As I watched the Academy Awards last weekend, I got to thinking. One, I appreciate Neil Patrick Harris more each time I see him. Two, good for you, John Travola and Idina Menzel, for making light of what was for both of you a very embarrassing and much ballyhooed gaff. Three, the powerful art of storytelling never diminishes. And the many and sundry players in bringing those stories to life have fascinating stories of their own.
This year’s Academy Awards seemed, to me at least, to be about the behind-the-scenes players: from the costume designers and screenwriters and makeup artists to the causes that inspired so many nominated movies last year, including ALS and Alzheimer’s.
The Oscar winners in the big categories were pretty well predicted ahead of time without many last-minute surprises. Instead, this year’s ceremony was a time for celebrating the many people viewers might otherwise never see but who take part in the amazing and complicated storytelling found in motion pictures. The energy and enthusiasm of these people upon winning their awards as they talked over the music time and again, determined to thank every last person before exiting that stage, wove its own narrative of joy and satisfaction and accomplishment.
This year’s Academy Awards was also a time for raising awareness for those people who feel unseen—and unseeable—for so many reasons. Although no stranger to political pontification, this year’s speeches seemed different, at least to me. More real and closer to home, perhaps.
The topic of suicide, for example, came up more than once in an acceptance speech. That’s not the place you’d think you’d hear people talking about suicide. Winning an Oscar is a happy moment, right? But it’s also a moment of culmination, an apex of everything that has come before to shape an individual into who she is and what she has achieved. It’s a moment of reflection. And that reflection isn’t always kind.
Storytelling, in its purest form, shines a light into the human consciousness. It makes us take stock of our lives and reach for our dreams. It helps frame our experiences in ways we can’t frame them within our own heads. Storytelling gives us a narrative to follow, hope to cling to, determination to allow us to persevere.
Storytelling also tells us that we’re not alone. It offers us a vehicle to travel a different path, if only temporarily, that we can use to change our future and our fate or, if not that, make the most of what we have.
I feel privileged every day to work with storytellers. Be it the domed Moon colony of Armstrong or the poker room of a Las Vegas casino, a single chair in an abandoned warehouse or the office of a zombie P.I., I find myself transported every day into new worlds.
Sometimes, I can’t wait to go back to those worlds, with characters familiar as friends.
Sometimes, I hope never to return but find the horrors within the story haunting me anyway—their insidious tendrils burrowing into my brain to seed my darkest fears. Always, I am forever changed in the smallest way.
Because like many readers, storytelling colors the narrative of my own story. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer.