Human connection through storytelling

Zee Zee Theatre presents Virtual Humanity, this year’s online edition of their annual Human Library project, from Mar. 6–28, which involves seeking out storytellers with a diversity of personal and cultural backgrounds, and ensuring said conversations flow smoothly.

“I truly believe that this project is playing a role in our future. Communicating experience-based stories and ideas is a great thing; and I think it has the potential of indirectly guiding some people to solutions,” says Sam Chimes, a co-curator of this year’s project, In Virtual Humanity, ‘audience’ members take on the active role of interlocutors, as they select a person with which to have an experience – and culture – focused conversation.

Importance of communication

Sam Chimes hopes the project can be of benefit not only to the audience, but to the storytellers as well. | Photo courtesy of Genesis II Photography

Chimes describes his experience, as a co-curator with Virtual Humanity, as being deeply fulfilling. Having been tasked with seeking out people with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences, the project, he says, really highlights the importance of diverse human connection, especially in such a socially-distanced year as this.

“I appreciate the safe space that this project brings, allowing two or more individuals to have conscious conversations,” says Chimes.

The Nigeria-born, Vancouver-based DJ and producer has both lived and performed around the globe. So while he hasn’t had much experience curating people like this in a professional manner, Chimes says his multi-cultural background has been invaluable in helping him seek out and understand this year’s roster of storytellers.

“As a musician, who has travelled the world twice supported by his music, I have been able to indulge in diverse ways of thinking and perceiving the world around me,” says Chimes. “My travels were also filled with street performances wherein I had to tell many stories to capture and hold my audience’s attention. I bring my skills and techniques, which I’ve learned over the years, to the table. I use these communication skills to help the storytellers effectively share their story.”

Indeed, in addition to seeking out storytellers for this year’s ‘library,’ Chimes also plays an active role in helping the storyteller-members create a succinct and effective 10-minute presentation, which is then followed by 10 minutes of conversation between the presenter and audience member.

“Locking the presentation down to a 20-minute limit encourages storytellers to touch on only the most relevant parts of their story. They can give just enough info without losing their listeners,” he says.

Diversity of experience

This year’s diverse roster of storytellers includes people with titles such as “Porn Actor,” “Two-Spirit Foster Child” and “The Taxidermist’s Son.” But Chimes says there was a special emphasis on racial and ethnic diversity as well, as he and fellow co-curator (Bunny) Daisy Joe, made a special effort to seek out Black and Indigenous people of colour as storytellers. For Chimes, this kind of representation is as important as ever.

“In light of recent movements, it is important to take into consideration the state of our world and the themes and subjects that are often presented through media to the general public,” he says. “ [So] BIPOC representation is right. Having more variety in representation allows the audience to “see” from different perspectives and thus would allow for a more well rounded look at certain subjects and topics.”

In all, Chimes hopes the project can be of benefit not only to the audience, but to the storytellers as well. Indeed, it can be as meaningful and fulfilling to share a personal story as it is to hear someone else’s.

“Everyone’s favorite thing to talk about is themselves and, as a curator, I just love seeing people who thought that they didn’t have a story open up after a few key probing questions,” says Chimes. “The brightness in their eyes and the ease with which they start expressing themselves thereafter is something amazing that I think we need to take into great consideration.”

For more information about the event, visit www.zeezeetheatre.ca

For more on Sam Chimes, visit samchimes.com

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