Storytelling is Ageless

The Saturday before last was Out of the Box’s public performance for the winter season.  And the weather certainly held the theme: cold, raining and windy.  But, despite that, our intrepid audience braved the elements to come to the show and share their stories.

I’ve been doing playback for around 10 years now and the thing I love the most is being able to give something special to the brave audience members who offer their stories to be re-enacted as theatre. I call this gift “the mirror” because, to me, seeing your story performed as playback is like seeing your own life reflected – and not just the facts, dates, scenes and events but the true story, the experience of what it was actually like for you when you were IN your story.

At our show, we were blessed with an amazing teller – a man in his late 80’s – who told a story about being a young white man in South Africa, trying to cross the Drakensberg mountains on a native bus.  Midway through the trip a woman went into labour on the bus and our hero was instructed by the bus driver to “deliver the baby” because he was white and therefore educated. And so he did!  He had only a small first aid kit and instruction book but nature took its course and he delivered a healthy boy, who was then named after him.  A story of witnessing the miracle of life, which left him a changed man. We were honoured to play back his story for him.

It struck me that, during all the shows in the last ten years, what an astounding array of people have told their stories at our shows, from children as young as 9 to men like our recent teller approaching 90.  Young, old, men, women, city, country, shy, gregarious, happy, sad, gay, straight, married, single, divorced, parents, religious, spiritual, musical, political, poetic, theatrical, workers, teachers, professors, advocates, unemployed, disabled, disadvantaged, travellers, homebodies, searchers, finders, winners, losers, hopefuls and a hundred more.

And they all have one thing in common. They are human and they have stories.  And luckily for us they share those stories.  When we bear witness to another’s story, we create community.  Together we search for meaning in our lives, we discover common threads and we find connection.  It’s magical.  It’s storytelling that’s been going on for millennia. It’s the power of playback theatre. And it’s ageless.

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