Sometimes as adults one of the hardest things to do is to be seen as someone we might consider to be foolish or childish or silly. What this workshop hopes to do is to help the participants recognize we are all fools in one way or another and if we can accept that then we can hopefully give ourselves permission to live and play from that point of view. With that in mind the goal is to encourage a lightening up to the writing and performance process through word games and performance exercises. In the end we will look at not taking ourselves too seriously while have respect and delight for the process of getting us from nothing to something.
The first half of the workshop will be about lightening up in our bodies in an attempt to let go of how we see ourselves or to at least allow for more options in how we perceive ourselves.
Part 1) In an effort to bring everyone together we start by creating a group sound poem using our bodies in whatever way can to make noise. We start with silence and then join in building sound rather than just the chaos of noise. Every little part is important. This is an exercise in listening and being present.
Part 2) The next step is what is called impulse passing. We remain in a circle and from the leader a sound and a gesture is given to one of the people beside them. That person mirrors the original sound and gesture as best they can back to the originator. They then take that energy and create their own bit sound and movement and pass it to the next person. The goal is to work at staying present in mind and body not thinking about what move you will do when your turn comes. Delight in the joy of your fellow participants.
Part 3) The impulse pass is taken to the next level. We add to the gesture and sound by announcing our new identity. Our new identity is whatever our names happens to be said backwards. IE Randy is now Ydnar! Also give your new identity an identity. Ydnar the rescuer of potatoes. Ydnar the trampoline eater. The sillier the better. Once you have decided we go around the circle introducing ourselves followed by the entire group repeating your name and identity and gesture. “Hi Yndar the trampoline eater” and so on.
Part 4) Once we have introduced our new selves the group breaks up and moves about the room saying their new name and identity out loud with pride. While still moving they are now asked to say their new identities aloud infused with sadness and asked to take that in to their bodies and move accordingly. Then after that with anger and finally with joy. Once our new identities have started to sink in to our bodies then on to the next step, writing it all down.
Part 5) Everyone free writes for 10-15 minutes about who they are, their new persona. Revealing the best place they have ever lived, one thing they love and have had to give up and one thing that turns you on. Be detailed and specific…sensory descriptions. Also Include one thing about your old self that irritates you or makes you dislike yourself or something you see in yourself as a weakness and turn it in to a thing of celebration. Things like always being late, I’m a bad tipper, I pick my nose in public. It doesn’t have to be a heavy thing unless they want to go there. Tell us about your secret life.
Part 6) Speed dating. We will set up the chairs in the room into pairs to accommodate all of the participants. We then move about the room much like in musical chairs until we are asked to stop and sit. Hopefully we will be sitting opposite someone we don’t know. We are then going to take turns telling our partners about this new persona. Tell the story you have written about your new life. Go in to details. About 5 minutes for each side of the pairings.
Part 7) Let’s get silly. We move the chairs to the side and then each pair gets up and the partners take turns telling the group about their partner. However they are only allowed to use silly sounds and gestures to tell the story. Basically charades with noise except the rest of the group doesn’t have to guess. (Although could be a new wrinkle if there is time.) Each pair takes their turn.
Part 8) You will now be asked to think about this new and interesting person you have met and told the group about and now you will write a poem about them and possibly your lives together. Imagine you have known them for years. Think of three memories you have about this person…Get detailed about the memories. Then write an anaphora poem about the time you shared together. We will write for about another 15 minutes and then share the work.
Part 9) Debrief about your experience. What were your expectations? What was your process like? Did thinking about yourself differently change how you write? And so on and so on.
Part 10) We close with another group sound poem. This is an opportunity to make contact with all the participants one more time and say goodbye. Hopefully our listening skills will have been sharpened from the workout. We listen to each other and build from silence to a crescendo back to silence and then we are done. Thank you for your work.
My understanding of an Anaphora poem is a list poem that has a repeating phrase or line that connects the poem together. Anis Mojgani’s Shake The Dust and Rock Out are good examples. Some examples of lines that could be used include”
In the lungs of the moon.
The tumbleweeds sang our song.
The powder kegs in our fingers
When we taught a mountain to dance.
The night we made the stars blush.
At the cactus rubdown.
And so on. The participants will come up with much better ideas.
I’ve led this workshop at The Banff Centre for the Performing Arts Spoken Word Program, The Tucson International Poetry Festival and the Winnipeg Spoken word Festival.