Perception and Trust

Theatre Exercises for Intercultural Workshops
By Andreas Bachmair, Amsterdam, 29th January 2016

The following exercises are ideas for building an intercultural theatre workshops like the ones taking place in the framework of PHONE HOME.

1. Blindfolded conducted by your colleague
(Necessary material: a few scarves from molleton)

Blindfold your teammate. Make sure they can’t see anything. Let them get used to the situation. Ask them to open up their other four senses. Encourage them to encounter the space. The sighted person makes sure that all their attention is focused on the blindfolded one. The sighted person keeps a distance that enables
them to jump in if things are getting dangerous and make sure that their aura is not interfering with the experiment. The blindfolded person tries to move as normally as possible. They keep their arms/hands down and try to rather concentrate on their other senses. Change scarf after 10 – 15 minutes. Exchange impressions of the experience.

1.2. Move blindfolded to the sound of the city
(Necessary material: A scarf from Molton, a few prerecorded sounds)

The group sits in a circle on the ground. Diameter +/- 7 meters if possible. One participant lies blindfolded on his/her back. Give him/her time to get used to the situation. Switch the prerecorded sound on. Could be the atmosphere of a shopping mall, pedestrian area, restaurant, recording of the Eisbach [a little brook in the Englischer Garten], park etc.* Play the prerecorded sounds and ask the blindfolded person in the middle to listen to it and slowly translate it into movement. To take more risk and make the movements bigger. IMPORTANT: Every movement has its quality and every movement has its beauty. Trust in your impulse and forget about the aspect of doing something beautiful. The circle is your fence. If you touch the fence you swap with the one you touched.

*[This could be an exercise in itself. Ask the participants to record sounds of the city in team of two. This means going to specific places in town to take the recordings. One is the blindfolded director listening to the live soundscape. The other the technician that records the sounds for him/her.]

2. Close your eyes and fall as a plank
(Needs a group of 8 participants miminum)

Have the group stand in a circle. Everybody hold their hands in front of their chests. The inside diameter of this circle of hands is only 50 cm. One participant stands in the middle with closed eyes. His/her body is stiff as a plank. The one in the middle gets out of balance and is gently bounced back by the hands of the other standing in the circle. If the situation feels comfortable, the whole group can take a small step back to widen the diameter. Widen the diameter as far the group can carry the person and the one in the middle feels comfortable.

3. Run blind into the arms of the other
(Needs an empty space with a length of 7-10 meters)

One half of the group stands on one side of the room in a line. On the other side of the room, you have the “catchers” waiting within two meters from the wall and two people in the middle correcting your course if necessary. The group runs one by one with closed eyes into the arms of the other. Start slow but definitely try to speed it up to maximum speed. Rotate with the catchers.

4. Jump into the arms of the other
(Steady chair at least a group of 9 people)

a. Four participants stand next to each other, facing four partners opposite themselves. They all have their arms stretched out in front of them, thus forming a “carpet”. They position themselves in front of the chair. One person secures the chair. One steps on the chair making his/her body stiff as a plank and lets him-/herself fall into the carpet of arms. Rotate with the catchers.

b. If the group is used to the technique and weight of the people you can skip the chair and practice the same exercise with a run-up and jump into the catchers’ arms.

5. Zig Zag Boing
(In case you don’t know this one yet)

The group forms a circle with biggest possible diameter. In the beginning you have three options to transport an impulse. Take both hands to send the impulse to the next player. Use your body centre to stay low and grounded. The sound of your voice comes from your centre, too. Look at the one you send the impulse to. 1. Make the decision. 2. Get into action.

Zig: Send the impulse to the one right or left next to you
Zag: Send the impulse through the circle to someone on the other side
Boing: Block the impulse and send it back by putting the forearm and hand in front of your face.

Once the movement is working try to speed up. Every time one makes a mistake, he or she has to leave the circle, the last two persons standing win the round.

[Make it more complicated by inventing other movement and sounds. With focus and the option that one can catch the impulse.]

6. Throwing things to each other

Start with a circle and throwing things to each other. Could be tennis ball aswell as socks, plastic bottles etc. Start with one item and add another as the group is able to manage it. Brake up the circle and walk to the space. Throw the items to each other while walking through the space. Sharpen the awareness of the three steps:
1. take focus
2. make contact
3. throw the item

6.1. Throw imaginary things to each other

Same setup as exercise 6. This time you have to manifest an object in your hand. Is it big – small, heavy – light, bouncing – fragile, slippery – concrete etc. When caught, the object can stay what it was when thrown or can change its quality while flying into somebody else’s hands.

7. Your private museum of the five senses
1. Seeing, 2. Hearing, 3. Smelling, 4. Tasting, 5. Touching

Ask the participant to think about what objects, sounds, smells and tastes represent them. Their choices could be literal, abstract or symbolic, e.g. the spices of their home country, they use to cook with. Objects that are precious to them. Objects that translate an inner state. Same with sounds: Could be their favourite music as well as noises the body or the outside world makes.

Ask the participant to choose an arrangement/space/corner/area in or around the building to present their items.

Ask them to make a ritual out of the exhibit items. To think of an order to present them and also how they will be presented. For example, one participant could be the one trying out and become the performer for the others. Or certain senses could be given to certain people in the group.

7.1. A next step could be to choose domestic objects, taste and smells from the workshop area. Could be from outside. That the participant can relate to.