• Cristee Cook

Cara Mia Theatre's online workshop 'Stories That Heal' aims to transmute trauma into light

by Cristee Cook

­­With live theatres shuttered due to stay-at-home orders, several companies have taken up online programming. Utilizing the breadth of interdisciplinary experience artists often have, Dallas’ Cara Mia Theatre has launched a series of virtual workshops aimed at uplifting attendees through exploration of art and its intersection with personal healing.

In Stories that Heal, an online workshop led by Storyteller and Healer Stefanie Tovar and Co-facilitated by Cara Mia Theatre’s Education and Community Action Coordinator Cheyenne Raquel Farley, participants will be guided through a process of discovering how the arts can be a pathway for healing and personal transformation during challenging times.

Stefanie Tovar brings a variety of experience to the workshop. A professional actress and Yogi, she relocated to Dallas after touring with international stage productions. She shared: “[I returned to Dallas] with my feet in two different worlds. I was very much involved with theatrical arts and really witnessed performance art as a way to heal and to express myself, and also as a vehicle of healing and transformation. And at the same time, I was starting my journey as a yoga teacher and just as a Yogi in general. I was kind of shedding that identity of actress and performer and starting to embrace that yoga path.”

When shelter-in-place orders came down from the city legislature, Tovar said that she immediately thought of David Lozano [Executive Artistic Director of Cara Mia Theatre] and reached out with the idea of facilitating a workshop. Because she had been in a few productions at Cara Mia, she felt that the company's mission of “inspiring and engaging people to uplift their communities” would provide a nurturing environment. She was also inspired by her own healing through theatre, which she experienced firsthand while rehearsing Cara Mia’s 2017 production of De Troya by Caridad Svich. During that time, Tovar experienced a personal tragedy. She shared that her experience of having an artistic outlet in the middle of a traumatic event was crucial to her own healing. She said, “Being able to have the family of Cara Mia, the cast, and the gift of the work of De Troya to really help me process and translate, process and transmit, really discharged the trauma of what had happened during that time. And at the time, to me, it was everything.”

She’s bringing this experience to Stories That Heal. For the workshop, Tovar invites participants to bring a story, song, poem, a piece of creative writing, or work of art that helps them to access healing. She speaks of aiding workshops participants to embody the stories. The workshop isn’t performative as much as it is aims to create an experience of unity and expression. I asked her some specific questions about the workshop, her views on the importance of art during a collective trauma like a global pandemic, and what she hopes workshop attendees will gain from the experience.

In the description, you mention the workshop will help participants embody imagination.

Can you elaborate on what it means to embody imagination?

[This workshop] really is about heightening our awareness towards the healing, the transcendence, rather than the trauma. We’re in traumatic times, so we all can easily access stories of trauma right now, and stories of destruction. Rather than that, let's move towards imagination. Let's move towards birth and creativity. This is a way to help shift our focus to possibility and creativity. If I'm able to read the poem out loud, if I'm able to really read with feeling a theatrical piece, then I'm able to allow these words to be a guide and a container for me to process big emotions. With the story as a container, or structure - processing aloud, that's a container for us to really just let ourselves release what is already existing in our bodies, minds, and hearts. Because otherwise, it just stays there. So, we're letting that energy pass through rather than letting it be stagnant.

Stefanie Tovar | Photo: Cara Mia Theatre and Stefanie Tovar

What are you learning about healing arts during this time?

As performance artists, when we create work, we think about sharing it and offering it for other people. But now there are moments of turning to myself and turning to my own healing arts to help myself. That’s another gift of Stories That Heal is that it's not performative. It's really getting back to the initial ‘why’ of all of this, you know? That’s been quite a gift for me. Just witnessing myself in nature. Being able to slow down and actually listen.

How are you maintaining you connection to your creative spark right now?

It’s a mixture of things, but definitely time out in nature. I walk daily now, which wasn't a thing and now I walk daily and that's been a great gift. And then doing my best to remember the ‘why’ of everything.

What are you hoping for participants to take away from the workshop? I'm hoping for us to find a sense of deep interconnectedness that's across demographics. Because [this workshop] isn’t meant to be a performance. We’re trying to get all people involved because all of us are storytellers. I really hope to reach folks of all ages, of all different focuses, and all backgrounds.


Stories That Heal will be held on Wednesday, May 27, 2020 from 1:30 - 2:45 pm CST.

All programming will happen via Zoom and class codes will be sent out after registration. Justice Pricing for this offering ranges from $10-$30. Justice Pricing allows participants who can pay the $30 value of this class to pay the full amount while providing lower cost options for those who cannot. For more information about Stories that Heal, other Cara Mia Theatre online programs, or to register, visit caramiatheatre.org/online.

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