Youthful 'chitchat'

Taos Pecha Kucha 22 turns the stage over to local teens


Storytelling is used to entertain, heal old wounds, shine a light on challenges in a community and compel us to care about each other. Pecha Kucha, which means "chitchat" in Japanese, is a storytelling format where the teller who is onstage presents a topic of their choice. Twenty images relevant to the topic are shown on a big screen for 20 seconds. The presenter talks as the slides advance automatically. Then they sit down.

Pecha Kucha was designed by architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham Architects in Japan to showcase their work. They hosted the first Pecha Kucha Night in Tokyo. It is now a community storytelling event found in cities all over the world.

In Taos, Pecha Kucha is turning the stage and microphone over for the first time to the community's young people in an event called the "The NEXT Generation" Thursday (May 11), 7 p.m., at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. This will mark the 22nd volume of a Pecha Kucha Night in Taos.

J. Matthew Thomas, Richard Spera and Siena Sanderson, community organizers and veterans of the Taos Pecha Kucha movement, assembled a group of local teens for the event. Thomas said he hopes the event will attract a new audience for future events. Peter Walker, a teacher in the Digital Media Arts program at University of New Mexico-Taos, directed three of the student teams presenting tonight in a joint effort between UNM-Taos and Taos High School.

Walker said he asked the teams of students to do research about alcohol and media in collaboration with Taos Alive, a local nonprofit organization that aims to reduce substance abuse among youth in Taos County with educational awareness programs.

Fifteen teams of students competed for slots in "The NEXT Generation" Pecha Kucha. The top three were selected. The students were then asked to explore all the ways alcohol affects their lives.

The presentations were then divided into teams addressing three topics: "Knowing Your Limits," "Demons and Alcohol" and "Mixing Drugs and Alcohol." The teens conducted audiovisual interviews with their peers, state police officers, a vice principal at Taos High School and drug and alcohol counselors. Walker taught the students how to "crew" the audiovisual aspects of the media presentation, including editing, on-camera work and how to be a host. He gave the students free reign; there was no censorship in the process.

Walker said directing the student presentations about the impact of alcohol on teenagers and their families in our community confirmed to him: "So many families in our community are harmed by the negative aspects of drugs and alcohol abuse directly or through someone they know. I had no idea how widespread it is."

Sanderson, one of the organizers of the event and a counselor at Las Cumbres Community Services, said: "Handing the microphone to our youth in this Pecha Kucha forum is a major step toward starting a dialogue about the traumatic effects of alcohol and drugs on our community."

Sanderson said she is always asking the question, "What will compel us as a community to think about the greater good?" "Putting difficult topics onstage front and center with our teens - who are often marginalized because of their youth - is a major step toward understanding, compassion and community healing. The Pecha Kucha storytelling formula is perfect for talking about difficult topics."

Tickets are $10, $5 teens and younger. Call (575) 758-2052 for more information.