Thursday - Living the possible: the story outside the frame

You can read Arnie Aprill's write-up of today (with lots of photos) here.

Opening Reflection:

Think back on yesterday...

  1. what makes you say "wow"?
  2. what do you wonder about?

The Week so Far

Kata showed us a helpful slide that laid out what we'd done every day. It was shown as a cycle, with Day 4 pointing back to Day 1 (in other words, indicating that we will be returning to the themes of Day 1 today).

Day 1 - Navigating by Light

  • I could you a tell a story about...
  • I can imagine...
  • Can you imagine...?

Day 2 - What frames our lives

Day 3 - Framing photos/Framing Macondo

  • Finding stories in photos
  • Looking at the portraits in 100 Years of Solitude

Day 4 - Portraits and Memory

And so today (Day 5) we are back to navigating by light.

Our first writing exercise - the memory machine

This is also based on yesterday's reading about insomnia and forgetting in Macondo. One character proposes building a "memory machine", that you could quickly review in order to relearn all your important memories. So we made a list of the memories that we would put in our own "memory machine." In order to do this, we looked back at "what frames us" (from Monday), but I found myself going in different directions (which was especially satisfying, since I'd felt like my memory was failing me a bit when we did this on Monday). 

My memory machine entries feel too personal to post on here, but (strictly for my own reference, they're on pages 46-47 of my notebook.

I'm pretty sure we talked about what we wrote with a partner, but I wouldn't put money on it. 

Our second writing exercise - looking at our self-portrait and engaging all our senses

We now listed sensory images evoked by our self-portraits. Here's what I wrote:

We definitely talked about this with a partner, and in talking, I realized that "climbing a tree" works well for me as an analogy for writing. I started thinking about this because I thought about how as you climb, your vision narrows to "my possible routes" - everything becomes either something that you can reach (and will support your weight) or something that can't. Also, it's hard, as you go up, to work out how you're going to get back down. My partner (I'm 90% sure it was Rob) also pointed out that when you're climbing a tree, your perspective on what you can see around you changes with every step. I didn't end up pursuing this idea in my writing, but I really like it. 

Third writing exercise: telling a story

At this point, we used what we'd just written as a jumping-off point for writing a story from our lives (or someone else's life). This drew on everything we've done this week. I called mine "Climbers", and wrote a series of vignettes about climbing. This was inspired by the fact that I knew I wanted my self-portrait to be in a tree, but I didn't know why that felt important until I started writing about it. But once I started writing about climbing, things got very intense very quickly. I was writing about being an older brother, being a son, recovering from heart surgery, and being an uncle. Earlier in the week, Jessica told me "something will break open inside you this week", and I thought "Naaaaaaaah, I don't think so." Turns out she was right. 

We got a "beginning-middle-end" graphic organizer. I completely ignored mine, but there should be a copy of the graphic organizer on Arnie's website

Human Atom and Human Sculptures

After we wrote our first drafts, we wrote an image from our story down onto a notecard and gave it to Kurt. Then we went into the gallery space, and started walking between an outside wall and the center of the room, so that we were naturally all moving in different directions. He had us move with more urgency, and then stand back to back with somebody (calling "stand back to back" very quickly). 

[procedural note: what I hadn't understood about this technique until I did it, is that because you can stand back-to-back so quickly, and because the desire not to get left out is very high, there really isn't time to seek out a particular person to stand back-to-back with - or at least, that's how it felt for us. But I think that this at least has the potential to be a partner-selecting method that makes finding ANY partner feel more important than finding a specific partner, which is a bit of a classroom holy grail, for me anyway].

Once we were back to back with someone, Kurt read a phrase from one of the notecards, and we had a few seconds to (silently) create a human sculpture (just the two of us) that embodied the phrase he read out. For one of the images, he also had us get into threes. 

Preparing for our final performance

We counted off in order to be in groups of five to prepare our final performance for Friday. By extraordinary coincidence, all the HTHCV people ended up in the same group, so I swiftly traded out with another group and joined them instead. Each of us read our stories out loud. Kurt told us that given time constraints, we couldn't "collage" our stories - we needed to choose one story and develop it. The group chose my series of vignettes, so I chose three vignettes out of my five to be the basis for our piece.

Human Sculptures revisited

After we'd had some time to choose a text for our performance piece, we all got back together as one big group in the gallery space to create human sculptures again - this time for the "beginning" image, "middle" image, and "end" image. At this point I wished I'd actually used that beginning-middle-end graphic organizer, and we weren't able to come up with any shapes that felt very generative. We were actually generally pretty behind at this point in the process. 

More rehearsal time

For the rest of the day, we just rehearsed. I've got one photo from the process, which shows the group striking poses to embody the feeling of being a frustrated two-year-old:

Kurt had advised us to pursue the goal of "distributed leadership" (harking back to the jumping exercise at the beginning of Saturday). It was a useful reminder, because the urge to take control and enact a vision was pretty intense (for me, anyway). 

What was really surprising to me was that I found it pretty much impossible to get through the vignettes I'd written without my voice starting to break into sobs. There is one moment I remember in particular: Kata was "playing" my then five-year-old brother in the first vignette, swinging off the branch of a tree, and falling on her arm and breaking it. She had found a position that put her arm at an alarming angle, and, in telling the story, I turned around to look back at her. It was a shock to turn around and see her - even though the representation was nothing like how I remembered the event, it took me right back to that moment. The group could tell how much I was affected. Of course, this was no guarantee that the audience would be similarly affected, but it still energized the group. 

I went home that night, rewrote each vignette by hand in the Cafe Creme (just down the street from our hacienda, and fantastic), and then typed them up. 

Thursday night: La Palabra at Tapanco Centro Cultural

Alejo invited us all to a special performance of La Palabra, put on by the theatre company he's a part of. The show was to open the next night, so this was basically an open dress rehearsal. The performance takes up the whole cultural center, with different performances in each room. All of them are riffs on Samuel Beckett's short plays, except for Laurel and Hardy and the boxes of light, which is inspired by a scene from a Paul Auster Novel.