Local nonprofits host storytelling event in Snowmass | AspenTimes.com
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Local nonprofits host storytelling event in Snowmass

UPCOMING STORYTELLING EVENTS IN ASPEN-SNOWMASS

• Alya Howe is organizing a live storytelling event on the Snowmass Mall on Aug. 29 at noon. The event will feature four local storytellers on the stage across from The Stew Pot.

• Lead with Love and Alya Howe are currently hosting another storytelling workshop, “Climate with Love,” in partnership with the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES). The workshop will end with a live storytelling event at Rock Bottom Ranch on Sept. 16. The event will also be livestreamed. For more information, visit aspencore.org.

Four people stood on The Collective Hall stage as the sun beamed in through the open garage-like doors and a small audience sat ready to listen.

One by one, the people took turns speaking out about times they’d felt togetherness, times they’d felt loneliness and some times they’d felt some of both.

AJ Finney, a Denver-based comedian, spoke about what he went through when his fiancee backed our of their wedding and he soon discovered she had been seeing someone else.

Aspen-Snowmass local Sarah Sanders shared what it was like to see her sister experience her first manic bipolar episode and how it was the beginning of a decade-long battle with mental health challenges for both sisters.

Oriana Moebius talked about the tumultuous three years she experienced as a young teenager when she was molested, experienced depression and other mental health challenges as a result and attempted suicide. Now as a mother, she finds healing and peace in ensuring her kids have healthy childhoods and in sharing light and healing with others.

Jarrad Lee talked about his drive to promote and facilitate wellness and work-life balance in the hospitality industry, and how his personal experience with mental health challenges, illness, addiction to the industry and dedication to being a healthy, supportive father to his son contribute to that drive.

All four stories were heart-wrenching in different ways, but at the Aug. 9 live storytelling event, all four speakers also emphasized the silver linings they’d found through their experiences and felt that their vulnerability and willingness to share their stories could help others find connection and healing like they had.

“If I’m being honest, I could have chose any story, any one and it would have been easier than this one. But it just wouldn’t leave the tumbler … and the more I worked on it, the more I repeated it, the easier it became,” Finney said. He went on to explain that he became so comfortable and brave with sharing this particular story that he decided to tell it while sitting at a lunch table at work on day.

After he shared it, a man and a woman at the table shared their stories, too.

“And at that moment, halfway through her story, I realized why I was sharing my story and why I would encourage other people to share their stories,” Finney said Aug. 9. “Because the single moment in my life that left me so isolated and alone is the exact same moment that is bonding me with other people.”

Creating connection and promoting self-reflection and healing were some of the guiding goals of the “AL(L)ONE” storytelling workshop, which Finney, Lee, Moebius and Sanders were all a part of before sharing their stories live in Snowmass Aug. 9.

Hosted by the local Lead with Love and Alya Howe Performing Arts Umbrella nonprofits, the seven-week, virtual workshop aimed to help participants find a story meaningful to them, own that story and tell it to others in a compelling, transformative way.

“It’s an empowering and personal growth experience to go through the workshops. … It’s an exercise in being vulnerable and creates connection with other people,” said Gina Murdock, founder of Lead with Love, in an interview with The Aspen Times. Lead with Love is a social impact organization committed to shifting culture from fear to love, according to its website.

“It’s a gift to watch someone overcome something that no longer has power over them. … If you have the opportunity to look at a story from a distance, look at the common themes and not at it as the story that owns you or controls your life. You can claim that story and shift the narrative.”

Last year, Murdock said Lead with Love held a similar in-person storytelling workshop that culminated with a storytelling event at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen.

The workshop and live event was a huge success, but this April with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis Murdock said the organization had to push the storytelling workshop online. A virtual livestream storytelling event took place in June but wasn’t the same as hearing the stories in-person, Murdock said.

Alya Howe, a dancer, yoga instructor and performing arts mentor who has helped lead various local live poetry and storytelling events like the Writ Large series, expressed similar thoughts. She felt it was extremely important to give some of the workshop storytellers the opportunity to share what they’d worked on for so long in person and just as important for locals to hear them. That’s why she organized the Aug. 9 free “story slam” event in Snowmass Base Village in a safe, socially distanced way.

“In the same room, you can witness someone get onstage and give you a piece of their life,” Howe said. “We’ve all been isolated and separated for so long, but now that there are safe parameters that allow us to connect we can connect to humanity again.”

On Aug. 9, Howe sat onstage as each speaker shared their story, presenting some of her own poems, giving short introductions for the storytellers and seeming to offer them moral support just with her presence.

For Howe, seeing the progress each storyteller makes from start of workshop to the stage is a humbling experience. And when strong individual narratives are told and people take the time and energy to listen to them, Howe feels stronger communities can and will be built.

“When we listen to others we expand and grow. … The power of storytelling is to build a bridge between one heart and another, which helps us understand more, to have more compassion and to have more insight into the experiences of others within our community,” Howe said. “A community that honors storytelling and narrative will thrive as a community; a community without a narrative will not survive.”

mvincent@aspentimes.com


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