Last night we were invited to see a play, The Syringa Tree, with friends of ours. It is a story told through the eyes of a young girl growing up in South Africa during apartheid and filled with moments of joy and laughter, pain and bewilderment, love and loss. Our friends, who originate from South Africa, wondered how accessible we found the play because it was filled with references to that country and and a culture and time that they knew we could not identify with. We reassured them that the profound story and powerful performance were quite accessible to a wider audience.
I read the playwright's notes (she was born and raised near Johannesburg, SA) in the playbill this morning over breakfast. "Thirty years later, in a class taught by my director, Larry Moss, I unsuspectingly did as he asked when he said 'Turn to the person next to you and tell them a story.' Without warning, the image of an attack on my grandparents' farm, Clova, came roaring into my mind. I had not thought about it for decades. We never discussed it. Clova was lost to us and I was never taken back to what had been the simple but idyllic place of my childhood holidays. I quickly tried to think of something else to tell, when Larry said to the class, 'Don't censor whatever it is that came into your minds . Tell that story. It will choose you.' I tried to make sense of the murky images, and began to mouth the words. The second part of the exercise was to stage the story we had just told. I think I was the first trembling person to bring the work back, and I stood there as though I had an earthquake in my body. I felt terribly vulnerable dealing with my own life." from the playwright's notes by Pamela Gien.
We all have a story to tell. Many of us don't want to talk about it. It understandably makes us feel vulnerable and afraid. But our story is unique. Our voice is distinct. And that is why it must be told. It is made to be heard. Don't worry that people will not understand. The human story is universal - everyone understands weakness and struggle in the midst of drama and delight. The details are different for everyone, but the point is the same: how can I make the most out of this life and this world? I often say that my bond with humankind is much stronger than any differences between us.
That is why I am here writing these words. My story is important in some way and though I may not know exactly what it all means or what impact it may have, I will be vulnerable and
stand there in the earthquake and tell it.
This is a picture from South Africa when I visited in 2006.