The art of story


















At a one-day event at the Centre for Theology and Ministry (CTM) in late 2012, writer, storyteller and public speaker Pete Rollins explored three topics: ‘faith, philosophy and the future’.

In between the three sessions, spoken-word artists Cameron Semmens and Sista Zai gave poetry performances. Improvisational artist Steph Gesling (pictured), a community organiser, event administrator and ‘improv’ teacher, also performed using an improvisational technique known as ‘Interplay’.

“Interplay is a global social movement interested in human sustainability and play which takes a whole range of forms – voice, movement, story and stillness.

“Through Interplay people are invited to play with certain forms and to play with the stuff of their own lives within those forms,” Ms Gesling said.

“There were a lot of themes coming through in Pete’s talk, so there was a sense in which I was sort of a sponge for some of those themes and ideas. I was finding my own ways of expressing them through using my body and my own stories and filtering through that lens,” she said.

A year-and-a-half ago Ms Gesling completed accreditation to become an Interplay leader. In March she co-led an Interplay workshop at the Abbotsford Convent, and will soon be facilitating another Interplay workshop as part of an Artfull Faith (the arts project run through CTM) storytelling course.

“Each year I have a focus for Artfull Faith,” coordinator of the project Christina Rowntree said.

“This year it is the art of storytelling. We have a course starting April 30 called ‘The Art of Story’. Run over three Wednesdays, Julie Perrin will be leading a group on the art and craft of storytelling.

“There’ll also be workshops on different modes of storytelling – Interplay will be one, with Steph’s workshop, and performance poet Joel McKerrow will be doing another,” she said.

Ms Gesling is looking forward to leading the half-day workshop which will be an ‘opt-in’ part of the course.

“Interplay lends itself really well to storytelling. I’m interested in working with the people participating in the ‘Art of Story’ and giving them some tools and practices that they can use in their own context,” she said.

Ms Rowntree sees the role of Artfull Faith as bringing the artist’s voice into the heart of the church’s work and encouraging people to value the arts.

“It’s being able to say ‘we are a hospitable place for the arts and a hospitable place for artists. We want to hear their perspective and their voice’,” she said.

“The Artfull Faith project has been commissioned to provoke and encourage the church to engage the arts in its life, worship and mission.

“Over the years, that has begun to bear fruit. People across the church are much more willing to engage with artists and with art forms that were less present in the church before,” Ms Rowntree said.

To register for the ‘Art of Story’ course, go to

Pete Rollins’ event at CTM has recently been made available on DVD, including all talks and performances from the day. Copies can be ordered at

For more information on Mission and Service funding please visit:

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