Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mourning to Magic: CAJE Conference 2008

Storahtelling presents opening night program at CAJE 33 on August 10th, 2008

By Tehilah Eisenstadt

Storah On The Road

As my former professor – Dr. Shira Epstein once told me: Education is messy, don’t expect it to be clean. The Storahtellers heading to CAJE had spent hours studying, discussing, writing, tweaking, rehearsing, worrying. As the rain poured down in Vermont musicians and actors went over and over their parts, a cacophony of multiple narratives pacing across the room, zigging and zagging around each other. We were nothing if not a bit messy.

Were we ready? Would we remember our lines? Our movements? Could we get to our individual breakout rooms and back to the main auditorium in time? Would the rain let up- or would the instruments, playbills and raisins be in peril? Would we even be able to find our rooms for the opening Tisha B’Av program? Would people know to show up?

Every educator and every performer knows that they’re walking into a situation with a few “known”s and a lot of “unknown”s. As the lights went from dim to brighter in my room I saw that the space filled with eager educators, many of whom probably got up at 4am to get toVermont - just like me, some who might be anxiously awaiting the fast’s end just like me – we were all Here, Now.

After a very satisfying discussion I led my now ritually broke-fast participants to the main auditorium. There I was “accosted” by well-wishers, people coming up to thank me, ask me questions about the performance they had just experienced and the possibility of ones to come. In the moments between Tisha B’Av and the 10th of Av I had become a performer, more importantly a Storahteller and it was exhilarating. The rest of the Storahtelling staff came in from their different locations on campus and locations in the long history of Tisha B’Av narratives. Something had happened between the 9th and the 10th of Av. Magic had happened. We were not worried or asking and wondering anymore. There was a strong voice in everyone and an eagerness to get on with the show! The finale of Mourning to Magic was powerful. Or so I heard from members of the audience. I spent a large part of the performance, as did my fellow actors, under a tallit, on stage, listening to the pieces of my colleagues’ Tisha B’Av tales. I was transported by each tale and then finally by the breaking of the glass that led us into celebration.

With my heels still sore from our raucous hora dancing I look back lovingly at the “mess of education” that we engaged in over the past month. And my only regret is that I didn’t turn to the forsaken Jerusalem of the first temple, so mistreated and ultimately so defiant of being cast forever into the victim’s role – after all, Jerusalem was standing right next to me on stage – and say: Hey Shira, you were right – amazing things happen when education gets messy. From Messy to Magic. It was a very moving and fulfilling experience to see my 3rd Storahtelling performance…from behind the curtain and under the talit.

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