Becca Barrington: Performance Storytelling Workshops

Editor’s Note: The GeriActors and Friends are also hosting Performance Storytelling Workshops! They are free, and will end with a final potluck celebration for family, friends, staff and GeriActors. All are welcome. Please email for any further information.

Details on GeriActors’ Performance Storytelling Workshops:

  1. Meadowlark Place (8609-161 Street), Mondays 9am-11:30am, led by Becca
  2. The Churchill (10015-103 Ave), Tuesdays 1pm-3:30pm, led by Dhana
  3. Kiwanis Place (10330-120 Street), Fridays 1pm-3:30pm, led by Charles

Becca had her first workshop this week, here are some insights from that experience.

 What is Performance Storytelling?

     Mix oral history, storytelling and theatre all together and you get … Performance Storytelling! Using theatre games and exercises, various prompts, improvisation, laughter, and fun we inspire reminiscences and bring about different memories, both current and in the past. We then use those memories as entry points into creating short plays. Performance Storytelling is one of many techniques that GeriActors uses to create new works and has been a guide in play development since I joined the company as a “friend” in 2010.

     The beauty in using this technique is that, although you start out with one moment or memory from an individual, someone else is reminded of something similar and, through that, the moment grows. In exploring the moment further you may even find that disagreements and discussions come about and when this happens, a chorus sometimes forms. It is through these various connections that our plays and stories become universal. The stories are no longer connected to one person but instead become a truth for all.

     We decided to take Performance Storytelling workshops out into the seniors community as a way to introduce participants to the work of GeriActors, inspire similar groups and projects to form and thrive, and to advocate for seniors arts and creative aging. There are so many great stories out there and eager ears to listen and being able to honor people’s histories is a real privilege. Performance Storytelling is a great starting point to do this.


What are these Workshops like?

     Our workshops and residencies are open to anyone and everyone. No experience is necessary and all abilities are welcome. Whether you have a history in theatre, have always dreamt of performing, or just want to try something new these sessions are the perfect place to begin. In a nutshell, these programs are all about: meeting new people, sharing your stories, listening to others, finding connections and commonalities, discussing, collaborating, being active and participating to your full extent, laughing, and having a lot of fun.

     The residency participants are a wonderful mixture of experiences, abilities, and histories. Some enjoy interacting with people and want to perform, while others just want to listen. One participant wanted to learn more about drama because her grandchildren perform. Another just wanted to try something new. It’s great to have such a mix of people coming together since it will, and has already, enriched the experience.

     What I love about this new group is a genuine interest in others that goes beyond just listening. I heard more than once, “Oh, you have to hear her story,” or “Ask him where he was born. That is a good one.”

Performance Storytelling Workshop in Kiwanis Place
Performance Storytelling Workshop at Kiwanis Place

What are some challenges/discoveries you’ve had facilitating these workshops?

     Walking into a new group is always a challenge. The first session is about gauging everyone’s comfort levels and interests and adapting quickly. Sometimes they’ll love the games and exercises and sometimes it’s all about telling stories. Both are wonderful but require different things. This group is a mixture so it’ll be a nice challenge to adapt plans to suit varying wants and needs.

     The next step is to continue discovering those stories and bring them to life. This group is full of stories and I am excited to hear what everyone has to share.

"Two Minute Stories"
“Two Minute Stories”


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