Get Storied

It is done!

We just concluded “Get Storied” (Storytelling and education), a week long training course co-funded by the European Erasmus+ programme, which took place in our self-managed hostel in Sermugnano. I was very happy to go back to that place, to which I am connected by so many memories, and that is able to create immediately a strong sense of community,  inspiration, calm and reflection. My expectations for the course were very high.

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Sermugnano really is a place with a special magic of its own.

The idea has been creatively (and corageously) put together by our Mafalda,

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Here expressing her best wishes for the future.

and it was an experiment in many ways. We had the privilege of working between friends,

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Michele and Francesco look very satisfied about our garden work, before the arrival of the group.

 in a very familiary and magic place, but the programme was running for the first time. Would it be a success? Would we get lost in our hopeless nerdiness abundance of ideas, and fail to deliver a coherent programme?

There was only one way to find out. Dive into it!

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This was our brainstorming about the programme flow. It’s definitive, but I love the “work in progress” feeling of it.

While the group was still on its way, we worked to iron out the last details of the programme, and our story was (well – almost) ready to be told. We decided to inspire the whole programme to the “Hero’s Journey” narrative (what better place than a course on storytelling, after all?), and to make it evident from the first day. We didn’t want to follow a linear structure, and give to each session a slot. Instead, we went for a circular structure, and a much more organic flow. With pictures and no (evident) time frame.

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And this is how it translated into the presented programme. It follows very closely the Monomyth structure.

We started off really with one of our favourites! A storytellers’ bonfire was the perfect way to meet everybody and create a special atmosphere for sharing and connection. It was a lovely evening, full of stories that were provoking, fun, touching and inspiring.

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Probably there isn’t a better way to “arrive” to a week course.

From there, we knew we were on the right track. We managed to involve once more our dear friend Vania Castelfranchi for a theatre workshop involving team building, personal development, archetypes of stories and character creation.

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With an impressive variety of tools and exercises, we could explore roles, personality, archetypes and the meaning of theatre, and art.

The deep humanity, the passion Vania puts in his work, the contagious enthusiasm he shows, are simply impossible to resist. The insights he shared with the group reached so deep, that “As Vania Said” (= AVS) became one of our favourite quotes for the whole week.

We are grateful to have had him with us, if only for one day. We will meet again, brave travelling poet. Feel free to visit the page of his theatre group at http://www.ygramul.net/teatroygramul/ygramul.html and to follow his activities.

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Plus, Vania is a magician. His ability to connect and create a positive group feeling goes beyond words.

How to follow after that? The day after, after a reflection on who (and what) is a hero and what are our favourite role models

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And in fact, please notice the name “Vania” appeared somehow in the list of Our Heroes, somewhere between Indiana Jones and Gandhi. Well done!

we went out for a deeply experiential phase. Reflecting on how our personal story started, and possibly what is our Sacred Wound, the episode that gives us the motivation to get up in the morning and share our stories. The place and the connection with nature helped a lot of course.

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Giota is immersed in her reflective process, and really seems a connection between the earth and that impressive sky.

And after that, we challenged the group to spend the night out in the nature. Following the tradition of “Solo walks”, we left the hostel in the afternoon to spend at least part of the night in the woods of the valley.

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Here is the group ready for departure for the night. No cats were harmed in the process.

Thresholds were crossed and promises were made. While we were descending to the “extraordinary world”, people developed more and more reasons to stay there. For some, being alone for some hours would have been the challenge. For others, it was the natural element, including the possibility of meeting wild animals. For others, fear was the biggest fear.

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Going down to the extraordinary world. It’s always such a powerful feeling, I could feel the group vibrating.

We went out exploring one of the most ancient and universal stories ever, the fear of the unknown. We honor all the heroes that have met their true selves that night, out there. Maybe for the first real time.

Many decided to stay out the whole night, much after our suggested limit of four to five hours. Big respect. Everybody was free to choose the way they wanted to challenge themselves, and build their personal ceremony. One thing was sure: the next day, everybody had a hell of a story to share.

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At the torchlight, Andrea is still writing down some last few words of insight from the experience.

After such a strong building phase, the programme really took off. We included activities like The Way of Council,

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This is actually the Council from the last day, hosted ever so gracefully by Mafalda.

and an introduction to The Four Shields of Human Nature, as well as more mundane tasks like the ever-present “Service and Care”, which included working in the garden,

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Generations to come will sit on those benches! Thanks a lot, guys!

cooking together (definitely one of the epic aspects of this course: more on that, later),

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Probably the most loved part of the day by so many people (even vegans!). Not hard to understand why.

and cleaning and taking care of the spaces.

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Hard job. Especially the morning after the party. But somebody has to do it.

We wanted to make sure our programme offered a very wide spectrum of storytelling, including examples from the past, present and future of this art form. We always aimed at balancing nature and technology, more spiritual dimensions with contemporary and more down-to-earth elements, sacred and profane. After all, playing with opposites and paradoxes is a fundamental skill for a good narrator.

We included a touch on the “Invisible Art” of Comics, thanks to a master-level presentation by Michele Di Paola,

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Who looks pretty serious while warning us about the danger of comics. You can check out his complete “storification” of the week following this link.

and movie making, thanks to the input by Tullio Morganti, professional sound engineer who works for Italian and international productions. The workshop was really able to create the very specific atmosphere of a movie set in our own dining room:

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Believe it or not, this was our homage to “Romeo and Juliet”. Everybody was really into it, until the Producer (who is God on set) decided that money was over and sent all the crew home.

And of course, sound editing played a major role. That is at least 50% percent of a movie, and can improve, alter or fix what we think we see on screen, as we learned.

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Rita was having lots of fun while bossying around her boom operator, Andrea. True story.

A creativity workshop followed: can we change famous movies, playing a “What if” game?

People could test their visionary abilities and unleash sheer creativity by playing with movie classics like “The Lion King“, “Dirty Dancing” (that became “Consensual Dancing”), or “Fight Club” – which was transformed into the much less intimidating (but not less catastrophic) “Tea Club”.

This was probably the part of the programme that I loved most. Amazing, amazing creative work from the group. Well done!

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I am sure Palahniuk didn’t see THIS coming.

We also included a movie marathon, nonetheless. Yeah, being the big nerds that we are, we couldn’t agree on one single film to share with the group. In fact, we had a list of like, ten. Eventually it was cut down to four, then finally to three.

The marathon topic was “Games in Movies” and this was the programme, as agreed with the group.

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The runner-up was “Jumanji” with Robin Williams. Really sorry but we had to let it go.
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I so love “War Games“. The final sequence with the Global Thermonuclear War simulated over and over by the computer is pure movie anthology. And it played a role in bringing the Cold War closer to and end. Talking of the impact of games!

The setting was perfect. Great weather, outside screen, blankets. Hey, we even had pop corn. People could choose according to their own preferences, and we had a few brave hardcore movie fans who stayed up all the way. I loved the evening, even if I shamelessly slept for the most of it already knew all the movies well.

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“A gig is a gig is a gig is a gig” – Scott Pilgrim vs the world. Movies, and an Italian summer night. Perfect match.

And then, Games. We explored this other classic form of storytelling, and incredibly power learning experience. We explored the positive aspects that a healthy relation with games can bring to our life (the process is called Gamification and it’s starting to be well known not only in education, but also in a number of other fields),

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Ideas and reflections inspired by the book: “Reality is broken”, by Jane McGonigal.

and playing games was encouraged very actively, always considering the learning benefits after each experience. Here is a game of Dixit offered by Andreea – the game incluced beautiful and inspiring artwork and is not dependent on a specific language to be played, which is why it’s already widely used in the context of non formal education.

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Besides, it’s a very good party game!

In a certainly memorable Games Night we proposed The Resistance, a table game of deceit and negotiation (the favourite game of electricians from all over the world, I think)

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Claire was the perfect spy in a very engaging game. Patriot or traitor of the people?

the Guitar Hero series, as an introduction to party video games that would not be only about shooting people in the head and cursing at each other,

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Ah, we TOTALLY ROCKED that night! (and the next one)

and the indie storytelling videogame To the moon, by Freedbird Games, to explore a more personal, subtle form of entertainment that was pure storytelling, only using a different medium.

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It was important for us to show how smaller, indipendent games can actually deliver some of the best storytelling experiences.

*

In conclusion, it has been a hell of a week, a very strong transformative experience with an extraordinary group of participants (we had almost 300 applicants: apologies, if you didn’t make it to the final list! And make sure you mention it, should you apply again), a place that breathed magic, and a very inspired team of facilitators and organisers.

Of course – a special mention should be given to Francesco, Angelo and Giovanna, who took care of the cooking and provided us with

SOME OF THE MOST  

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AMAZING,

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DELICIOUS,

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MADE WITH THE HEART,

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ITALIAN HOME-MADE FOOD EVER!

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Thanks a lot, guys! Your warm hospitality and hard, hard work will forever be remembered and left a lasting impression on our waistlines our learning experience. Grazie!

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Thanks a lot, Angelo and Giovanna – who also happen to be my parents!

*

The programme was very intensive. It left most of us satisfied, fulfilled, and really exhausted

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Sergio immersed in reflective learning.

but in exploring the process of getting lost and travelling between worlds, so many of us could find something important for themselves.

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And as Kelly shared, she found something very important in that tiny Italian village. Cheers!

Imagine: would you like to organise a similar experience? The next “Get Storied” could be hosted by you. Feel free to contact us or share your ideas with us. It is from visionary ideas like this that wonderful things happen.

Thanks again, everybody! And remember, AVS, “Not All Who Wander Are Lost”.

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And now — what could be the best possible way to close this article?

With the video that Rita and Andrea made to celebrate the course! I have seen how many hours they put in the shooting and in editing it (twice) – and I think the result is fantastic! Until the next time! 

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