Since the beginning of human consciousness, the desire to record stories has existed. Early cave paintings from 15,000 BC in Lascaux, France, hieroglyphics in Egypt, Native American Petroglyphs, and oral traditions through song and dance in almost every country, have left behind footprints and myths of those who walked before us.
“After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” — Phillip Pullman
As a Southern American, the ballads of local legends–such as Tom Dula (Dooley)–have lived with me, as well as though infamous only within my family. Maybe someday I’ll share one or two of those.
Recently, I found myself backstage at the NC Opera in Raleigh, NC. Speaking with performers as they awaited their turn at hair and makeup, I discovered the same passion thriving in the hearts of those within the company as those within the souls of writers.
We are all communicating stories.
Lorraine Snyder, my beautiful songbird friend, was performing with the cast. I had been observing her transformation throughout the day as she piled her hair into pin curls to give her stage wig something to grip onto. Mozart is a favorite of hers.
“There is something magical about being a part of Mozart’s opera of Don Giovanni,” she exclaimed with passion. “To think of his words, his music, being sung so many years after he has been gone, is amazing!” Her face lit up as she talked about Mozart and the opportunity to be on stage with the talented members of the production company.
“…opera offers such deep sensations that they will remain in a heart for a lifetime.” — Andrea Bocelli
And the chance for me to experience all that happens behind the stage was incredible. There are many people whose faces you will not see, but whose work is integral to the performance; those timing the stage entrances, the scene changers, lighting directors, ones in charge of wigs and makeup, steamers and cleaners who work diligently on the costumes, sound directors, etc. They never take the stage, but without them, there would be no performance.
“Funny how a beautiful song could tell such a sad story.” — Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key
My fellow blogging friend, Otto Munchow, is brilliant with his depictions through photography. Capturing people whose struggles, joy, pain, elation, and other attributes are clearly visible on their faces and within their body language, he documents more than one moment in time. He is communicating their stories through photography.
“A photograph shouldn’t be just a picture, it should be a philosophy.” — Amit Kalantri
I challenge you to look at a piece of sculpture and only see stone. Behind every chiseled curve is an essay. Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines comes to mind as a fantastic example of story shaped from stone.
Quilters and crafters stitch together maps of their stories. From Colonial American Samplers, to modern collages of baseball uniforms sewn together to depict a youth’s maturation from t-ball through college sports, we find folk art full of richly depicted stories.
Ballet, jazz, folk dance–these aren’t simply forms of dancing, but artistic forms of physical storytelling. One of my favorite ballets, The Nutcracker, comes glaringly to mind, along with Swan Lake. Here’s a clip of The Royal Ballet Company performing Swan Lake. Enjoy.
Many bloggers are documenting their lives on the internet, telling their stories one vignette at a time. Some have a theme, maybe a spouse with a debilitating disease, or a child with a learning disability, or just the day-to-day drama of trying to balance career, family, self-care, meal preparation, and the challenges of home and marriage.
We–the readers, watchers, listeners, participants–find meaning in our lives through others depictions and words. They unite us, give us a little hope that we are not alone, validate our pain, joy, trials and triumphs.
How do you communicate your stories?
Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.