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Workshops allow seniors to weave tales in new ways

Stories by the Light of the Moon When/Where: Moon Festival at Gordon Head Recreation Centre (Sept. 6, 7:40 p.m.); James Bay Day at James Bay New Horizons (Sept. 13, 2 p.m.

Stories by the Light of the Moon

When/Where: Moon Festival at Gordon Head Recreation Centre (Sept. 6, 7:40 p.m.); James Bay Day at James Bay New Horizons (Sept. 13, 2 p.m.)

Tickets: Free


Behind the shadows of shimmering streams, rolling hills and a palace on the moon, this Saturday and next, will be the people who set their stories there.

That’s because the shadow-puppet storytelling sessions, organized by the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria and called Stories by the Light of the Moon, began as a way for local seniors to tell their tales in new ways.

Seniors are natural storytellers, said story coach Will Weigler, so developing the stories was a collaborative process.

“We’d start off by having a conversation about what makes a good story. I really asked their advice because that’s what they do,” he said.

The stories that sprang from those workshops will be shown this weekend and next. Some may be familiar — there’s a version of the Boy Who Cried Wolf — while others are personal.

“There was one woman who asked if she could tell a true story, something that happened when she was 14 in a little village in China. It was wonderful, it’s like a fairytale story and it lent itself beautifully to this,” Weigler said.

As one of the first steps in the process, Weigler invited participants to share stories they thought might be appropriate for shadow theatre.

Then, they broke off into groups to experiment with puppetry.

One example of a story that made the cut was the origin story of the Chinese Lantern Festival.

“It’s a marvellous legend,” Weigler said.

At a time when there were 10 suns in the sky and everyone was dying of heat, a hero came forward and he shot nine of the suns out of the sky with his bow and arrow. The queen of heaven rewarded him with an elixir. If he drank half, he would become immortal, but he was warned not to drink it all or he would fly into heaven and become a god.

He left the elixir with his wife for safekeeping, but when a thief tried to steal it, she stopped him by drinking it all.

“She flies up to the heavens and grabs a hold of the first thing she can, which is the moon,” Weigler said.

“When he comes looking for her, he sees her way up in a palace on the moon and knows he can never be with her again, because now she’s a goddess.”

On the brightest night of the moon, people come out in gratitude and light lanterns, so that the hero can see his beloved in the moon better, Weigler said. She loved cake, so they offer her “moon cakes.”

“Here are kids who are going to lantern festivals, eating moon cakes.

“And here’s a story their elders are telling them about why. And it’s just beautifully done,” Weigler said.

Weigler narrates most of the stories, while the seniors work the puppets.

It won’t be Weigler’s first or last community theatre project. Last summer, he organized From the Heart: Enter into the Journey of Reconciliation, which invited volunteers to perform self-created vignettes within a labrynth, as a way to explore the relationships between First Nations and non-indigenous people.

Later this month, he’ll start work on a project around the psychology of resistance, where stories from Victoria West residents are transformed into physical comedy routines.

As for Stories by the Light of the Moon, it’s about more than the fairytales themselves, he said.

“Aside from making wonderful shows, it’s really about introducing seniors to a new way of storytelling,” he said.

“It’s so simple to use a flashlight or anything to increase their capacity as artists, to tell stories in new ways and to do something that also engages one another.”