Example 2: A Nine-Cycle Sequence.
Four of us (Russell Bass, Tom Linney, Karen McLellan and I) ran this sequence in 1969, at a ten-day conference involving one thousand people. It was a pre-planned workshop, one among many, and attracted about thirty players. We had three rooms at our disposal. The sequence involved seven sessions, one unplanned, over four days; and the playing-time of the formal parts took 22 hours. The cycles are (4-8), (9, 12-16), (17-18), (20-23), (24-27), (29-32), (32-4, incomplete), (35-37), and (39-43).
The gamekeepers planned for two days.
In addition to advertising the workshop on the workshop board, the gamekeepers invited a number of players privately, with whom they had consulted in choosing the subject.
(Day 1, 3-6:15++ p.m.)
3. General context (15 min.)
4. Content context (35 min.)
A formal talk by one gamekeeper on the Taoist polarities, with attention on aggression and the dynamics of cooperation; followed by brief testimony by the other three.
5. Reaction and readout (50 min.)
6. Context (5 min.)
7. Sexual Mirrors (30 min.)
Twice, with homo- and hetero-sexual pairs.
8. Small group discussion (45 min.)
Each gamekeeper tended a mixed group of eight players in open-interview process, loosely run -- not simply to have small groups, but because the energies raised in (5) and (7) were too much to contain in larger groups.
9. Evaluation and planning (20 min.)
The full group met to arrange times and places for later sessions, in open-interview process. The players decided they wanted to continue phase (8).
10. Evaluation and planning by gamekeepers
At night, for an hour or so. Phases (5) and (8) had run long, and the decision in (9) forced modification of our sequence plan. We wondered whether the next day's play could be contained within the revised plan.
11. Private digestion
Mostly alone; some informal interaction among players.
(Day 2, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)
12. Context (3 min.)
13. Warm-up (15 min.)
Directed body exercise for the whole group, of a neutral nature.
14. Small group discussion (75 min.)
Same groups as (8). Discussion had too much energy to cut off after the planned half-hour, so gamekeepers let it run on, had a huddle, and announced an unscheduled session in the afternoon for those who could make it.
(2 to 5 p.m.)
15. Context (3 min.)
16. Discussion (2 hours)
A loose open-interview process in which the gamekeepers participated as equals with minimal formal gamekeeping. Almost everybody attended.
17. Context (10 min.)
This grew out of the closure of (16). Gamekeepers explained the rationale of the next phase, divided the group up, and went off with subgroups to explain the games.
18. Cooperation games (45 mins.)
Each gamekeeper picked a game to begin: Circle of Sound; Machine, in which one player mimes a part performing a repeated motion, a second creates a motion to integrate with his, and so on till the full group is joined in an integral motion; Catch, in which players throw an imaginary ball around their circle, each having the option to change its size and weight; and so on. Then each group played Amoeba, in which the players form a single mass of flesh whose sole constraint is to stay unbroken and be smooth in its motion; and as separate groups came in contact they merge into a puddled whole. This physical metaphor to reunify a group's energy may seem corny, but it often works powerfully. When the large amoeba exhausted its energy, the gamekeepers ended the session without discussion.
19. Evaluation and planning by gamekeepers
During dinner, we decided to resume scheduled work, modifying its design.
(7 p.m. to 1 a.m.)
20. Context (15 min.)
Overview of the session; reflective remarks by players on the process of (18); context for the next phase.
21. Sexual animals (30 min.)
A short version of the full game. Wary of the group's energies, gamekeepers cut the third phase short before the interaction got really heavy.
22. Large group discussion (35 min.)
Open-interview process, tightly run. Players' reactions to each other's testimony were reserved for (23).
23. Small group discussion (45 min.)
Players sorted themselves into three groups to continue this, based on their interactions in (21).
24. Context (10 min.)
In full group, dividing it up; and then in the sub-groups.
25. Theater preparation (75 min.)
The players divided into four groups, two of each sex; each prepared a piece of theater representing a conflicted aspect of its sexuality. (Half an hour to decide theme, the rest to create and rehearse.)
26. Reciprocal theater (30 min.)
In two separate arenas, male and female groups met to present their skits to each other.
27. Discussion (2 hours)
The two groups, now merged and mixed-gender, remained separate from each other. Within each, the discussion followed the format of Example 1, phases 13-14. Each group disbanded in its own time, without rejoining the other.
28. Evaluation and planning by gamekeepers
We decided to scrap our plan and improvise, beginning with (30,31).
(Day 3, 1 to 7 p.m.)
29. Context (10 min.)
Gamekeepers announced and explained the decision of (28).
30. Theater (15 min.)
One of the women's groups had come up with a very rich little drama in (25) dealing with aggression. We asked them to present it to the whole group.
31. Discussion (45 min.)
As in (16).
32. Evaluation and planning (10 min.)
The players decided that they wanted to continue this track of inquiry.
33. Aggression games (20 min.)
First we played Tug-of-War, the men against the women; and then broke down into male/female pairs to play Slap Hands, leaving each pair free to choose between the version in which one's hands are placed palms down over the other's palms-up, who tries to slap them, and vice versa; and the version in which they face each other at arm's length and slap hands to unbalance each other. These games were chosen both for content relevance, and because they offered simple forms to work off lots of physical energy without endangering anyone.
34. Small-group discussions (2 hours)
Four mixed groups of eight persons each, because the cumulative energy by then was too wild to handle in larger groups. It had kept the small ones gong this long, and showed little signs of dissipating.
35. Fishbowl discussion (50 min.)
When the gamekeepers re-gathered the full group, there was a revolt. In each small group, one to three payers had felt oppressed and frustrated by the emphasis on aggressive nature, and had played (33) reluctantly and non-aggressively. After (34), their feelings were at the bursting-point, and when they got together in the large they demanded to be heard out in silence. We sat in fishbowl while the "non-aggressives" vented their feelings and thoughts, furiously.
36. Open discussion and psychodrama (90 min.)
Many players felt the "non-aggressives'" fishbowl itself, and what was expressed in it, to be aggressive and violent; and let them know it. The gamekeepers struggled to keep some semblance going of the courtesies of open process, after awhile being successful in this -- with the important aid of some players, for by now their own authority over process was in question and insufficient. Finally talk firmed into testament and into discussion about passive aggression, and eventually focused down to fishbowl around the leader of the non-aggressives and a gamekeeper, both male, the former insisting, in effect, "you can't make me get aggressive with my anger," scarlet with fury. The tension between the two incarnated the energy of the whole group, massive and choked. Weighing the consequences if it were allowed to spin off individually without resolution, and torn by his own mixed impulses as player, the gamekeeper slapped the other once, twice, until he broke and punched the gamekeeper in the jaw. The tension was but half-broken, for he insisted that the gamekeeper reciprocate, and would not accept a pulled punch. This was a brotherly courtesy; and also a vengeful victory; and also a compassionate teaching, forcing the gamekeeper -- himself rather a passive-aggressive sort -- to learn through an identical experience. After this ritual was over, they spoke as nakedly as they could about their feelings and embraced, with some tears. By now, after six hours, everyone was a bit punched out, and we disbanded the formal group.
(7 to 12 p.m.)
37. Informal interaction and therapy
You can well imagine. The group was by now so densely self-absorbed that the surrounding whirl of the conference might have been waves on an island. In twos and fives, talk and touching continued till exhaustion.
38. Evaluation and planning by gamekeepers
With one short session left before the conference plenary sessions began, we tried to dope out what to do, checking informally with some of the players.
(Day 4, 10 to 12:30 a.m.)
39. Context and decision (15 min.)
Gamekeepers offered their perceptions - that the learning was personal and open-ended and would continue; that nothing was or could be "solved"; that after (37), the total experience had accumulated definite form and had come to a cusp; and that some evaluation would be worthwhile if no other pressing business surfaced - and asked for response. The players agreed, perhaps from exhaustion.
40-42. Evaluation (105 minutes)
The women and men met separately for 45 minutes to evaluate their learning through the whole sequence, in open-circle process. Representatives of each gender summarized their evaluation and feeling to the other, as all met together. In the final 45 minutes, we held open-circle evaluation of the process of the enire sequence.
43. Closing ritual (20 min.)
One gamekeeper read a long poem about aspects of personhood and community, including anget, which spoke powerfully to participants' feelings. It ended with a series of lines repeated in turn by the men and the women; the final two, repeated by all together, were: "I have a name no one has spoken,/ we have a name no one has spoken." The group dispersed in silence, having reached an open closure.
44. Evaluation by gamekeepers
Into the wee hours, and subsequently.
This was a fairly freely structured sequence within a closed time frame, open to direct control of its process (9, 35-37) and direction of inquiry (32) by the players, and in general responsive to their states of mind and of collective energy (8, 10, 14, 17, 19, 21, 28, 34-39). As contrasted with example 3, it was an open and wandering investigation. The energies raised by the process of inquiry were considerable, requiring much effort and discipline to gamekeep even with improvised form, and at times taxing the gamekeepers’ ability to retain their perspective. Though the subject was chosen in consultation with some of the players, the conference context curtailed this process and left the gamekeepers with total responsibility for an initial plan; and the intensity of the sequence’s energy and the time limitations made impossible any organized work with the players on the ongoing design process. Such circumstances test gamekeepers’ ability to improvise.
The kinds of progressions mentioned in the previous example’s commentary are present in this sequence, more complexly. Important also is the frequent alternation between work in small groups and in the full group. This alternation is not arbitrary but dynamic, as can be seen in the progression (7, 8, 14, 16, 18); note the different ways the dynamic proceeds after the games (7) and (21) and also within (33-35). There was a natural grouping into men and women, which made the small-group/ large-group alternation scheme richer, and may have been under-used.
Again the balance of modes is worth noting. Small-group play took up 10 hours, large-group play took 12 hours. Discussion took up 14.5 hours, body play 3.75 hours, and additional theater play 1.5 hours. Attention to process (exclusive of gamekeepers’ private work) took 3.7 hours – that is, about a sixth of the time, as in the first example.