Brussels

The magic of storytelling

Why storytelling is so important

It’s 9:40 am in the morning. Cosima Jentzch is about to get off from the bus 89, that will stop at Lowet, in Ganshoren, one of the 19 municipalities of Brussels, half hour from downtown. Cosima is one of the storytellers for Orfeo & Majnun project; she has a meeting at Home Heydeken where she will perform to a group of seniors. What about? She is going to tell them how mad the love of Majnun was for Layla and how Orpheus’s lyre ended up among the stars.

Cosima has a special technique to do storytelling. She uses a mini stage like device to present illustration boards depicting a part of the story. As she tells the story, she changes the image boards. This technique is known as Kamishibaï storytelling and it’s a form of street theater, very common in Japan after and during the war. This technique decreased its popularity when television came. Nowadays artists and storytellers are recovering this technique to tell stories in a more intimate way.

Hélène, the coordinator for recreational activities at Home Heydeken keeps bringing seniors in to the Room, as Cosima sets her stage up. They are about 15 seniors, some of them in wheelchairs, others with walking devices. 10 minutes later, Cosima begins to tell the stories, the blowing wind of the storm outside helps as a dramatic element. In low but firm voice, she explains why Layla’s father refused the union of his daughter and Qays, and what was going on in Orpheus mind when he returned his head to see Eurydice.

“Dramatic” is the answer of one of the seniors when she asks them what are their opinions of the stories. “Deep love” says one woman when we point out that there are strong similarities…

Then we explain that both stories are linked in one production at La Monnaie. This production is quite particular since it will have communities performing on stage. On the second day of the presentation of this production (June 30th) , there will be different communities in Brussels that will present their creations in relation with both myths, in La Monnaie and it’s surroundings. For this, we invite people of different ages, backgrounds, and cultures to work with us. The point is to try and mix different forms of art and use both myths as inspiration.

- What aspect of the stories did you find most appealing?

- Did you also had a deep love at one moment of your live? ...Silence...

- Do you have an object that makes you think about that deep love? ...Silence...

- I used to write letters to one of my boyfriends… says one women… but he broke up with me because of my spelling.

- That’s right? And what about others? Do you still have love letters?

- Madame Berghmans, you’ve told me once that you use to have mail exchange with your wife when he was abroad. Says Hélène.

- Yes it’s true.

- Would you like to share that with us?

- Yes

- Silence

- What about love songs? What songs remind you your beloved one?

- Delilah of Tom Jones, says one women with a whispering voice

Wow (We go to YouTube and everybody sings it)

- Hymne à l’amour by Edith Piaf! Says another lady.

- All the songs of Elvis!

- Madelon by Line Renaud!

- Mes jeunes années by Trenet

​- n’ hutje op de Heide by Bobbejan Schoepen!

- Le Temps de Cerises by Yves Montand

- Great. Would you like to share those memories and songs with us?

- Yes…

- if we invite a group of youngsters that are learning how to do video… Would you like to share those memories with them as well?

- …. Yes, silence, let’s see…, it depends…

- They’ll do a video and I could be shown on June 30th

- …. Yes, silence, let’s see…

Ok, we will come back with a clearer proposition.

Seniors clap their hands, as Cosima says goodbye. They thank her for preparing the stories for them. She takes her mini stage that she carries in an Ikea blue bag, she says goodbye to Helene and slowly walks to the bus stop, where she will wait for the one that will take her back to the center of the city.

Storytelling is a key action for the participative aspect of Orfeo & Majnun project. When we invite one association to participate, we schedule one storytelling session with one of our professional artists. This artists where asked to do a a 20 min creation so that they tell the stories in their own way in order to share it with the audience. This is the starting point to explore together which emotions are touched as they hear the stories, what aspects of the narrative appeal them the most, and if they are interested on working with us , which artistic discipline would they like to try.