The StoryBox project – field report, Zichron Yaakov Israel, part four

By Limor Shiponi

By now we have a bunch of 15 raw stories. Some of them need polishing; others are looking for a sufficient ending. Since we knew that this time we will have only one hour to work with the kids, we decided to do two things – find a creative expression that will travel together with the stories and do some kind of warm-up on the way to actually telling the stories to others. Like in standing in front of other people and talking…

Fear is what I wanted to avoid. A little fear can turn into excitement so that is where I was aiming at. I gathered four very basic exercises and grabbed my large red spaghetti spoon. When I met Ilan he was concerned about splitting the class. His colleague didn’t come to school so he had no one to send the kids who do not participate in the project to. He was preparing some kind of alternative activity he would lead while I’m working with the rest but still was uncomfortable with “the authorities”. We decided to invite them all in and play it by ear.

8:15 AM is not a pretty site when you are 14…. They looked as if they were shoveling coal for the entire night. Action and energy were required, “ok, push all the tables to the wall, bring your chairs in and let’s sit in a circle!” they actually did it 🙂 Some of the kids who are not part of the project looked concerned, “don’t worry,” Ilan said, “you can take part, you are invited.” I told them we are going to warm up to the possibility of telling a story – without telling one today, just preparing. Holding on to the spaghetti spoon I looked at the kid sitting next to me in the eye, asked for his name and said, “here Amit, and when you grab the spoon you need to look at me and say thank you Limor. Then you pass it on the same way, with the same text, switching names and looking at each other while the interaction takes place. Naturally.”

The first few had great difficulty meeting eyes. But as we proceeded they managed to keep it with occasional giggles. I asked them how it was. They realized that looking at a person for a short interaction was not a habit most of them were acquainted with – they are not used to paying attention this way, it felt embarrassing. I asked them to go for a second round aiming to succeed as a group. The flow and attention were their mutual responsibility which is the case in storytelling. No power game, no begging for attention. They did it very well this time; they too could sense the slight shiver which appears in the presence of truth.

The second exercise went a different way, inspired by the “Academy Award Acceptance Speech” from Raising Voices by Judy Sima and Kevin Cordy. “ze grrande spaghetti prize” was granted to each and every one of them, young chefs who participated in “the younge chefe natsionale competitione.” I did the commentary announcing their wins by name and what we wanted to see was their reaction to the announcement. No words, just a single gesture that will make us understand what they feel receiving such a prestigious award. It was fun and Ilan took it slightly further demonstrating what a clear gesture is so they could be more accurate and effective.

The third exercise touched the embarrassment issue again. I presume you all know the exercise where the person comes over to the storytelling space, takes it with intention, stands in front of the audience and keeps standing there while receiving applause. They were really ok there. Then we spoke about it a little and that was enough for this part.

Creative expression was our second issue. Since all the class was there and participated, we had the opportunity to bring the “outsiders” back into the story. We asked them to take part in the creative idea, since it will require a lot of work. Nobody resisted. “Storytelling is the main creative expression form in this project,” I said, “but doing some more would be nice since it can travel.” They had many ideas – pictures, video, play, short book, comics, PPT, statue, music & song, video clip. We asked them to think where they could contribute the most and wrote down their names accordingly.

Through Facebook chat with Nathalie Jendly I realized there was stuff in the box we missed, some of it which she hoped will be continued by others. We didn’t really get to see all of it. Ilan felt he wanted to take some time with the box and its stories, without his students. So we are going to meet and look through all the material.
It might be a good idea to leave a clear message for the next story-keeper about things you want them to relate to. Next time we are going to return to their stories.

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