At Your Library: Promoting Elder Safety and Wellbeing

December 11, 2019 posted by

we are promoting elder safety and
well-being on Tuesday November 12th starting at 10:30 in the morning and I
am joined by Amber s bar and Amy Tai from true story theater to talked with
us about this great program amber Amy thank you so much for joining
me today my pleasure thank you so much to be here really looking forward to
this collaboration we’re doing this in partnership with the civic education
alliance and just so excited to be able to bring this important community
conversation in an artistic format to Quincy tell me a little bit about true
story theatre how long have you been doing this kind of theatre we’ve been
serving the community the Greater Boston area and Beyond for almost 20 years Wow
okay how big is the company the company is an ensemble of about right now we’re
almost 20 people who volunteer our time to come and enact stories of our
communities so 20 people 20 years yeah I’ve been involved for the 20 years no
it’s a it’s an evolving troupe so depending on who’s available to join
people join for the year and we do almost 80 shows a year in different
community settings it’s not a theater that’s like in a stage performance like
at a kind of what a typical theater but we really it’s a theatre of people so we
come to the venues and the communities that invite us to come and support
telling their stories how do you get the stories in the first place to tell how
do we collect them oh great question this the theater is improvisational so
it’s in the moment and often the performances will have a theme like this
one coming up around supporting families and caring for the well-being of our
elders in our community and from that theme then people are interviewed
there’s a person who’s the conductor for the show and they’ll just have a
conversation sort of like what we’re having now about a moment in your life
and then the actors will be listening deeply to your experience and then we
create a short artistic improvisation using movement and song and scenes to
embody the heart of what we just heard so it’s really a theater of empathy that
sounds fascinating how long do each of these pieces how
long does the interview usually take how long to each of the pieces that you
present are these you know long-form you’re presenting to our dramatic
productions lives off of five-minute interview I doubt that’s what’s
happening yeah no exactly so so we really want to hear from many voices in
the room so we some some moments will just be a short and a question of how
are you feeling in this moment maybe two contrasting feelings about say being the
primary person caregiving for your your parent and so those we would take those
two feelings and hand them over to the actors and they would create a scene
related to that experience then we might also ask someone else who wants to share
a longer experience kind of a maybe they’ve been going through a challenge
with with caregiving or for example one of the themes that we’ve been noticing
in these performances to support elders has been around financial scams I myself
just got a phone call like the other day saying the IRS is coming after you and I
and I was realizing like it sounded really real and I know that can be
really challenging for families so part of our work is is both this this throw
is about education as well like like just our social security numbers are not
being paused if I get that call I feel like yeah your social security card is
being investigated somebody may be coming this is the last call before
we’ll arrest you I was like yeah I don’t think so yeah that one I got that and
right so we might interview you about that experience or perhaps you know one
of your parents got that call and actually pursued and felt that it was a
real call and so we might hear that story and that experience from you and
then the actors would then create a scene and maybe that’s a few minutes
maybe three to five minutes of theater and then it’s a it’s a ritual of
conversation of a form of dialogue so after you see your this performance
about your experience we’ll check back in what was that like to
see did that feel like it captured some of your experiences there anything else
important that you want to share I have some more questions I’m serious there’s
a little bit more but Amy I’m so glad that you joined this as well and I don’t
want to have amber and I so are you an actor in the company what’s your role
actually I’m a board member but Legrand I will be leading the board starting at
the end of this year hey emerging leader that’s fabulous well
so I was gonna add though just about the performance itself or the space itself
that the the real goal of our work is to build you know connection and compassion
and empathy and community and by the end of a performance everybody in the room
whether it’s 12 people or 30 people really there’s a very you know palpable
marked change in the room in terms of how people feel toward each other you
come in as a group of strangers and you leave as truly connected because you
hear people’s real stories being listened to is so powerful and listening
is so powerful and being able to see the evolution of you know people whose
stories get from the internal place of being alone with it too out there where
people are supportive and validating it’s very very powerful
it sounds very powerful yeah I wonder because we’re talking about you know
personal safety and well-being these are very you know these strike at our core
and that’s obviously why you get powerful connections but to do that
there’s some risk involved obviously to the actors as you’re exposing yourself
the people who are actually you know anytime you’re on stage people know that
feeling if you’ve ever stepped on a stage or thought about stepping on a
stage but you’re asking people to share stories too how do you create that kind
of safe environment so that people can comfortably take those kind of risks
that are that obviously have this great potential but and it sounds like you’ve
obviously have a proven track record of doing it yeah but I’m curious how yes
audience member first because I haven’t actually been I’m one of the more new or
probably I have been involved with just our theater only for the last couple
years and I went in as audience member well tell me then first let’s let’s back
up a second what drew you to true story in the first place well why did you
first go as an audience member well I met Ann Dellinger who is one of the
founding that one of the founders of true story theater and and then I met
her husband Christopher who’s sort of the direct well he’s the outgoing
director but he is also you know the two of them founded true story theatre is
that correct and so and just meeting them and there and then I read the
website and I was like wow this sounds amazing like really really exciting and
so when I after I read the website as like I’ll go and she invited me to one
of the events and I walked in the room and it was only like 10 to 15 people it
was like wait what kind of theater is this gonna be with only this few people
but I’ve been to shows with all sorts of numbers and it doesn’t matter because
whoever’s there like that so that how do you create the safety you asked I think
that the conductor the the person who is leading facilitating and whoever is
doing it really is a skilled at like creating that through whether it’s how
we talk about what it means to be human being on like right now in our society
that even the tone like great we know that tone is so important like human
beings hear things from body language much more than they do from words it’s
like you know they say some some huge percentage of what we’re actually taking
in his body language as opposed to the words right so you create through
empathy and through model if you’re just being a person who looks like that
person looks safe that person looks like they have room for me to share and that
it’s safe here and so you can say something explicit but you also just the
way the attention of the actors and the troupe and the way the actors
as well because the actors share to begin with something about their
experience with the theme so the theme might be racism or oppression or death
and dying or you know and all those themes are usually hard for people to
talk about in a regular normal can you know we all have been impacted and
actually have personal stories with each other’s issues exactly and those every
story is important and I think you know we always try to say your story is
important and every human being story is important and this is a place for us to
really honor that so I think there are a lot of different ways that that gets
communicated but we never have a lack of people sharing and I think that’s the
basically human conditions like we are all dying to share something of
ourselves to the world and when their safety you know and yeah nobody’s ever
pushed to share something beyond what they’re comfortable whatever and you
just totally volunteer you know do you ever get to a spot I can imagine where
somebody sharing something and you realize wait a second this is going a
place that is really not such a good place to do in public has that ever
happened I’m just thinking like I’ll let you answer I think you add much more
much more experience yeah we really we work with people to guide what what is
shared and encourage people to share at a level that feels appropriate for them
and once again people are welcome to just come and witness there’s it’s
always a invitation versus a you must share and if there’s a story that feels
like it may be too tender or not appropriate for the space the conductor
will will will regice or just say let’s pause there we’ll see the actors embody
so far what we have but at the same time it’s the space that we create we really
can dig into some of the more painful as well as joyful moments in our lives so I
think it creates a very ample space for the range of human experience to be
honored to be cared for to be heard deeply how’s the thought of something
last show that I was at from the director the the conductor had to just
remind the teller to always talk from the eye perspective and that got so
importantly the most important thing I think because when you talk from the eye
perspective you you know this is my feeling this is my perspective it may
not be your truth that I can speak about my truth it can hardly be inappropriate
right well I’m really excited about this and I understand we have a little clip
from something that you did at the Kennedy Center recently that we’re going
to share with folks here just in a couple of minutes so is there anything
you want to say to set up that clip for us oh um this was work that we came to
the Kennedy Center and did a show on the same similar theme around wellness and
elder safety and what was unique about this performance and we will be doing at
the show coming up at the library which were just delighted to be coming to the
quincy library at the cranes library we will begin part of the show will
actually be a the first stories will be compilations of real experiences that
people in the community have had and so we’ll be having somebody read those
those moments and the actors will respond to to those stories and because
it is a can be a sensitive topic that’s why we chose to have an anonymous story
to begin with but it’s an anonymous story that is actually sharing about
what is happening in our community and we hope through that we’ll then open up
other people to say like yeah I relate and here’s my experience that may
connect to that or not and I was really amazed of how how people did begin to
share what was really on their hearts and this story telling space is for for
people who are in in the role of being caregivers for for family members and
it’s also for elders who want to share their own experiences of receiving that
care and it’s also a time to we we partner to be able to also connect
people with resources so after these stories are shared we you know what what
do you do next how do you connect to what’s available in the community and I
know that’s one of the main reasons why they’re the focus the civic education
Alliance are excited about just co-sponsoring this with us here at the
library so we can help we connect people with resources all the time the library
but there are a lot of people in the community who have much deeper access to
additional resources so I’m really glad that they’re sponsoring this with us and
we’ll be able to join us I know they’re also going to be providing translation
into Cantonese which is exciting we’ve ever done this without translation to
Cantonese before is this a first this will be the first time into a Cantonese
but we’ve been doing some translation work and feel it’s really important to
actually make this accessible and feel like the power of the storytelling
theater really allows people to to get the the impact of these stories and to
hear sort of what experiences that they wouldn’t necessarily I think there’s so
many ways that we try to tell each other what to do and and share services but
there’s something about the the embodiment and the space of listening
that we hope to create and invite people into that really can can help broaden
that sense of community and break through perhaps some of the barriers of
fear or shame that come up with a lot of these issues a lot of people are going
through tons of things but because there may be afraid to reach out either
because of a language barrier or because of the stigma of saying oh my gosh this
situation is out of hand or I don’t know what to do it’s hard to say that and so
we’re hoping as we kind of just make it that this is a common experience for so
many of us in these roles of caring for our elders and being cared for that we
need to break through those the taboo and the stigma of reaching out and
asking for support and saying I’m struggling here I need something well I
think this is really exciting and I’m just a great way to combine these real
stories and in our lives with artistic expression because that has the ability
to strike it and you at these deeper levels that you both
kind of talked about um and I’m so excited that I know that you’re able to
do this work because of the Massachusetts Cultural Council who is
supporting the Arts and we’re grateful we get funding from the Cultural Council
for programs every year here and I know that they’ve been a great supporter of
you and so that importance of supporting the
arts so that we can have these real stories and and kind of really enrich
and kind of help us understand how do we live life how do we you know we live
with people that are with ourselves and with the people that are close to us
it’s really treasured and and I’m really glad to be playing a role in this and I
appreciate you taking the role my amber Navy thank you thank you will show a
clip here in a moment I hope all of you will enjoy the clip and then come out
and see us on Tuesday morning November 12th at 10:30 when we’ll be promoting
elder safety and well-being through interpretive theater thanks so much I
see you there and this novel looked like it might be
them and I picked it up and they asked my name
assist you and I said yes and the minute I said yes I knew she never said yes so
then I said I don’t know and I said I don’t hear well could you please tell me
son and so the minute that happened I got Social Sciences yes 98 it was
deported so I caught one of the companies that asks me to do to do the
voice recognition and I said I want you to do voice recognition because this is
what I just did so take that what’s recognition up and
then another company called if they wanted me to do the voice
recognition and I won’t do it because I to say
what the excitement of that belief but I am so grateful that the effectiveness
because I was just I hope so often here respected what’s launched it in front of
the swing hello who is this again speak up yes like oh gosh whoa anyway doctor yes no better okay I know that know what
little boys no I’m not falling for that again
okay I know better I want to share my story so other people don’t have to do
deal with what I have to

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