So You Think You Can Act As A Single

I’ve recently been on a TV and Movie watching spree. Combine that with the theatre workshop experience I got – thanks to Floh – and you might be able to excuse the dramatic nature of the passage that follows (by the way, the story of the “man” and “woman” that unfolds is purely hypothetical) …

Picture this. It’s a Floh event – quite unique in its format, theme and concept. A theatre workshop conducted at a premier venue, the Jagriti Theatre of Bangalore, by Sukhita Aiyar, a noted thespian of the garden city. Members attending the event arrive individually and in groups – the waiting area fills up slowly, the murmur of about 20 voices gradually filling the air. A man walks in – spiffy, nattily dressed, extroverted. He walks around greeting people, striking small conversations, evidently quite comfortable with meeting lots of unfamiliar people. Across the woman, a woman looks up to see him. She find him quite interesting as far as initial impressions go. At first glance he looks like someone she might be interested in getting to know a little better. Who knows what might happen – Floh is all about making strong connections in an uncanny way, right?

She wonders whether she should go up and say hello or wait for him to make his way to her side of the room. Either way is fine; it’s just a matter of picking one way or another. She doesn’t get a chance to make a choice because suddenly, it’s time to start the workshop. The gang troops into a state-of-the-art theatre, where Sukhita (Sukhi) is waiting to take them through a whirlwind 90 minutes of theatre based exercises that give one a taste of what it takes to prep for stage acting.

Now why, you might wonder, would an event like this make sense from Floh’s perspective? Wouldn’t it just have been easier for the above mentioned man and woman to walk up to each other and say hello? Why did they have to go through exercises where Sukhi asked them to step into a circle and make silly gestures? Why did they have to go through round after round of 10-second conversations where the objective was to get to find common ground with another person…in TEN seconds (seriously?)! Why did they have to step up in front of the group and share one positive and negative thing about themselves that nobody could possibly know? Why did they have to do all of this so fast, in a session that gave precious little time for collecting one’s thoughts?

Well, that’s the masterstroke that Floh is all about – getting people together in situations where they are most likely to be their authentic selves – or pretty close to it! 

When a person of Sukhi’s experience and expertise guides you through a workshop, it is to make you comfortable in your own skin. You realize how tightly wound up you are when asked to make a funny gesture that will be imitated by the whole group. When you don’t have enough time to make a measured statement, you end up saying what’s really there on your mind. And that’s OK! It’s OK because you notice that others are going through the same thing and they’re having their own challenges and triumphs in the process, just as you are. Good theatre is about learning who you are, before you put on the masks of the characters you enact. Being OK with yourself makes it easier for you to navigate life on stage and off it. It also makes it easier for others to relate with you – knowing where they will gel with you and where they won’t.

Let’s get back to the man and woman. They’re in the flow of things, moving through the myriad exercises that Sukhi guides the group through. In the spontaneous 10 second interaction, the first thing the man says is “Do you like pets? I’m crazy about all kinds of pets!”. The woman can say nothing but “I’m sorry, I really don’t. Dogs completely freak me out. I’m more comfortable watching animals on TV really!”. They laugh and explore a couple of other alternatives. Turns out that they both like movies and they both adore Italian food. Enough for the purpose of the exercise. Time is up and they both move on to other mini-conversations. 

What just happened here? Someone might think that they did find things to talk about and who knows, they might in the future meet up with single for a movie or have dinner together at an Italian restaurant! And yes, they might indeed. But something else also happened. They discovered in a rapid, spontaneous set-up that they differ on a core life aspect – a love for pets. In my humble opinion, that fact alone, may in some cases be enough to convince two people that it might not be the best idea for them to pursue a relationship. 

Humans are very prompt at making enduring judgements. Less than 0.05 seconds, apparently. We do this because we take in a lot of cues from the world, and process them unconsciously, in order to take decisions that appear rapid and intuitive. 

What the man and woman discovered about each other, even though they didn’t dwell on it for too long, is that they didn’t have core common values as far as pets are concerned. If pets form a critical part of the man’s life, he is probably going to be less keen about dating a woman who abhors animals within 2 feet of her! Similarly, the woman probably does not want to be on a date where the man’s three golden retrievers vie for her attentions, much to her horror! Even if they find each other interesting or attractive on first glance, the exercise has surfaced a point on which they may never see eye-to-eye. That would probably spare them many precious moments of dating time that could be spent in the company of people who are much more aligned to their values. On the other hand, let’s say, in the course of the interactions, another woman discovered that here was a man who seemed to share her passion for animals, more than any other person in the group. She makes sure to mention it to him over lunch and they end up having the most delightful chat about the antics of everything from bulldogs to goldfish! That might truly be the start of something special…

(…end of hypothetical example here…)

So, that’s what Floh really did – it showed people, in a hundred different ways, who in the group seemed to match interests and values in the most acceptable or desirable ways. It was a brilliant, successful attempt at bringing single people together in a fun, interactive and informative way. Much of the information that Floh members absorbed about each other that day, did not need to be spelt. Intangible messages zipped across the air between us as our struggle to ‘act’ really made us stop acting for once!

I think it was an afternoon well spent with your partner and would gladly step up for a repeat. What about you?

Be Happy!


PS: In case you’re wondering, Floh does not pay me for writing these posts. They are merely the ramblings of a chap who is compulsively expressive about anything he finds interesting. Hmmmm…

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