Meg has left town again, jet setting her way to New York and then on to Russia. I’m really excited for the opportunities she’s receiving but of course sorry to lose her for an extended period of time. Meg and I both started new jobs this past week, hers part-time at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and mine as the new full-time Program Specialist for YouthLaunch’s No Kidding program. This has left both of us with much less time and frankly, this week I hardly had time to think about class, much less plan it.
After my crankyfest of last week, I went back to what I know and love best: games. Oh theatre games! I could write a paean to you – your flexibility, multi-purposeness and general fun making properties can bring most groups of people together in the most unlikely of ways. Today was our short class (only one hour instead of an hour and half) so I decided to relax and get some games going. About five new women have joined the class as well and I hardly know them, so I decided to do some teambuilding.
We warmed up to Ms. Winehouse again and then I got out the puppy ball. The puppy ball came from the Wal-Mart inflated ball bin and has a big photo of a cute puppy on it. It’s always a hit. We threw the ball around the circle, calling out our own names as we caught the ball. We ran the same pattern a few times, then started a new one, calling out the name of the women who was receiving the ball from us. That was good, as it gave me a chance to really learn everyone’s name. Then I added on the moving bit – as each woman threw the ball, she called out the recipient’s name, then ran across the circle to stand next to her. This resulted in some confusion, some fun and lots of walking. I also have a tendency to aim for people’s faces when I toss a ball, so there were some close calls there. It was puppy ball, though, and puppy ball couldn’t really hurt anyone.
We moved on to 2 by 3 by Bradford (to use Boal’s name for it) and then we only had fifteen minutes left! I asked if the class would like to play more games or do a writing exercise. One woman called out, “Games!” but the rest of class shook their heads. “Writing!” I think they just wanted to sit down (always a negotiation) but I found a great exercise to bring in, so we wrote.
Thank you Noel Greig (again and again) for today’s exercise. I’ll paraphrase it, the whole thing can be found in his book Playwriting. If you ever facilitate any kind of writing, buy this book. It’s fantastic. So, imagine an empty room. It has a light source and a way to get in. Describe the room in a few sentences – what’s it made of, what shape is it, what’s the atmosphere. Next, place an object in the room – one that could easily carried in or out by one person. Describe the object. Place Character X in the room, anyone you like and describe him/her. Place Character Y just outside of the room. Describe him or her. Character Y enters the room. Character X says something. Character Y replies. One of the characters then leaves the room, taking or leaving behind the object.
The mini scenes can be evocative and powerful because they are so short. Writers are encouraged to use the first ideas that come to them, to just go with it. Ms. L put herself in the room, then her father. “I’ve missed you,” she says. “I’m here now,” he replies. Two women had radios in their rooms. Ms. C wrote about her two sons. All of the scenes that were shared today were about real people and most were scenes of longing.
We only had about five minutes to share the scenes AND check out AND put the desks back in rows so I didn’t hear many scenes. I asked the class to work on them for next week but I won’t hold my breath. I reckon I’ll find a couple of women who are interested in writing and coax them into giving me more substantial pieces over the next month or so. I hope I can keep my brain functioning enough to balance a new job with Conspire. Stay tuned…