Sojourn Theatre Summer Institute, Day 1

So it’s begun and, unsurprisingly, I started it with a healthy dose of imposter syndrome. During my introduction, for instance, I don’t mention I’m in NYU’s doctoral program because 1.) who would believe I’m doing my doctorate and 2.) it feels awkward to be associated with a private university that charges exorbitant tuition fees and have to deal with the discomfort that people might be making assumptions about me. (I’m very touchy about that, I realize. I’ve bellyached about this enough so I don’t have to get too much into this.)

Instead of giving a blow-by-blow account of what occurred (thankfully, the workshop has a notetaker who takes excellent notes), I’m noting down things that stood out for me:

1. Michael Rohd introduced himself by sharing something akin to a creed, i.e., “I believe…,” while it might seem like a very strong way to introduce oneself as a practitioner, he points out something I absolutely agree with: that sharing one’s values right off the bat makes the facilitator transparent about where they’re coming from. It isn’t to push out those who may not share similar beliefs, but is merely an acknowledgment that there may be people in the room coming from a different place and valuable dialougue may (have to) occur.

I’d like to try doing something similar to this when I facilitate something (when will I facilitate something again?). While I can imagine this fitting comfortably with a group of Filipinos (though perhaps the language might have to be softer, depending on the crowd), I wonder how I’ll have to adjust it (or if I’ll even be able to do it) with a group more grounded in Confucian values. Stating my beliefs so bluntly might push some of them out.

2. A consensus tool introduced by T, one of the people I have the pleasure of working with in the next two days, is what I’d like to call “the hand survey.” When the group is making a decision, i.e., we’ll devise with this particular topic, the group raises a hand and, using a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being in absolute agreement, expresses to what degree they support the decision.

Awhile ago, it became incredbly useful because it revealed to us that some of our groupmates weren’t absolutely on-board with the big decision the group was about to make and this gave us an opportunity to explore that.

3. A gut instinct of mine is to immediately adjust activities based on who’s in the room. While that comes from a place of good intentions, it means I’m assuming things about the people I’m “noticing” as well as not including them in the converstaion. Instead of changing the activity without consulting them, why not invite them into the conversation? (And I think there are many ways to go about this: one can think about it with the entire group—though this may put people on the spot—or one can approach them individually.)

4. Activities that involve tension and release mysteriously bring people together. Is this the suspension bridge effect?

5. One challenge I faced and was too shy to bring up was during our image theatre activity, I couldn’t help but recognize the bodies that were part of the sculpture and as much as I wanted to “sculpt” something, I held myself back because I was afraid of how my output might be perceived. For example, if I put two white women in images of power and a woman of color in an oppressed pose (following the theme of domination), I may be subjecting the two white women to take on identities they don’t want to take on.

6. Sojourn Theatre’s Devising Process (a very rough, not really chronological process—I’ll make a better diagram soon.)

7. Transparency is important to the devising process. For Sojourn, they discuss the process early on and make a distinction between authorship, i.e., stewardship over artistic output, and leadership, i.e., looking after the day to day happening, room management. This is really useful and reminds me of things I’ve learned during my MA.

Similar to the previous number, I’ll make a better diagram of this once I’m back in New York.

It was a good first day all in all and I think I relaxed towards the end. I still feel so inadequate. A friend of mine also taking the program told me to “just be my authentic self,” but that’s easier said than done. I’m not quite sure what my authentic self is. Sometimes I feel I have a grasp of it, sometimes I don’t.