Tuesday, December 9, 2014

THE POWER OF STORY: Notes of a performance workshop with Tom Henderson and Ginny Going

GESTURE CHOIR. Ginny Going leads a gesture choir at the InterPlay Atlanta performance workshop, "The Power of Story." In this particular form, members of the gesture choir, each took a turn leading and telling a story on the same theme. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
written by Ruth Schowalter, Leader-in-Training

On Friday, December 5, 2014, InterPlay Atlanta received a special treat--a performance workshop, "The Power of Story," with Ginny Going and Tom Henderson, national InterPlayers visiting from Raleigh, North Carolina.

Here's the description that Ginny and Tom gave InterPlay Atlanta to advertise the performance workshop:  

What makes a story interesting? 

Answer: Almost anything. The details of our lives are interesting because they connect to the universal themes of our human condition. We know this from the experience of babbling (performing for each other). What about a story in performance? Same answer, and the techniques are not so different. The most important thing is this -- be excited about telling your story! Even seemingly mundane stories can be entertaining if you're excited about telling it. If you're not excited, your audience won't be either. We'll play with ideas and tools for bringing fullness to your story telling thus generating engagement with your audience.

InterPlay performance is about stepping into our fullness said Ginny Going in her introduction at the beginning of the workshop. It's all about intensity. We step into our big body out of our ordinary body. We make shifts and create contrasts. She referenced our workshop, "Give Performance a Hug" with Phil Porter and how we worked with expanding our range from fast to slow, loud to soft, and big and small. Ask yourself, "How can I build contrast in dynamics?"

After warming up InterPlay fashion, Tom Henderson led us in a series of story telling exercises using 3 different techniques:

First, we got practice discarding chronological order. We were given instructions to start our stories some where else other than the beginning. I stated my story in the middle of a July morning in the badlands of Montana out fossil hunting just when the 40 mile winds started blowing us down the hillside and across the rock encrusted terrain. What liberation to forgo details and jump into where the action starts! I could have started at the end when all the fossil hunters sat cloistered in a trailer huddling over their computers waiting for the hostile winds to settle down.

TEACHING BY DOING. Here Tom Henderson teaches the power story telling by telling his own story. Tom and Ginny brought 20 years of InterPlay experience to the InterPlay Atlanta performance workshop. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Then we had a chance to find a point in our stories where we could become inarticulate and speak in gibberish or a made up language. Tom demonstrated with a story of his own about the presence of a dangerous chemical in his work environment. The gibberish can express frustation, confusion, or anything that just fails to be expressed adequately using words.

This story telling technique allows story tellers to digress from the main plot of the narrative, to follow a topic that comes up in the story but is not central to it. The story teller can return to the main storyline or continue to follow the "left turn." 

Whenever telling these stories, we have been given permission by Tom and Ginny to leave the audience "hanging." In a performance, we do not have to complete the whole story. Often, InterPlay performers want to tell a bigger story than is necessary, they told us. Finding the end to a performance is a skill and finishing a story sooner is better than finishing it later. Leaving the audience wanting more from your performance is preferred to the reverse.

UNIVERSAL THEMES. We were asked, "How do our stories connect with universal themes?" Tom records our theme words as Ginny supervises and supports. What a team! (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Next, was identifying universal themes. Unfurling a roll of brown paper across the performance floor, Tom and Ginny asked InterPlay Atlanta workshop participants to name the first universal themes that came to our minds. We wrote down themes such as danger, love, adventure, change, chaos, loss, beginnings and endings.

Then they asked us, "How do our stories connect with these universal themes?"

What ensued was fun, stimulating, and just plain interesting. In pairs, we told one of our own stories connecting it to a universal theme. We had three minutes  to tell a full-body story playing around with contrasts using any of the previous techniques we had just practiced. I spoke on the universal theme of adventure and talked about my time in Australia, when I was searching for dinosaur tracks on the Victoria coast and had to scale down a cliff to Knowledge Creek fitting my feet into a wallaby trackway and holding on to shrubs!

Then half of us workshop participants were asked to stand up and to share our stories with all of the participants but condensing our three-minute stories into one minute!

After that, if we had had enough time, we would have completed this universally themed story telling exercise by reducing its telling to 3 sentences! Only!

As the workshop hours dwindled, we played with three more InterPlay forms: DT3's (dance talk, dance talk, dance talk), Side by Side Stories, and Gesture Choir.
SIDE BY SIDE STORY TELLING. Al, Jennifer, and Christine told Side by Side stories about high school. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Key teaching points from these InterPlay forms included:

We can move our bodies to tell our stories.

A story exists in more than just a box in our heads.

When moving, a storyteller gets a fuller sense of the story at a cellular level.
GESTURE CHOIR. Getting a fuller sense of the story at a cellular level and so much more. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Timing is important in a performance.

When working together with other performers, "sacrifice" for the good ending.

Let movement be movement.

Let the story emerge from the body.

Part of letting go is releasing the need to tell a continuous, linear story.

When telling a Side by Side Story, move around, do not stay in the same lane; interrupting is good, picking up words or phrases from other story tellers is good; keeping your visual focus on the audience and not other players is desirable.
THE POWER OF STORY WORKSHOP HAS CONCLUDED.  Participants thoroughly enjoyed Ginny and Tom's workshop and were sorry to see it come to an end. There was so much more fun to be had. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Our two-and-half hours with Tom and Ginny was rich! We felt the fullness of our own stories and each others. Wahoo! Thank you! 

Blogs about other Performance Workshops InterPlay Atlanta has received:

Ecstatic Following with Sheila Collins 

Saying Yes and Finding the Thing with Sheila Collins

Creating a Container and Creating the Thing with Sheila Collins

Foundation and Decoration with Sheila Collins

Give Performance a Hug with Phil Porter

The Power of Story with Ginny Going and Tom Henderson
NOTE TAKING.  That's me, Ruth Schowalter, center, taking notes about what Ginny Going is saying in "The Power of Story" workshop. (photo by Callahan Pope McDonough)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Channeling lots of InterPlay energy!

Dear Atlanta InterPlay friends, 


I'm participating in Reverb14 and today's prompt produced the following blog that I wanted to share with you all: 


Reverb14 Day 4: conduits (with thanks to Noël Rozny)

Today's prompt comes from l Noël Rozny (photo credit David Mark).
Noël writes:

We are all lightning rods, conduits for that which the Universe wants born into this world. What energies did you channel this year?

For those of you who have been following my blog this year the answer to this question is not going to be a big surprise.

This year has been all about InterPlay leadership training.

I channeled the energies of play, creativity, leadership, connection, incremental steps and so much more!

Secret's group photo by +Ruth Schowalter 
October 2013 I began the path to leadership training with a "Secrets" weekend that I wrote about here (I was very new to blogging at this time too): Creating Body Wisdom & some pictures here: Sunday Snippets.  It was so exciting to start our journey with one of the co-founders of InterPlay, Cynthia Winton-Henry!

Ruth - Here we are at the Secrets Weekend at the start of our journey!

Since that time with my good friend +Hallelujah Truth we have completed:

The InterPlay Life Practice Program - 3 weekends of fabulous InterPlay facilitated by my dear friend Sheila Collins and her 3 performance workshops too!

Sheila and Jennifer

Helped Sheila perform her book (5 times) - Warrior Mother

Which led to us being on Cable TV - Creating Quite a Day.

Race Dance Participants after our workshop

Participated in a Race Dance workshop lead by Soyinka Rahim, an InterPlay leader from Oakland, Ca.

In June myself and 3 other Atlanta Interplayers performed at a conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 & the Voting Rights Act of 1965 - you can read all about it here: I See You Free Performance.

In the midst of all of it we bought a house and moved in Creating the month of July.

We also had the chance to do a Secrets Of Leading Workshop/Weekend with Phil Porter, co-founder of InterPlay! Before the weekend started we participated in the Give Performance a Hug workshop.

We helped Celebrate Interplay's 25th Anniversary by hosting a FUNdraiser/luncheon that I coordinated and wrote about here: Celebrating #interplay25.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SOULPRINT PLAYERS! Sunday, November 16th, 2014, is a significant date in InterPlay Atlanta's history! Its performance group, Soulprint Players, had their premier performance! (photo by Dean Hesse) (blurb by +Ruth Schowalter)

 I also was part of a group that helped envision and launch the Atlanta performance troupe: SoulPrint Players under the direction of Jennifer Denning, InterPlay Atlanta Regional Director.  You can read about our first performance here: Ta-da Soulprint Players Premier or here: On Being Seen 

Throughout this year, Ruth and I have been meeting at least weekly and lots of times bi-weekly to complete our self home study material as part of our training process.  This has been a tremendously important incremental step and I am so grateful for her support!

In September, Jennifer and I, in collaboration with Reforming Arts, started traveling to Lee Arendale, the largest women's state prison here in GA to do InterPlay with a group of 14-16 women once a week which culminates in a performance next Friday!  I wrote a little about the experience here: InterPlay and Grace Making.

I also traveled to Texas in Sept. to teach a Saturday class to foster and adoptive parents and  Incorporated InterPlay into my Social Work.

Whew - I have channeled a lot of creative InterPlay energy this year!!! 

Tomorrow begins the final weekend of Leader training with our Practicum weekend.  Atlanta InterPlay has been super lucky to year to have so many visiting InterPlay superstars facilitating our leadership training!  You are welcome to join us tomorrow at noon for The Power of Story.

If you're still wondering what the heck InterPlay is one of the founders, Cynthia Winton-Henry, wrote this: An Open Letter about InterPlay 

It's hard to believe anyone will have made it to the very end of this surprisingly long blog, so if you did - Thank you - from my heart to yours.

I'd love to hear - what energy have you been channeling in 2014?

Wrapping you around with infinite love and connection,