Interviewing is the tool I generally use as a textual source for my shows. There are many ways we can interview each other depending on the specific reason. An interview can last more than an hour. In that case, it is necessary to record and transcribe it afterwards. This is not what we are going to do now. The following interview is quite short and is subject to certain rules.
Tell the participants to find a place in the room in couples. They should be distant enough from other couples so as not to disturb them. They need to sit comfortably on the floor to talk to each other. Members of the couples will interview each other. Here are the rules: There is only one question for each interviewer to ask: “What was an important change in your life?” The same question for everybody. The interviewer asks this question at the beginning and the other person has seven minutes to answer. The interviewer just listens, there is no dialogue. He/she is only allowed to ask additional questions if the answer is too brief. All the words the listener hears should be stored only in his/her memory. The interviewer is not allowed to take notes. You need to get your stopwatch and tell them when to start. They must start at once and after seven minutes you will say “Stop”. Let’s go.
After seven minutes participants switch roles within couples. Tell them to start again on your mark and by asking the same question. After seven minutes, you say “Stop”.
2. The author and the record player
Ask the couples to stand up and invite them to the circle. You will explain a new step to them:
They will continue within the same couples. This time the interviewer will be in the role of a “record player” and retell the story he/she has just listened to using first-person language. The “record player” will be standing in front of the author of the story.
He/she cannot start without a clear signal from the author. The signal is a tap on the shoulder of the “record player”.
Since the author is standing behind the “record player”, he/she is just listening. This is not a dialogue. Partners do not look at each other or make eye contact. The “record player” tells the story he/she has just heard as if it is his/her story, while the author behind him/her is just listening. The author is allowed to pause the record player with a tap on his/her shoulder whenever he/she wants to correct him/her, add something to the story being retold, or just to make a pause.
Now let’s try it. Tell all the couples to find a place in the room. They will do this exercise only to each other, not to the others in the room or to you. Again, all couples start at the same time. If any of the couples finishes earlier than the others, they need to stay silent until everybody is done. When they finish, they will switch roles.
After both rounds, give time for short feedback within couples. Then bring the participants together and ask them to share what they have discovered.
What we are exploring:
- Ability to listen actively
- Memory capacity
- Respect for each other
- Respect for the privacy of the story
- Ethical issues when working with the authentic stories of the participants
- Working in couples together with the others, needing to find the right level of the voice in a way that partners can hear each other without disturbing the others
- Role of the audience
- Obstacle: Being allowed to speak only when you get a signal; not being allowed to respond directly or to create a dialogue
3. The record player on stage
Ask which couple wants to go on the stage and present their work to the others. State that the level of their voices, the way they speak, the quality of their communication must remain the same. In this exercise, applying the qualities they discovered together is more important than the audience understanding each word they say. Underline that there are no mistakes, since they will be inviting the audience into their own game. The first couple goes on to the stage and chooses a spot together. They can even turn their back to the audience, but emphasize that they must be constantly aware that they are being watched. The others will be watching with full attention. In this way, the couple experiences being exposed to the audience for the first time. The rules of the game keep performers focused. After the initial round, they will switch the roles as the author and the record player. When the couple completes both rounds, ask another couple to go on to the stage until all of them experience it. When everybody is done, invite all of them to the circle and ask them about their experiences and discoveries regarding both performing and watching.
What we are exploring:
- Extreme listening
- How our memory works when repeating a text
- Being part of someone else’s story
- Being on stage
- Interrupting the speaker in unexpected moments
- Obstacle: Keeping the same qualities of the game under totally new conditions
4. Giving the story back to its author
After the participants experience sharing the story in pairs and giving feedback about this process, we can proceed to the next step.
They will continue to work in the same pairs. Ask the couples to find a place in the room again. This time they will have a different task. During this exercise, each partner will be taking notes, so they need a notebook.
Now the “record player” tells the most striking points of the author story’s, while the author carefully listens to them and takes notes about what in their own story was most significant for their partner. Together they go through what they heard during the game The author and the record player and now the record player reveals their actual role as an active listener and talks about what struck them most and why they remember that part the best. They can state the breaks in the story, the emotionally touching parts, and/or things that the story reminded them of. They can talk about anything that the story evoked. While the listener is doing this, the author of the story takes notes about this new context that their story gains. The author becomes the owner of the story again, but of one that has been transformed, reconstructed based on the listener’s perception. When they finish, they will switch roles.
This exercise is not limited in time. The important point for the authors of the story is to look at their story from a distance and see it from another point of view, one that is often surprising.
The notes that the author takes during this exercise can further serve to structure the story for the emerging production. Therefore, each member of the pair becomes the dramaturg of the other’s story. Now both become the co-owners of the story through this process of giving and receiving.
What we are exploring:
- Emotional counterparts of a memory
- Re-structuring your story based on your partner’s memory
- Obstacle: Letting go of your story and trusting it with somebody else who will change it in unexpected ways
5. The breathing battle game
As a result of experiencing the record player game several times, participants know that specific parts of someone else’s story stay in their memory. Stating this, you invite three participants to the stage, regardless of which couple they worked in. Tell them to position themselves facing the audience and next to each other, in a way that their shoulders lightly touch each other. In this game, they are allowed to speak only the words from their partners’ stories which they remember from the record player game. But this time they are in a “battle” to speak, so they are allowed to speak only at moments when they hear a pause in someone else’s stream of words. This pause can be to breathe or because of some other reason. When there is a pause, any of them will jump in with their story and speak as much and long as possible until they too need to make a pause. At this moment, one of the others will jump in. All of them struggle to finish their stories. If they get stuck, they are allowed to repeat one word or sentence to keep speaking rather than to make a pause. Emphasize that there is no time to be polite. If they miss their opportunity to speak, someone else will take it!
At the beginning people are generally a bit slow until they fully understand the rules of the game. Give them enough time to start having fun and enjoying the game. When they are done, ask another three to go on the stage. Those who just finished the exercise take their place in the audience. When all the participants complete the exercise, invite them for general feedback in the circle.
What we are exploring:
- Our ability to react
- The role of our memory
- Working with listening
- New connections between texts and new meanings
- Discovering the common theme in stories
- Obstacle: Being allowed to speak when you get the opportunity (when no one else is speaking) with the goal of finishing the story