Alya Howe

Instructor Alya Howe is teaching a four-week storytelling master class, leading up to the “Climate of Love” Roaring Stories event in September which focuses on the love for the natural environment and climate change. The event is also organized by ACES, CORE and Lead with Love.

 

Ahead of the third annual Roaring Stories event in September, four area nonprofits are teaming together to present a master class storytelling workshop, beginning today.

Lara Whitley, of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, began the environment-focused storytelling series as a way to bring humanities to the climate change discussion.

“CORE initiated a creative strategy using art as a tool for social change. The idea is to capture the imagination in order to capture participation in climate action,” Whitley said.

The master class is taught by Writ Large’s Alya Howe, whose storytelling event series was put to an abrupt halt amid the spring shutdown due to the coronavirus. This summer, she transitioned to coaching eager storytellers online, which has been met with a greater audience than previous in-person training was able to accommodate.

“The actual workshop experience can be far wider. So we possibly wouldn't have ever explored doing this if it hadn't been for the need to social distance,” Howe said.

The classes run weekly leading up to the Sept. 16 Roaring Stories performance date. This year’s theme is the “Climate of Love.” Stories will center on falling in love with a place, and then watching it change before your eyes.

“We invite you to bring stories of your love affair with the planet: journeys through environmental romance, connection, learning, loss, intimacy, regeneration, activism,” Whitley said.

Students can register online and each class is taught virtually, either live or through recordings. There is a social media component to keep the students connected through the month of training.

In a time where many people are still in isolation, Howe said the art of sharing true stories with one another can help forge missing connections.

“A community without a narrative to tell doesn’t survive as a community,” Howe said. “(Storytelling) is a way for people to feel like they are not alone in their experience.”

The mandatory social isolation that coronavirus has brought to our culture has also led to a time of social change, and Howe said storytelling can be a way to discuss differences in a productive way.

“A community narrative is imperative for survival of a community and for change as a community. Listening to what people want, different perspectives, it bridges gaps,” Howe said.

For Whitley and her partners at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and Lead with Love, organizing a storytelling event is compelling because of its roots in community building.

“Stories are an ancient form of communication, a powerful way to connect and create empathy. When we hear the personal narrative of another, we often recognize ourselves and realize our own humanity. There’s a good reason storytelling has been around so long,” she said.

Through Writ Large, Howe has helped produce storytelling evenings in partnership with English in Action and Response. This summer, to break down the enormity of the worldwide pandemic, she partnered with Lead with Love for her first online storytelling workshop. Howe said the virtual culmination of the workshop had its ups and downs. For one thing, it is not as intimidating to sit in your own home and talk to a computer screen.

“They are not out there in front of a live audience, and yet they are publicly sharing their story for the first time,” Howe said.

On the other hand, having people in the room to accept and react to a story from your life is part of the growing experience for her participants.

“The downside is that you don't actually receive and feel the energy and love coming back to you physically from the people in the room and that live buzz in the air,” she said.

Now that public health measures have eased, several of those attendees will be sharing the stories they crafted during their time in isolation this weekend at The Collective in Snowmass.

The “Climate of Love” storytelling workshop will culminate in a live evening of storytelling at ACES’ Rock Bottom Ranch. Like many summer events, the plan is to only allow an audience of 50, who will be wearing masks and set apart from one another, the event will also be live streamed.

In an effort to make the workshop inclusive and diverse, there are scholarships available for attendees who can not afford the registration fee. Howe said she has kept the organization alive, even through the hardships of social isolation, because of the transformation she sees in the participants, and the fulfillment it brings her in turn.

“It’s inspiring. The courage to share a story, I feel like I am being given an absolute treasure and precious gift to hold and really help people become strong and confident and bold in their voice, inside the wobbliness,” Howe said.

Howe said she, like many others, has used the forced pause of stay at home orders for reflection, and that allowing people to share their stories helps with that growth as well.

“That’s what I love about storytelling, is you allow yourself to be different and authentic.

And maybe you release a little bit of judgement around yourself too,” Howe said.

‘Climate of Love’ basics

The four-part “Climate of Love” storytelling master class is offered Thursdays, Aug. 6 – 27, from 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. or through independent learning. Roaring Stories live event is Sept. 16 at Rock Bottom Ranch. To register go to: eventbrite.com/e/roaring-stories-masterclass-performance-opportunity-tickets-112142136148

Alycin Bektesh is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at Alycin@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @alycinwonder.