Hello! My name is Christina and this is my first post to the *cino intern blog. A little intro about myself: I am a rising senior at Calvin College studying theatre. As part of my internship with *cino I am collecting stories about Huss School through interviews with people in the community, which I will then edit to create a performance at the end of the summer. I am really excited to learn more about Three Rivers and to be part of the transformation of Huss School. Through our workdays at the school, cooking together, eating together, and sharing stories, I’ve come to know and love the fellow interns, staff, and other *cino supporters.
Last night we assembled to welcome the new CINO interns and host the first storytelling night of the summer. Much in the vein of The Moth Podcast, for those familiar with NPR, we held an open mike for stories relating to a particular theme. Last night we told identity stories. I love stories! As a theatre enthusiast, I believe stories have the power to reinforce identity, build community, and, please forgive the cliché, change the world.
In many ways, last night’s event confirmed my personal beliefs about storytelling. I felt honored, welcomed into this group of friends gathered in our home to share memories of the people and events that shaped their character. Our stories ranged in location from Three Rivers to Korea and the tales depicted adoption, journeys, violins, marriage, unexpected finds, birth, death, and beards. It takes a certain amount of courage to stand before an audience and speak. In my theatre experience, I usually have a character, someone else’s identity, to hide behind. It can be so much scarier to stand before a crowd, as yourself, to share something personal. As anyone with stage fright can tell you, the audience can be very intimidating. Who knows what they are thinking? How they are judging you? Fortunately, last night’s audience was compassionate and attentive. However, the situation still held the potential for embarrassment. But that is a good thing.
Last semester, for my directing class, I read Anne Bogart’s collection of essays on art and theatre from the book A Director Prepares. In one of her essays Bogart discusses the potential for embarrassment in art. She writes, “If your work does not sufficiently embarrass you, then very likely no one will be touched by it.” Painfully embarrassing moments include times when we feel ashamed of ourselves, when we reveal something intensely personal and intimate, and, of course, the times we rip our pants in public. People avoid embarrassment for good reason. It is not always safe for us to reveal ourselves and relive embarrassing moments. We do not want to make ourselves vulnerable to everyone. However, sharing moments where you felt intense shame or exposure can be a wonderful bonding experience, when you are with the right group of people. I have been to enough slumber parties to verify that fact.
Fortunately, last night’s audience made up a wonderful, welcoming, and compassionate community. Although I am still new to Three Rivers, I felt an unusual familiarity with the people I met last night. They greeted me with hugs, smiles, and jokes. Perhaps this is part of the culture of a small town. However, I think part of the familiarity comes from our common support of *cino and the organization’s mission to strengthen community and create good culture. I felt blessed to be in an environment where others felt safe opening up. I heard wonderful and powerful stories. I believe I witnessed something sacred. We recorded a number of the stories. I thought I might post some of the clips here, but I’ve decided against that. The Internet is not a safe environment to reveal my identity story. I bet you’re really interested now ;) I hope that tantalizing recap will convince you to participate in our next storytelling event. Maybe you might even tell an embarrassing story. Regardless, wherever you are, I encourage you to listen compassionately, without judgment. We could all use an empathetic audience.

Last modified: March 4, 2020