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Learning to tell a story from the ground up

Ciarán Myers will be running the Story Workshop series for youth organized by the Registry Theatre. [Damon MacLean]

Everybody’s got a story to tell. Thanks to the Registry Theatre in Kitchener, the area’s young people can get some help telling it – the Kitchener venue is offering free story-writing workshops hosted by playwright, director, actor, and teacher Ciarán Myers.

Support for the program is also coming from Ontario Presents, the province-wide network of performing arts organizations as an outlet during the pandemic. It’s a way to support the arts through a collaborative community art project, says the Registry Theatre’s executive director.

“We want to build a community of practice around what it means to collaborate during a pandemic; artists and presenters who engage through this program will not just be working to create something with their community, they will be connecting regularly with other participants of the program who will be led through facilitated sessions to help build a playbook, basically on how to do community collaborative arts during the pandemic,” said Sam Varteniuk.

That was precisely what the organization had in mind when it reached out to Myers.

Each workshop session will be two hours in length, focused on the importance of storytelling. Myers will start each session by playing a small game and then move into character creation.

“The moment you’ve got a character created you start telling stories because something has to happen or something has to have happened in order for that character to have details as to who they are,” Myers explained, noting that then leads into the thick of it in the next hour, which is centered around the importance of creating a conclusion. 

“One of the most special things about creating fictional narratives is that you are seeing something through to an end. Even if your ending is a punch-line, a non-ending or suggestion of a second chapter, you are still seeing something through – even if it is not a narrative conclusion, you are going to find a written conclusion.”

Beyond the story itself, participants will benefit from what Myers calls “the art of invention,” which provides youth with the ability to create with almost no resources. “It really levels the playing fields in terms of capability… for young people to be able to do it, it builds confidence but it also builds practice to become a wonderful member of society when they grow up.”

There’s also a psychological benefit to writing, especially for those who’ve had some stresses in life – and that’s not unusual just now was we deal with an ongoing pandemic.

“Creating original fiction is a way to exorcise your trauma, because a traditional story has a character go through trials and tribulations and overcome them usually, and their world is different on the other side.”

Myers suggests that many children may be experiencing some trauma during the current crisis and might not have the supports or capabilities to face these challenges, making the program a good opportunity for expression. 

The program is being offered in two different ways to meet coronavirus health regulations. Myers is arranging workshops outside of family households or in person at the Registry Theatre, where sanitation and physical distancing remains possible. The Story Workshop is free for residents of Waterloo Region, and registration can be made through Myer’s website which also provides more information and videos about the project.

The program fits well with the Registry Theatre’s mandate of being a community resource focused on local artists, said Varteniuk, noting residents should “think of the Registry Theatre as theirs, to feel ownership to look at it as a place where creative ideas can flourish. We want to hear people’s thoughts we want to hear their suggestions.”

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