global impro 10 - the 6 part story

May 23 2019

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: GII

10.) Koray Bülent Tarhan and Tolga Erdoğan's 6 part story approach to co-created story making

This blog is the tenth in a series of blogs, charting my experience as a Theatre Bristol agent at the Global Improvisation Initiative Symposium, May 2019. If you'd like to get a little context, start here. Otherwise, welcome to my reflections on a 6 part story experiment. 

Actor, Koray Tarhan, and psychologist, Tolga Erdoğan, combined their works on the intersection point of improv between the BASIC Ph model (for understanding coping and resilience) and the 6-Part Story Method (6PSM), created by Israeli Psychologist Mooli Lahad, and used to help individuals in therapy access personal stories. This performance was a demonstration of the techniques Tarhan and Erdogan had developed. [adapted from 2017 GII programme]

This improvisation format has:

  • 1 facilitator / conductor

  • 1 visual artist

  • 3 improvisers

  • usually 1 musician (but not on this night)

Using Mooli Lehad's 6 part story format, Koray asked a visual artist to draw a series of pictures, one at a time:

  1. a character
  2. a place
  3. an obstacle 
  4. a helpful character
  5. what happens next?
  6. The ending

These pictures were each interpreted by different members of the audience, with Koray facilitating, to make sure the vital story ingredients of intention, action, conflict and resolution were being included in their imaginings. 

Once a chunk of story had been described, three improvisers played out the scene, embellishing with their own nuances. 

Our story was simple, our main character, Barbara worked in a nail bar, but dreamed of a holiday. She couldn't go because her cat was pregnant and her mum was ill. Her aunt offered to take care of mum and the cat. The flat caught on fire and everybody died apart from Barbara.

Koray spoke of performing this show format in different places around the world. He explained how there are different cultural norms in different places which surface through these stories. For instance, in some parts of the world, the fantasy is usually about bettering oneself whereas other parts of the world like to see the protagonist getting away from their mundane life. In some countries, the helper is a member of the family, in others, they are someone employed in a helping role. 

Like we discussed in the panel on racism in impro, each individual carries their life experience with them – and it's this that we draw on, when we dip into our unconscious to tell the next part of the story. So if you have a whole audience made up of people from the same place, the assumption is, they will all share the same cultural norms and the story will be representative of their collective hopes and fears.

Thinking back to Gunter's session on how improvised material surfaces, he named three ways; 1.) chance 2) unconscious 3.) social emergence. He was considering social emergence as involving only the players of the game and not considering the impact of the audience on the material that emerged. I guess by Koray asking the audience to contribute to the story, we all became players of the game, so perhaps we were all involved in the social emergence of the material?

I was the one who chose the ending of the story and I'm interested in where that impulse came from, to plunge our protagonist into a new story, as her whole life burns down around her. At the time, the ending just spilled out of "nowhere". Here are some reflections as to where I think it might have come from:

1.) On a personal level - I can see that I'm cutting ties and burning bridges with my past to make way for the future. It's painful but necessary for growth.

2.) On a conference level - in the panel discussion, we'd just been talking about The Future, Phelim McDermott had made the invitation for us to 'burn down' the format of the panel sitting on high and the 'audience' down below. We'd worked together to create a more inclusive space which was perhaps the gateway for the heart talk that followed. To me, it felt like people stepped out of their roles and spoke of their hopes and fears and dreams. Together we 'burned down' the conference, making way for a more authentic style of communication.

3.) On a global level - climate change is causing huge disaster, war is raging and fascists are gaining power. The world is literally on fire. And we are all the protagonist, standing amongst the fire, trying to work out what to do next.

The impulse could have come from any of those sources or more, I wasn't aware of what I was tapping into as I spoke, but this reflection allows me to connect with all those themes and sit with the feelings that come up around them.

I asked Koray if he thought it was possible that in choosing the ending, I was picking up on the conference culture, but he said we were not representative of a society, as we'd only been together for 2 days. But in my experience, a group can form in 2 days, and what emerges from an individual's subconscious can be representative of the group's psyche, even if the group is only 2 days old.

It seems I have found myself another research avenue- the theme of 'group mind' has come up again and again and again and again and again for me in this writing! I'm fascinated with how the audience's collective psyche can effect the improvised material that arises; whether they are asked for input or not.

With these thoughts all whirling around my head, I sent myself to bed.

The next day promised a change in rhythm, as the beginning of two days of Open Space.

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