Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

The word essential means different things to each person, but in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic it has been moved to the forefront of many critical conversations. ‘Essential’ has taken on a different meaning in each of our lives surrounding health, safety and day-to-day living. 

Lane Community College’s Student Production Association has tackled the idea of what ‘essential’ means to seven different storytellers in a virtual storytelling event complete with music, dance and a full livestreamed production on Nov. 19th, 20th and 21st. Among the seven stories a myriad of topics is covered, exposing a piece of the lives of each storyteller.

“When we think of the theatre we often think about people taking on a character and depicting that character through a performance,” said Eric Braman, guest director and story coach.

“This show kind of flips that idea on its head in the sense that we’re giving our performers the agency to tell their truth.”

Each piece is deep and meaningful, shedding light on a true story or experience that the storyteller themself has been through. Some performers give detailed explanations of their experience but others use complex metaphors to describe their personal story. Laura Leader, producer and storyteller, uses the metaphor of a ship to capture her struggles with mental illness. 

“This is an exercise of vulnerability in truth, in finding a story that you didn’t even know you had within yourself and finding what is essential to all of us,” Leader said. “It covers a wide range of experience and a rich and diverse background of people with stories that are really important to hear.”

Other concepts include science, art and home, all of which are paired with completely original musical pieces from musician Cullen Vance crafted specially for each story. There will also be choreographed dance pieces that reflect the words and themes of the stories. Most of the dance segments were recorded at locations throughout Eugene and on the LCC campus to perfectly match the aesthetic and meaning of each story including in forested areas, meadows and the LCC campus under a full moon.

“I just marvel at the way you can put two things together, movement and story, and another meaning emerges, that’s what I find so fascinating,” said Bonnie Simoa, Director of the LCC dance program. “So much of what we’re seeing on screen is about context. The studio doesn’t necessarily relate to any of the contexts of the stories so we decided to go on location.”

The material for “The Essentials” was recorded ahead of the livestream and edited together to create a seamless production that runs for 45 minutes. All of the storytellers are members of the community or LCC students, and all seven of the dancers are from the LCC dance program.

“The idea of resilience has really come out as a part of almost every single person's story of things that have gotten in their way, ways that their lives have been disrupted or interrupted, moments in their life that were really difficult and resiliency that they embodied to keep going,”  Braman said. “I think that that’s a really great message for our community right now, because we are all in some way in a space of feeling stuck or feeling stagnated.”

The Essentials will be live streamed at 7:30 pm from Nov. 19-21 on the LCC SPA Facebook page for free. Immediately after each livestream there will be a live Q&A with different members of the production team. On the 19th it will be the storytellers, the 20th will be the dancers and the 21st will be the technical team. All of the recordings will be available after the performance dates to be viewed for free.

Arts and Culture Reporter

Grace Murray is an arts and culture reporter. She loves music, comedy television, photography and Disneyland. Send her an email if you have a local event, art show, performance, or exhibit!