Eye-contact and Storyjams

Eye-contact means intimacy.

Intimacy means empathy, trust, and physical closeness.  It means kindred spirits, and like minds.

Sitting around that shared pool of vivid dream requires these things.

I stand at the end of a lineage of theater improv education that runs from Viola Spolin, to her son Paul Sills, to Adrienne Flagg, to Lisa Wells, to myself. In the tradition I’ve inherited, we place a high value on the power of eye-contact to create intimacy, and to connect to intuition.

I’ve thought a lot about this, knowing that according to Jean Liedloff, author of the Continuum Concept, indigenous children grow up healthier because their mothers and fathers give them an ‘in-arms’ phase, marked by ongoing skin-to-skin touch, and extensive eye-contact. Yep. The ol’ baby gazing thing.

Some therapists who work according to the ‘attachment’ parenting paradigm,  actually recapitulate this phase of infacy, for children (foster or adopted) who didn’t experience with their parents.

To me, this means that eye-contact takes us back to primal places of trust and bonding,  and explains why, when used in the context of theater games, it can create such powerful one-mindedness and connections.

This doesn’t mean that during a storyjam session we gaze into each other’s eyes – rather, it means that we have warmed up with improvisational and intuition games that have required extensive eye-contact to get us to a one-minded place.

Then, once we start the actual storytelling part of the storyjam session, we just do what we do. We just collaborate on story, from that place we’ve all come to together.

I don’t have any advice about this as of yet for storyjammers out there, but I wanted to touch on it as I continue to develop for myself how to apply theater games to create deep and rich storyjamming.

Written by Willem