This year, the theme will be storytelling. I am eager to share with you the value of storytelling and story making as a means of creating community and exploring performance. I will be leading a series of workshops leading to an “Umsiyya” on the final day of the event held at Virginia Common Wealth University in Qatar on 15 March.
We all have stories to share. We have varied interests and abilities. From music styles to the culture of our schools and communities, each place holds a possible story.
Story builds community. Let me share a little of my story. I was raised in Ohio. I have five brothers and sisters. I am the only one to attend college. I have taught in three high schools in Ohio and California for over 14 years. I now teach among other courses Applied Storytelling and a folktale and fairytale class at Ohio Dominican University and I am a writing co-director at The Ohio State University.
I have served as a professional storyteller for over 28 years and in the United States had the honor of being the first full-time high school storytelling teacher in the country. For 11 years, I traveled with teenagers and we performed over 50 shows a year that we created together. They were in a storytelling club and troupe called Voices of Illusion.
You might think that my teens were highly qualified actors, but this is not always the case. I did not audition my students; I supported what I believe, “talent comes with time.” We grow in our ability when we are able to work together. When you work together as a group, much can be accomplished.
At one point, I registered over 81 youth storytelling groups and troupes in the United States, Canada, and Japan. I value most of all the narratives that youth share.
On the Aber trip, the students will create a physical StoryBox where they will share their stories . I value what you, students, will bring. This project is based on an international project that I started in 1995. (See more at storyboxproject.com) With this project, a physical StoryBox travels to a new place. At each place, people place stories and the StoryBox travels to a new place to await new stories.
However, this time the students are bringing physical storyboxes (decorated shoeboxes) filled with stories. It can be a written story or simply an object that reminds them of a story. This is a way where we can bring together the student’s community to us. When they arrive in Qatar, the students will build a larger StoryBox based on what they learn during the Aber experience.
While in Qatar, students will also create an Umsiyya, which is an Arabic storytelling-based performance. Before their arrival to Doha, Qatar, the students were asked about how they could contribute to the Umsiyya Whether poetry, singing, painting, or a craft , students are encouraged to work on something that they can share at this unique opportunity.
While the students are “on the ground” in Qatar, they will search for more stories, and from this search, they will share and further the community we establish.
Story is a language we all speak. Your story is a powerful one. And together, we can make a difference with stories. I’m listening.
By Kevin Cordi