WEEK 2 - Collective Storytelling (or How to Mind the Gaps)
- The group shares in a collective listening/viewing of a series of edited segments from The Wire, which follows one particular character, Michael Lee, who over the course of many episodes turns toward a life of crime. It is important that no one interpret the material on behalf of the group as the video is screened. This is each individual’s opportunity to offer their own interpretation.
- As the video progresses, each participant should silently attempt to mentally record, in as much detail as possible, one to two key moments – information she or he feel is crucial to the narrative.
- Each participant is given the opportunity to write down, from memory, those few key moments from the story. The group collectively places the moments in what they consider chronological order, allowing the participants’ recollection to take preference over accuracy.
- Outlining the narrative into three sections - beginning, middle, end - analyze what language is used to define the character and his turn toward crime as oppose to larger themes or theoretical understandings. The group should attempt to deduce from what is actually seen in the video—visual information takes precedent over personal interpretations.
- Finally, one member of the group reads aloud the different “chapters.” While read aloud, the group spontaneously creates an image by positioning themselves in different performance roles. This action can be produced for each section – beginning, middle, end – or shaped to capture the entire narrative holistically.
- As a group, observe closely and try to deduce embedded meaning hidden beneath the given narrative.
Where are the gaps in the information that is offered by the video segments? When are we explicitly told something about the character / storyline and when are we left to infer pieces of the narrative on our own? What meaning is found in these gaps? After all we are left with, what singular piece of information about the character is most important?
- Split the room so some are storytellers and others are audience.
- First teller begins a narrative based on a prompt (e.g. risk, conflict, terror, escape) while other tellers are outside of the room.
- After a designated length of time, the next teller enters the room.
- The first teller then repeats the last sentence or few words while the next teller listens carefully.
- Freely interpreting the narrative, he or she then continues the story.
- Continue the process with subsequent tellers until reaching an “end” to the narrative.
- Can also be executed with an audio recorder so that the entire group participates (reciting the story into the audio recorder as opposed to splitting up between tellers and listeners) and/or listens to the entire recording at the end.
Where did the narrative go? Was the story more or less resolved? Is there still cohesion to the narrative even though there were multiple tellers? How does it feel to have your portion of the story hijacked by someone else?
We pull apart narratives to read between the lines... to see what the story is attempting to portray for us and from there, what gaps remain—what we are left to interpret for ourselves. It is in these gaps that the real story is told.
This process is not about your guilt and innocence. This is about your awareness. I firmly believe that with knowledge and awareness – an understanding that meaning is bigger than all of us in the room –comes power. And with power one can choose to navigate life with different options, through different choices.