“When Claire asked me to run a story making session which focused on being curious, I jumped at the chance. Curiosity, for me, is the corner stone of creativity – good storymakers don’t just passively accept but challenge. They constantly ask who, how and, most importantly why. As a performer, director and writer, I learnt my storymaking craft in rehearsal rooms and drama studios- with not a desk or computer in sight. It was in these empty rooms, with nothing but our bodies, empty space and a props box that I began to make stories” writes performer and director, Katy Balfour.
“I chose to focus my session on random stimuli – photos, pictures and people that can help us create stories, characters and worlds. Nothing is as intimidating as the empty page. Yet in a rehearsal room the empty page doesn’t exist, I suppose our equivalent is an empty room…. but even an empty room can tell, begin or inspire a story.
First I asked the group to look at an unoccupied part of the room; to imagine a photograph of what they see to be hung in a gallery. What would the picture be titled? What emotions and feelings does it evoke? Where is the mystery in the picture? Where is the secret? Where is the power? Next someone stood in the picture: how did that transform it? Who was that person? Where were they? How had the emotion and energy of the picture changed? With each new body that entered the space, a new story emerged in the minds of those who were viewing it. We weren’t intentionally creating the stories that people saw, it was the audience who made the story not the people in the picture. Our brains want to make sense of the things it sees, to construct and order it so that has structure and meaning. Regardless of whether the stimulus intends it or not, or brains want to make stories.
The second exercise focused on some random stimuli that the group had been given earlier – a variety of odd props and objects selected to provide starting points to inspire them. The key part of this exercise was about encouraging curiosity, to prompt the participants to to ask questions until characters, environments, motivations and stories slowly emerge.
We asked of the object: Where does it live? Where has it been?How did it get there?Who owned it? What does that person love? What do they long for? What are they ashamed of? These questions help to create worlds and characters that have depth and encourage us as creatives to take ourselves on imaginary journeys.