The Open Homes Workshop I attended at the Tampines Regional Library yesterday is one of the programmes organised by the National Arts Council for the Silver Arts, a festival that offers opportunities for seniors to share their stories that shape our collective memories. This practical workshop is based on the methodology of Open Homes, a theatre-in-the-home experience, first commissioned by the Singapore International Festival of the Arts in 2015.
The workshop leader is Jeffrey Tan Chye Leng, a theatre director , drama educator and arts producer.
This workshop focused on what Open Homes is, how to Open our Homes, how to tell stories about our homes and how to share with others. To start off, Jeffrey got us (the participants) to introduce ourselves and then play a game with him, a version of ‘blow-wind-blow’ (supposedly popular with children but which I’ve never come across). This was very interesting and set the right tone for the rest of the workshop – doing what we were comfortable with, with Jeffrey asking questions and leading us.
Yesterday’s workshop was the first compressed workshop in three hours; normally, there would be three rehearsals of three hours each for four shows so that the participants would gain more confidence interacting with people and go wider and deeper into the experience.
We were then shown a Trailer (2015) , a one-minute clip. Back then, 25 families took part, including a mixed-race couple and a couple who had an arranged marriage. There is a vulnerability in opening up your home to so many people and sharing the stories : how do we take the strangers and get them to be friends? How do we find the time? What is the story that we want to share? What does it take to present an Open Home? Next, we watched the Trailer for 2017.
Being OPEN means: an invitation to share stories that are meaningful to us, that will inspire others, to be engaging, with a vision that life must be better; there must be a reason to share certain things.
LISTENING means quick-thinking. For this exercise, we played a game called 1-2-3: we had to really listen for the groups and know what to ask in order to help clarify the story. The stories are all real; not fictitious, because life is too short.
ACCEPTANCE: If we don’t want others to judge us, we shouldn’t do the same to others. For this, we played a game called “Yes, let’s”, all about accepting an idea and agreeing to it.
IMAGINATION: A simple exercise – what if a chair is not a chair? Each of us came up with different ideas of what it could have been (eg an exercise bar, a ballet bar, a notebook/computer, a table, a piano…)
What story would we tell? Jeffrey listed five examples, and there was an activity/game for each one:
Story 1 – Story of your name (to learn about life, philosophy, vision and aim; having a different purpose in life and to play it forward; a sense of time being captured; feelings, acceptance and finding a way out; humour; twist in the story; intrigue; background; culture; decision-making; family relationships etc)
Story 2 – Memories of growing up, first job, friends; i.e. location of the story. For this, we had an exercise in drawing a map of our home and bringing the members of our small groups on a tour; here, we learn about similarities, differences and choices.
Story 3 – Highs and lows of life
Story 4 – Inspirations in your life
Story 5 – Story of your family, eg support
Due to time constraints, there was no game/exercise/activity for the third, fourth and fifth stories. Before the workshop came to a close, the participants shared their reflection on what they learnt and the one thing that they would take away. Among these are: we all have stories to tell, these could be challenging, relationships are important, it is an interesting as well as stimulating experience, it is good to have an opportunity to share experiences and learn and appreciate each other and make improvements.