Day 6: Trusting others with a story

On Saturday, our sixth day in London, we worked with Corinne Micallef, a facilitator with Phakama, an arts organization based in London. Phakama means "rise up," and it's a fitting name for an organization that works to unite communities across difference and diversity. The company's way of working, called Give and Gain, models theatre for change at its best, and the students had a chance to move through sections of the company's unique devising process to create a piece of art. Corinne truncated the process for our two-hour workshop slot, but highlights included creating a Give and Gain Wheel, using name stories as the starting point for a larger narrative, trusting building through story sharing and development, and ultimately a site-specific performance presentation in various rooms on the lower level of the NYU London facility.

The Give and Gain part of the process asks each participant to state what they have to give to the process and what they hope to gain from the process. These elements are placed on a wheel that lives in the workshop space throughout the creation process. I hope to modify and use the Give and Gain premise in my own future work, as I love the idea that participants also have valuable knowledge and expertise to share. I'm also thinking about ways to use it in a classroom setting. More on that in a future post.

 The Give and Gain Wheel

The Give and Gain Wheel

 Corinne Micallef and the completed Give and Gain Wheel for our community on this devising process.

Corinne Micallef and the completed Give and Gain Wheel for our community on this devising process.

Corinne's devising process asked groups of students to respond to each other's name stories, sculpt images of the stories, and unite those stories into still images. Then these images were passed from one group to the next in a carousel format, and with each pass, Corinne instructed the groups to add another layer: movement, sound or text, etc. After the fifth rotation, Corinne crafted an order for the presentations., and then each group chose a location for their presentation. We moved from room to room, and viewed the fruits of two hours of labor. It was inspiring to see how much the students invested in the process, and their trust in one another shown through in their willingness to pass on their stories and in the presentations themselves.

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Later that day after the workshop with Corinne, I was able to reconnect with Jonathan Harden over drinks at Skylon on London's South Bank. We talked more about the growing success of his podcast, and what might happen next. I've known Jonathan for almost ten years now, and he's always thinking and reflecting, coming up with the next idea or direction to pursue. There's an itch there, one I understand and appreciate, as I often feel it as well. It's not always clear what to do with that itch, but as long as it's there, I know that I still have work to do.

In the evening, we attended our final performance of the trip, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I had seen this West End production in March 2013 and then the Broadway production in October 2014. The performance on Saturday evening was disappointing. Overacting, lack of sensitivity, unearned discoveries, and playing for laughs when laughs aren't the intention. As a result, there was a lot of coughing throughout the performance coming from the audience, always a sure sign that there's a problem. I had curated the performances in a specific order, as I thought this production would be an amazing finale to a great week. Unfortunately, this performance was not as good as I had hoped. Still a great play, but this particular cast is currently missing the mark. Speaks to that idea of trust: sometimes it's hard to trust others with a story if they aren't being careful with it or respectful of it. Lessons from the morning session play out in an evening performance.