Our stories make us who we are. The ability to pause and look at our life moments as stories make us storytellers. When we perform these stories, they change us in someway. They make us see things that we probably dint quite think about earlier, or if we did, it makes us see the same moment differently.
After our two day workshop (STORYFLECT) on personal narratives, I would like to share with you 5 insights that I picked up and would like to make part of my work. I am very grateful to the participants who willingly shared their life stories and enabled shared discoveries.
1. YOUR STORY IS YOURS YET IT DRAWS ME
Personal stories have ways in which people can magically connect their own lives and circumstances to what you've gone through. This makes your story personal for them too.
2. YOUR STORY COMES FROM YOUR CORE
The core muscle is the body's centre and ensures our stability. Similarly, our stories make up our core, mental and emotional. These moments get etched into our memories, some obvious, some distant. When we encounter them, there is great joy in having discovered something that we thought was lost, but it was always there, waiting to be found.
3. PERSONAL STORIES MAKE YOU A RISK TAKER
You need the guts to be able to tell your story. You've chosen to put yourself out there though your story and this is already empowering.
4. PERFORMING THE PERSONAL ENRICHES THE NARRATIVE
Simple ways of performing a story can enrich the way the audience connect with you and your life. Using the body to perform the story can have significantly higher impact on the performer and the audience.
5. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH GETTING PERSONAL
Sometimes I hear people say that they are scared of sharing personal stories or they wonder if it would be relevant. I think there is value in every story, whether it's from a folktale or from your own tale. So, if you find yourself thinking about whether or not you should share your personal story, just stop thinking, go ahead and share it.
The STORYFLECT workshop is scheduled for the 4th of December at Lahe Lahe in Indiranagar. You can register for the workshop on bookmyshow or on our website.
So what does it take to put your personal truths out in public space? You are sharing a story, a mood, a moment - through performance.
We are all made of stories. Stories of various kinds, multiple genres and different moods. In a way, our stories define who we are. The choices we make within our own plot, the characters that we choose to play through time, the different moods that we help create, our value systems, the multiple emotions that we go through - all these end up defining and constructing our personal narratives.
In August 2014 (Bangalore), I was in a workshop with 4 people- a theatre actor, a psychologist, a behavioral trainer and a nuero linguistic practitioner. I was already beginning to feel like we had a performance there. It Just sounded quite cool. Through the 2 day workshop where we worked on body, gesture, space, memory and audience relationships, we had created about 30 seconds of material per person - a combination of expressive gesture, sounds, movement and text.
The question for me was: How can these fragments come together in performance? For a while now, I've been very interested in exploring personal narratives through visual performance. Additionally, I also explored the idea of immersion in personal stories. The idea of an audience not just watching the story but being drawn into the environment in various ways.
With the material generated at the workshop becoming the starting point for further devising, we started further exploration. Combining chance happenings, associations, spoken word and free writing, we started generating more performance material. At this point in time, I honestly had no clue what the performance would be about. I had a guideline, a process that I trusted and four committed performer/devisers.
Through the initial devising sessions, we focused our energies on creating visuals, both static and dynamic and was using these visual cues to generate performance context. We would then quickly take notes about what the visual is communicating and see if we could further build on it in any way possible. In two weeks time, we had a very clear direction of where the piece was heading. We were working with concepts of challenge, hope, love, violence and romance. The stories emerged. The stories of four different women experiencing struggle & strength, hope & despair and detachment & obsession.
What would you do when you are alone and attacked?
How can you move on after a testing relationship?
Are you now in a position to stand up to what's going on? Do you have a voice?
How can your hope and faith build you up, after you crumble?
A moment of memory captures and brings to life these four moments through performance. We've designed this in an experiential way, through touch, taste, sight, sound and smell - by engaging the multiple senses.
We invite you to come experience these stories and share a moment with us.
Re:play is about relationships. Relationships between different people within the space. This relationship starts and evolves through the course of the performance. Facilitated by the performers, Re:play explores relationships between two people, between the performers and the audience, between the members of the audience and the relationship one encounters with themselves.
The design of the performance facilitates an intimate spatial construct, where the performers can story tell, eye to eye. This makes the environment more personal and enables audiences to do more than just watch a performance.
Viewpoints of space and time were the first considerations in devising Re-play. Topography, using floor patterns, helped in exploring both geometric as well as organic design possibilities. Moving through the space in patterns of the board games guided spatial design and construction. This helped in gauging the size and shape of the space, influencing the artistic process critically. The concept of intimacy in spatial design emerged here, making the performance immersive in nature, by creating a shared space. The breaking down of the proscenium having occurred early on in the process demanded a new audience-performer relationship. Richard Schechner talks about this in the context of environmental practice, connecting notions of encounter between audience, performance and space.
The kind of work I'm talking about can't happen if one territory belongs to the audience and another to the performers. The bifurcation of space must be ended. The final exchange between performers and audience is the exchange of space, spectators as scene-makers as well as scene watchers.(Schechner in Machon 2013: 32)
Schechner explains that the exchange of stimuli - either sensory or cognitive is the root of theatre. When this exchange happens through multiple senses, in the absence of bifurcation of space, then new relationships are possible, body contact can occur and a sense of shared experience can be engendered. (Schechner 1994: xxiv) Re:play considered this in its spatial design, fostering and challenging new relationships between multiple elements in the space. Re:play's spatial design enabled audience to be seated in small groups, around the performer. The audience was also lit in the performance, which made them a part of the space.
It was then an ongoing discovery of the potential relationships that are possible between all elements in the space; objects, people, voices, textures, sounds and the combinations of these. With an element of spontaneity contained within the performance as well, new relationships, dynamic in nature were forged through the process of the performance.
The challenge was in considering the many relationships in the context of immersive theatre, where the audience is placed at the heart of the work to feel and undergo a visceral experience, to be immersed in a world whose rules are different, to be submerged in an alternate medium, where all the senses are engaged and manipulated (Machon: 2013: 22) Re:play was an experience with different rules, rules that audience members discovered through the course of the performance and rules that were flexible, which could be broken or held based on the discretion of the people within the space. In this process, people discovered each other as well.
"When the plot was first pitched to me, I knew it was something I had never done before. Something I was sure the Indian audience had never experienced in theatre before. And there was my reason to become part of Re:play.
What started off as exercises of the mind and body slowly became intricate pieces in the sketches of the play. Everyday was a new beginning, because each sketch demanded its unique approach and ambience. We started taking Yoga classes to see how much more we could exploit of our bodies.
From a pathetic start I went onto learning how to control breathing and commanding the body. It was one of the most refreshing experiences I've ever had. Each sketch was designed to fit the stretch of each performers ability, so every piece was only as good as ourselves. And with the contrast between the sketches being quite stark, I had a challenging time switching moods, sweating it out and wiping it off.
The idea of Re:play being a duet was the second challenge, in terms of energy and mindfulness. To be a performer and yet not be 'The character', that was the subtlety we had to work against! Directors can be tough!
Spatial awareness was by far the toughest task, with objects and people at such close proximity we had to constantly watch our every move.
Re:play was always an experimental piece to me and I hope it wins hearts and leaves the audience with a kind of nostalgia that only comes with this genre of intimate immersive theatre." - Manav Chidambaran, performer, Re:play
"When I was approached by Aruna to be a part of a new play she was creating, I was overjoyed to say the least. Little did I know what I was in for. One by one, the bombs were dropped - there was no script in hand, the script would not be our starting point, the performers would devise the sketches first and it would be a physical, movement-based performance. And so, we were introduced to the concept of immersive theatre. The play became a performance, the director became a deviser, the actor became a performer and the stage became a space.
After attending my first Re:play workshop, there was really no looking back. I was introduced to a theatrical world where sounds, movements and objects dominated and where dialogues took a backseat. Devising the sketches, true to the theme of Re:play, was like playing a game. We would be given tasks to perform with ground rules and some objects and be asked to work around them. Needless to say, the process was a lot of fun and we would look forward to devising everyday!
Re:play is all about the movement and being present in the moment. It asks a lot from the performers physically and mentally and even though being a dancer helped me, it was quite a task making my fluid movements more defined. With Re:play, I entered an enchanting world of traditional Indian games and learnt how so much can be depicted by using the games as a base. Re:play also taught me to listen to objects, the sounds they create and how they can make or break a particular sketch.
It was a wonderful feeling to watch the performance slowly take shape from scratch and even more exciting to know I had a role to play in that process. Aruna made us explore different avenues, break out of our comfort zones and through her innovative exercises and insightful anecdotes from London, she geared us for this unique performance.
I'm thrilled to be a part of Team Re:play and to be working with Aruna, Ujwal and Manav. The butterflies and the nerves are speeding up as we approach our premiere. The performance is dynamic, interesting and powerful to say the least. The performance is not your usual play where the audience play passive spectators; they will have a bigger role to play. Curious? To know more, join us at the C.P Ramaswamy Iyer foundation on the 19,20 and 21 of September and Spaces, Besant Nagar on the 28 and 29 of September." - " - Supraja Narayanaswamy,Performer,Re:play
Register for Re:play at Spaces: http://www.visualrespiration.com/replay-register.html
Immersive theatre is about experiencing a piece of theatre as opposed to just watching it. One can argue that watching something can also be an experience. Immersive theatre goes beyond that and seeks to engage multiple senses. This multi sensorial experience of immersive theatre immerses you in a new world, whose rules are slightly different. Through the process of immersion, you cease to become a passive spectator. The concepts of the traditional proscenium, the stage, that divides space between the performers and the audience no longer exists in such kind of work. A new relationship is sought between the performers and audience.
Re:play is one such immersive performance with a dynamic relationship between the performers and the audience, the combination of which influences the performance. Through the duration of the performance, the audience will be challenged with simple, yet unique tasks that will shape the way they experience the performance. An element of play is involved, again with a set of rules that the audience will be grasp onto, through the performance.
In this blog space, we talk about performance processes, interdisciplinary practices and various ways of creating performance and engaging audiences.