The weekend of July 12-13 marked the first of EFLI's retreats of the summer, and it was a great success! Held at Bailey Farms in Ossining, NY, with 22 Activating Leadership participants in attendance, the weekend was full of new and old connections, reflections, exploration, and love.
The first day at Bailey Farms started off with Theatre of the Oppressed games and artworks. Participants had already formed groups while in Irvington to share stories about experiences in which each person felt as if she were denied something that she needed because of who she is. While each story was initially a personal story that was shared, participants then discussed which story they as a group felt a connection to before choosing and crafting a story to be a group story. On Saturday, Katie tasked participants with the mission of creating three separate creative representations of their stories: a 3-D piece, a 2-D piece, and a written piece. Once completed, a “gallery walk” took place, with girls speaking both objectively and subjectively about what they saw in each work of art. In the next step of the creative process, groups then put together silent skits for “Theatre for the Deaf” and performed them for the rest of the participants. The audience was asked what was clear from the skit and what confused them, and that feedback was used to create a skit that included speaking. Once those were performed and feedback was given, we broke for a delicious Italian lunch.
That afternoon we were joined by Alanna and Melissa for workshops. Alanna’s story-telling workshop was focused on dramatic writing, and in order to open up the participants’ minds and voices, Jojo, the fellow working with Alanna, ran a story-telling energizer in which one participant got in the middle of a circle to tell the story, but could be tapped out at anytime by another girl who wanted to continue the story. Once “The End” was spoken, participants went off by themselves to write either a monologue or a dialogue for the stories they have been working on for the past week. Once done writing, the girls read their work out loud and got feedback from their peers. Melissa's workshop started with all the participants meditating before doing some writing about heritage and what feeds us metaphorically. Each participant wrote about where they come from, and then made a dance piece out of that writing. The writing and the dancing were then shared with the group.
Dinner on Saturday was Build-Your-Own-Burrito, prepared communally (under the guidance of Heidi). We shared a delicious meal or burritos, rice, vegetables and, of course, guacamole. After dinner, it was time for evening activities. The first activity was “The Sensitivity Line,” in which five girls got up at a time, four with their backs to the audience and one facing front. At any time another girl could “tap out” the participant facing the audience by turning around themselves. Participants were asked to tell a story about themselves or a story that related to the chosen theme of “what was a turning point in your life?” It is amazing how incredibly supportive and loving the girls in our July session of Activating Leadership are, and how able they all are to hold each other and themselves while sharing important moments in their lives. One last game was played before bed: Alligators in the Water. Participants were tasked with getting across “the river” (the room) using only 6 “logs” (pieces of paper). It sounds simple enough, but throw in one girl blindfolded, two girls bound together in three-legged-race style, and facilitators and fellows ready to snatch up any logs left unattended, and it became much harder. In the end it was hard to tell who won, but everyone had fun.
Sunday began with yoga in the attic space with Katherine, who worked with us for an hour on opening up our bodies and minds to the day ahead of us. She also made the announcement that the time spent between breakfast and lunch would be in silence. The time was to be used to reflect and to think, to be in nature, to draw, to explore. Participants admitted that they were nervous about having to be silent for two and a half hours, but once the silence was broken they spoke of how calm they felt, how they wish it could have lasted longer, and how different that experience was.
After lunch (thanks for grilling, Aimee!), participants moved into their second workshops with Mario and Heather. Mario took his participants into the attic space, and, using a slow shutter speed and colored lights, created what he calls “Painting With Lights.” The photographs show each participant moving through space in the same shot, drawing pictures or words with lights she holds in her hands. Heather began her workshop by teaching her participants how to write their name in Arabic, beautiful and flowing in its written form. After warming up their bodies, Heather reviewed dance moves learned the previous week with the girls and taught them some new moves, including a chest roll and hip circles. For the last fifteen minutes, participants worked on choreography that will be presented as part of their performance at the closing ceremony!