After writing and performing my own solo shows for several years, I needed to find a way to support myself and daughter. I was going through a divorce at the time and she was little and I wanted to find a way to make money doing something related to what I loved and what I ws good at.
I decided to start a class at the Center for Contemporary Art, here in Santa Fe for people to come and write stories from their lives and perform them. I had 6 woman in that first class and I just decided to work with them the same way I worked to create my own solo shows.
When people are given a sacred space where you really listen to their stories, without interruption, critisism, or an attempt to "fix them or their problems" the whole inner world of a person opens up. I understood that this was (and is) my primary job in working with people and their stories.
If I hadn't been in therapy or twelve step programs for many years, I would not have been able to do this work and offer it to others in a successful way. I created it organically from what had been modeled to me in others sacred space.
I'll never forget that first group and the first "group monologue" performance. There were about 40 people who showed up, all friends of the performers basically.
One woman told a story of growing up as a lesbian in the South and her mother's horrendous cooking of such 70's recipes as canned fruit chicken! (Yuck) Another woman told of her experiences in Afica before she became a mother and the HIV infected children singing on the banks of a river with such joy. There was a woman who was the youngest of 14 children in Detroit. She never had her own bed and her dad ran a sex shop.
And on and on..... The stories just spilled out and the audience was rivited. My experience in doing solo shows was that I went into rehearsal for a month. But, we did this in two weekends and even though the performance was not polished, the stories were so intimate and raw and human. We were all laughing and crying and getting goosebumps.
It was perfect and it gave me the inspiration to do all my subsequent shows. Around this time, I has a dream where I saw the words The Cancer Monologues floating over Lincon Center in NYC. I decided to focus the work, initailly just for cancer survivers. I invited groups of 8-10 people to write and perform their authentic stories of the experiences of having cancer. And, from there I've done numerous shows with groups of people writing and performing their authentic experiences to audiences around the country. I can tell you that it's the most amazing work I have been given and I carry it in my heart and work to deepen and honor it everyday.
I've done these group monologue shows with mothers sharing their birth stories, hospice caregivers who share about losing a loved one, Palestinian and Israeli teens working to understand each other and create peace, Veterans working to heal and create peace, sexual abuse survivers, people with AIDS and more.
I have become not only a storyteller but a storygatherer and I carry each story that I have helped facilitate and present to audeinces in my bones. It works on me in an alchemical way and has made me stronger and more fierce than I would have imagined.