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Interview: Kevin Bathman talks about Life Giving Stories

Directed by master storyteller and photographer William Yang and writer/producer Annette Shun Wah, Life Giving Stories is an inspiring live storytelling work bringing together five storytellers from various backgrounds to tell personal stories about their lives. Ahead of this moving production coming to Riverside, we spoke to Life Giving Stories’ stage manager, Kevin Bathman about the inspiration behind the production, what you can expect and more.

What inspired this production?

Storytelling is one of the oldest art forms around. People forget facts and figures but stories go straight to the heart. When faced with a subject that has a “yuck factor”, we turned to storytelling and the format of sharing private photo collections.

We looked at William Yang’s storytelling approach and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth; simple storytelling with powerful images. What makes it powerful is they are stories about life-altering experiences from real people. It is never easy to talk or have a discussion about organ and tissue donation. And so, we were looking for a way of telling these stories in a heartfelt and nuanced way. There is evidence that indicate that sharing stories is therapeutic and cathartic for the people telling those stories.

Last year, we held our pilot event, Life Giving Stories at The Forum in Leichhardt. It featured 5 storytellers from Maltese, Italian, Filipino and Serbian background and this year, we are expecting to hear from another 5 storytellers from Indian, Maltese, Filipino, Vietnamese and Lebanese background.

This year, in collaboration with NSW Organ and Tissue Donation Service and Performance 4a, NSW Multicultural Communication Service are replicating this process to produce Life Giving Stories, a live storytelling event showcasing the stories of organ and tissue donors and recipients to increase awareness and highlight the importance of organ and tissue donation in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

Can you please tell us about the development process for this production.

Our process draws from William Yang’s masterful and long experience of telling stories with photographs in a theatrical setting, and this process has served him well, creating shows that have toured internationally.

William Yang and Annette Shun Wah are seasoned professionals in working with non-professional performers and storytellers in Performance 4a’s storytelling shows. It is not a written process, rather a spoken one which relies on the images carrying a narrative of their own. We then meet our storytellers to write and rehearse their stories in an engaging and compelling way.

What can the audience expect from the show?

They can expect to hear five heart-warming and insightful stories, as our storytellers reveal their lived experiences. These stories are enhanced by photographs from private collections, and for us, it always feels like such a privilege to be allowed a glimpse into people’s personal lives.

It will be a profoundly moving experience for the audience, but also an empowering one.

Following the storytelling, there will be opportunities for people to ask questions, and to meet the storytellers over some food and refreshments.

What is it like working with William Yang and Annette Shun Wah?

Performance 4a has been producing stories about the Asian Australian community since 2008. From their highly successful Stories Then & Now, In Between Two, The Serpent’s Table and many other productions, we felt a natural affinity towards using theatre and storytelling for this production. Throughout the workshop process, William and Annette treated the stories with deep respect and gentleness.

What can audiences expect from Life Giving Stories?

Our five storytellers are not actors. They are real, everyday people who have been through a life-changing experience. In showcasing these stories, we wanted to showcase not just their organ and tissue donation experience, but to delve into other aspects of their lives; migrational stories and their families to get a fuller picture about them.

Here are some comments we received from last year, and without a doubt, it will be a moving experience this year too:
“I was very moved by all the stories today – thank you for sharing your journey with us, it was a priviledge.” – Sheila Pham
“It’s very inspiring and appeals to your sense of giving .” – Serna Ladia
“The joy in the voice of those people who received successful organ matched and the joy that families of the donor knowing that the journey of their departed loved ones still carries on.”
“Lived experience says it all. What courage!”

Why is it important for everyone to see Life Giving Stories?

More than 1,600 Australians from all walks of life are waiting for a lifesaving transplant right now. Organ failure happens to people of any age regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. Each organ and tissue donor can save up to 10 lives and improve the lives of many others.

Organ donation is encouraged and supported by most religions and is considered a generous act that enables people to give the ultimate gift of life to others. It is not every day that we get to hear real stories on stage.

Click here to secure your tickets to Life Giving Stories.

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