One woman talked about her grandson who has to live in a protected environment because he was diagnosed as having no white blood cells before he turned one. One man talked about being in the line of gunfire and his foremost thought that he might not get to kiss a girl again.
Their stories will be projected onto trees in a multimedia digital storytelling project called Out on a Limb Sept. 6 to 8 at Strathcona Park.
With help from PHS Community Services, The Only Animal theatre company elicited intimate stories from 50 individuals aged 17 to their early 70s to create its first community participatory show.
When was a day you grew up? When was a day your life changed? When did you have to leave a part of yourself or your old identity behind? These were some of the questions posed in multiple workshops held on four Saturdays this summer.
The Only Animal's artistic producer and Out on a Limb's project director Eric Rhys Miller says the stories behind some of the faces may surprise you.
Marc, a six-foot-four-inch tall black man who's typically clad in black, might appear intimidating on the street, but his story is a tender one of finding grace in a prison yard, according to Miller.
An older man named Francisco maps his journey from his Nicaraguan village via the United States to Vancouver.
"He took off all his clothes, jumped in the river, swam naked across the river, wiped the water off, put his clothes back on and then started jogging," Miller said. "And when the border patrol came he just waved to them, 'Oh hello, good morning,' and they said 'Oh, you're out for a run' he said 'Yeah I'm just jogging' and just jogged into the U.S."
Residents of low-income housing operated by PHS, artists, couch surfers, retired truck drivers and grandmothers unearthed the kernels of some of their most personal stories in workshops led by six artists and presided over by storyteller David Roche this summer.
"Sometimes it was on the fourth visit that the story that we were really waiting to hear came out," Miller said.
The tales have been edited together with sound and animation to make a 45-minute piece that will be projected onto an 80-foottall "screen" of leaves.
"The stories that have emerged are very much about transformation and moving into new stages of life," Miller said. "Trees just seem to carry a whole presence of their own and another time signature."
The three-to five-minute stories that weren't included in the video will be shared in an illuminated "sound grove" created by The Only Animal's 15-year-old sound design intern Alex MacQueen.
Out on a Limb follows on the heels of The Only Animal's radio memory mystery Sea of Sand, which took place at Spanish Banks last summer. The company has been nominated for 27 Jessie Richardson Awards and has won seven, including Best Production for The One That Got Away and Significant Artistic Achievement for Other Freds.
Vancouverites can hear the stories in the sound grove starting at 7: 30 p.m. The projection will start after 8: 30. The event, snacks and hot drinks are by donation. Visitors should bring a folding chair or blanket to sit on for 45 minutes in Strathcona Park, at the corner of Malkin and Hawks avenues.
The Only Animal has started an Out on a Limb fundraising campaign on the Indiegogo website to turn the video into a DVD that could be screened at community centres.
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