On Saturday, we gathered for our first extended rehearsal, and had Paula Larke with us for the first time in the studio!
I led a guided improvisational warm up, focusing on the skeleton and space, and relationships within the body. After checking in we returned to working with the chairs. I proposed a very simple score of us taking turns moving to ‘the pointy chair’ and sharing a story of a time that we felt that we didn’t belong.
The stories that were shared demonstrated a range of experiences that despite their uniqueness also offered up many commonalities. The movement score also included the direction that for those of us listening, in the ‘soft’ chairs, we could adjust our proximity towards the story teller, and we could adjust our chair facing and our own facing within the chair.
A score that I had thought might take about 30-40 minutes ended up occupying almost the entire remainder of our rehearsal period. I had at first proposed that people try to limit their story to between 3 and 5 minutes, but as people shared their stories it become clear that it was more important to listen and less important to try to control the time/space.
Paula offered up the possibility of using a rhythmic chant that she introduced into the space between each of the stories, to help to ‘cleanse the palate’ between stories. And she also underscored the idea of listening, rather than planning your story in your head.
Each person presented their experience while the others listened. Each person opened themselves up into a very vulnerable place. Each person authentically spoke from their heart.
Pursing a space to allow everyone to belong may need the spark of reminding ourselves how it feels to not belong.
After everyone shared their story, we shifted into a fully physical ‘palate cleanser’, and played the game ‘Get the trash out of my backyard’, wherein we made use of a bunch of the paper from our Paper Project of several years ago, divided the space into two halves, divided the cast into two groups, and then engaged in trying to throw all of the trash to the opposite side. It was simple. It was task oriented. It did not require complex thought processes, although some people did try to devise methods that might facilitate an easier removal of the trash from their side. And it allowed for a joyful energy to come back into the room after the heaviness of the story sharing.
As we checked out, I remarked that my ‘a-ha’, or learning moment for the day was to recognize the White-supremacist cultural value of ‘adhering to a strict time schedule’ that I was compelled to impose in setting up the story circle score with the limitation of stories being between 3 and 5 minutes. I appreciated that I was able to shift and let go of that value as we listened to the stories, and to let the activity determine the actual score.