past, present, future
In late summer 2021, I sat on a panel for a local school as the students asked about panelists’ work in the community and how they might support. Immediately following my presentation was Tron Banks with the Pittsburgh Community Market. Pittsburgh is a neighborhood in Southwest Atlanta that has endured profound transitions from Black independent economic thriving in the early twentieth century, through a down cycle of poverty and violence, and now extraordinary growth and change. The BeltLine opened a new section there recently, causing a lot of conversation, some fear about how the neighborhood might be negatively impacted by gentrification.
Listening to Tron’s presentation, I had a hunch this was an organization I wanted to partner with in the future for my recently launched Live. Work. Space. initiative. I reached out, and we quickly began a conversation. Not long after that, we found the exact right place for our conversation to go.
The City of Atlanta’s Elevate 2021 Art Festival: Revival generously funded the budding partnership between Pittsburgh Community Market and StoryMuse.
Our idea was to host an outdoor storytelling theatre (based on the previous models of Shelter & Place and Treasure Maps) but with a new twist. Intergenerational pairings of older, “legacy” residents and newer residents would tell stories about the Pittsburgh neighborhood’s past, this extraordinary current moment in which we now find ourselves, as well as the stories they’d like to come true in the future.
Although I coach manifesting stories as an individual coaching technique, this is the first time I’d had a chance to coach them to full performance and for community visioning.
On October 30, 2021, the cast and team of Pittsburgh: Past, Present, Future warmly welcomed an audience to Pittsburgh Yards, a new work-live space built by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The evening was originally conceived as an outdoor theatre to be hosted on the field outside the building, but Atlanta experienced a drastic change in the weather that weekend, which drove us inside. Fortunately, the indoor performance venue–a post-modern amphitheater–was plenty spacious.
Before the show, I invited storytellers to make a sign and select a word or phrase that came from their story, words like, “community,” “garden,” “home.” The cast gathered at the back of the performance space and moved through the audience with their signs, uttering their words/phrases aloud as they made their way toward the front. As they converged at the stage area, they began chanting the word “home” all together. It was a powerful way to begin the show.
As a part of my facilitation of the evening, I also asked audience members to find someone they did not know and tell them a story about the past, present, or future they’d like to become true.
Coaching & Process
Sixteen storytellers were selected after a thorough community outreach and application process. I led one intro and one life maps workshop, whereupon we put storytellers into their pairings and launched into story development and coaching. Filming of the stories took place one week prior to the evening of our show during the Elevate Festival.
Shannon guided the group through the process by explaining the story components. She is great at bringing people together, finding commonalities, celebrating differences and piecing them together to share the human experience.
Thank you, Shannon!
Shannon recognizes the inspirational potential in sharing special moments. Part of her gift is helping novice storytellers like me organize thoughts and share them in a creative and artistic platform. With great patience and many tricks of the trade up her sleeve, she helps you find your voice.