most recognized show in the Letters to Clio, and is still on tour today.
A few years into my journey with the Letters to Clio project I decided to pursue my MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU, Tisch. Not only did I hone my skills as a writer and expand my body of work as a playwright, but my time at NYU gave me a chance to look at the Letters to Clio project with fresh eyes. I began to see a pattern. By eliciting stories from individuals, I was really exploring the stories of the communities and organizations in which these women lived and worked. In the Letters to Clio model, the sharing of the personal story became a gateway to a deeper understanding of the collective story. This was powerful stuff!
I knew then I wanted to use the Letters to Clio model beyond my work with women from around the world. Building on the foundation of the Letters to Clio model I expanded my work and developed an in-depth curriculum to create the Collective Story Method™.
The Collective Story Method™ (CSM) is built upon my now decades of work in empowering individuals to tell their stories. CSM is designed to focus first on the personal, then the individual in relation to the collective, and finally on the collective as a whole. I have used this method with students to help build understanding and compassion in their immediate communities. And I have used this grassroots approach to help companies, organizations, and faith based communities form and live their mission statements through the power of putting story into action.
Everyone has a story to tell. It’s my mission to help you share it.