"You are always the right person to do your own work, you don't have to get the rights."

Visiting artist, Deb Margolin, stressed in her Vision and Voices workshop last week that story begins with "ourselves and the consciousness that 'I have a story to tell.'" It may be meaningless, stupid or crazy, but it belongs to us and is relevant to humanity. It is our own resource that can make resonance.

After going around the circle and asking our names and motivations for attending the workshop, Margolin lead us on an exercise called, "Fill in the blank," in which everyone completes a phrase that she tossed out, such as "My oldest anger has to do with…" and "I have never been the same since…"

In another exercise, we were encouraged to share something we wanted, something we needed, and how we felt. This exercise ended with each person taking a deep breath in and letting all the negativity out as they exhaled. Some individuals cried, while others expressed optimism about a brighter tomorrow.

Margolin, who teaches at Yale University in the theater studies department, uses a strategy for writing plays that she calls "automatic writing."  It entails writing down one's thoughts without interrupting oneself or allowing one's inner critic to inhibit the process. She inspired us by saying, "the terror of memory is that we are supposed to forget," and urged us to be present and tap into intense and imaginative sources, deep into our inner world and thoughts.

The participants were equal parts USC students, faculty and members of the wider public. Together, all generated an atmosphere that was humorous and empathetic, and many left with a new understanding about the personal nature of solo performance. The irony is that you could see yourself in almost everybody else's biography; the more specific the tale, the more universal the emotional experience.