From the Founder - Michaela Otto
I have been listening to people’s stories since I was a young girl. Sure, I was a good listener, but I was also fascinated by people’s histories, how they got to where they were and the decisions and discoveries they made along the way. In my thirties I worked with Ruth Howard and Jumblies Theatre, in Toronto, and part of what was routine in our work was to interview older participants about their lives. This material was then used to write and produce community plays that celebrated an area and its residents. These were powerful moments not only for the interviewees but for newcomers and younger people who were also participants of the giant art projects. After completing a three-year residency in one area, we were approached by a family member whose mother we had interviewed in the previous year. Quite elderly, she had died in the intervening time, and the family was wanting to know, “What had their Nonna actually done with us?” They were thrilled with the one-hour recording of stories from her early life, some of which they had never heard before. It was at that moment that the seed that was planted in my childhood was given a big heap of compost and it started to sprout some new branches.
In my forties I started to document the history of my family. My first project was to celebrate my father’s early life, a project I completed for his 70th birthday celebration. After a steep learning curve and numerous technical challenges, I was rewarded by the look on my family and friends’ faces as they watched my Dad’s early life as it was revealed on the screen. All were really touched, and a few even began to tell me their life-stories.
Little did I know that this was the beginning of my life’s vocation. After attending a Vision Quest the next summer, I had a powerful dream that confirmed that this was to be part of my Sacred Dream. While the dream had no images, I quite clearly heard that my sacred task was to “reveal that which has been hidden and to give voice to that which has been silent.” This was just the confirmation that I needed to begin the long, often arduous and sometimes circuitous route to what you see here today. After numerous courses, tutorials, connections made with other professionals, false starts and triumphant successes, I was ready to use the latest technological advances to create audio CDs and multimedia DVDs for others. These experiences, together with my many years of researching and writing as an academic, as well as my training in the arts and design, finally enabled me to help others bring the past into the present for the future. So whether or not you contact us to tell your family’s story, I encourage everyone to find opportunities to listen to your elders and to find ways to preserve those singular voices and those unique stories for your future generations.