Tribe Building Ideas

Several directors have mentioned the difficulties of creating tribal identity and cohesion as well as overcoming tribe members’ fears of participating in HAiR’s infamous “nude scene(s)” Many of the CSUN tribe trekked to San Francisco to absorb the ambiance and recreate a “Be In” there. Brad Mills, in preparation for his controversial production of “The Bacchae,” had his wife run a weekend retreat where the large group of women playing the Bacchantes (and who were partially to fully naked throughout the entire show) developed the pagan identity and camaraderie to successfully pull it off.

In this vein, I offer the following ideas based on events I have run. I do not know whether or not any of them will prove useful in creating a HAiR tribe, nor whether directors’ harried schedules and union work rules will allow them. But, here goes! I offer two events for your consideration: a verbal CONCIOUSNESS RAISING session, and an experiential DESENSITIZATION session.


CONCIOUSNESS RAISING SESSION: These are formatted and moderated group discussions on a pre-chosen topic. First, everyone introduced himself or herself with a short biographical statement. Then the moderator would introduce the pre-chosen topic for discussion, and everyone would be given a period of time to describe their thoughts and feelings about the topic. Each person would speak in turn with no comments nor other interruptions from the others. While each speaker could build on what others had said, each statement had to be framed as “I feel” and could not be judgmental of the others in the group. After going around twice (each person allowed to speak twice), the discussion could be opened up to a less formal format. Possible topics for discussion are: 1) feelings about the war, 2) appropriateness/usefulness of mind-altering substances, 3) being naked in front of other tribe members/the audience, etc. Having a relaxed, living-room atmosphere with munchies and wine/soft drinks helps in the camaraderie.

DESENSITIZATION EXERCISES: These are based on a one-day workshop called “The Indian Summer Festival of the Senses” that I conducted MANY years ago. The techniques presented were developed from a compendium of many ideas that I have blatantly stolen from a great variety of sources including Masters & Johnson, Hartman & Fithian, Bruni & Gibbs, the SAR (Sexual Attitude Restructuring) Workshops, the CSUN Center for Sex Research, etc., etc.

Before these exercises commence, the participants should be told that many of them may trigger strong emotional responses or sexual feelings, and that these are perfectly ok. Participants should be encouraged to push their boundaries while feeling perfectly free to “sit out” all exercises in which they wish not to participate. They should be told that getting a “hard on” or “wet on” is perfectly natural and acceptable, but NOT getting one is also perfectly natural and acceptable.

1) “No Saying” Exercise: It is imperative that each participant feels safe and securely in control of their person. To this end, the moderator explains that each person is to judge what his/her own personal space is and determine at all times what actions/interactions with other members of the group are acceptable to him/her. Each person is instructed that they may choose to “sit out” any exercise that makes them feel uncomfortable. Since many/most people are somewhat reluctant to say “no” to another when participating in an activity, they may allow it to progress beyond the point where they feel comfortable. The following “no saying” exercise is a useful tool to help solve this problem: Each person is instructed to approach another person and try to touch their body. For the purposes of this exercise, touching should be confined to the head, shoulders and arm regions. The “touchee” should look the “toucher” in the eye and clearly ask them to stop in all or most of the encounters, independent of whether the “touchee” really desires to be touched. The “toucher” must immediately stop the touch. This should be repeated multiple times with many/all of the other participants with each person serving in the roll of “toucher” and “touchee”. This exercise has the beneficial side effect of helping to free the participant serving as “toucher” from our society’s natural reluctance to initiate bodily contact with people we don’t know well.

2) “Head/Face Exploration:” Participants are arbitrarily paired off and sit down facing one another. They take turns gently touching each other’s face and head.

3) “Trust Walk:” Participants are arbitrarily paired off as “walker” and “guide.” The “walker” is blindfolded and guided around by the hand in a short outside walk by the “guide.”

4) “Body Cage:” The participants form a circle touching shoulders. One person is chosen to be blindfolded and to walk around within the circle trying to find a way out. The people making up the circle prevent the walker’s exit by gently blocking him/her with their bodies. Both the walker and the people in the circle are to keep their arms at their sides and use only the rest of their body for contact. If this exercise is done early in the workshop, the participants should remain clothed. If done later on, all may be naked.

5) “Tipsy:” This is a variant of the “Body Cage” except the circle is much smaller and the people forming the circle use their hands. One person is chosen, blindfolded, and put in the center of the circle. This person keeps his/her arms against his/her sides and leans and falls repeatedly in each direction. The members of the circle catch the leaning person to prevent him/her from falling. Like the “Body Cage,” this exercise may be performed naked if done later on in the workshop.

6) “Body Finger Painting:” Participants finger paint each other with safe body paints. “Black” lights and fluorescent paints work great here. Fingers should be used rather than brushes to apply the paint. A “modeling” session can follow the painting. After the exercise, the paint should be washed off with group showers.

7) “Tribal Feast:” Each participant should have been asked to bring a supply of foods that may be eaten using fingers as the only utensils (clearly, liquid refreshments are excluded from the finger-food requirement). The participants sit in a circle and each person feeds the people on each side of him/her. Food preferences should be indicated with gestures and sounds, but no words should be spoken.

8) “Guided Imagery Tribal Massage:” The participants are gathered up into groups of four to seven. The person who is chosen to receive the massage lies down on his/her back. The others space themselves around the “massagee” and coordinate their touch with a fantasy scenario spoken by the moderator. The touching should be very light (not a Swedish or other deep massage), and the use of feathers, hair, backs of hands, breasts, or other body parts to perform the massage is encouraged, as well as blowing breath, etc. The scenario may be a spoken narrative of being on a desert isle and having the waves washing over you and the winds blowing. Using a prerecorded narrative with suitable sound effects is even more effective. Each person in the group gets massaged, in turn, by the others.

9) “Float:” If a pool with a usable “shallow end” is available, people can be floated either individually or side-by-side in pairs. The people being floated should relax and close their eyes while the “tenders” slowly move them around while gently supporting them.

10) “Martian Exploration:” This is an exercise only for advanced groups that should be left to the end of the session if it is to be performed at all. The women form a circle facing out while the men form a concentric circle around them facing in (or vice versa). The outer circle are “Martians” who explore the bodies of the inner circle “Earthlings” with their senses of touch, sight, smell, etc. This is a timed event, and after a given time the outer circle moves over one person and repeats the exercise with new partners. This is repeated until the outer circle has made a full revolution, and then the men and women switch roles to repeat the exercise. The moderator(s) instruct the participants that this is not to be performed as a sexual touch. Being of different worlds, each explorer is just to explore the body contours, textures, pliability, temperatures, moistness, etc. of the other person with no intent of giving or receiving sexual pleasure. This is justified since “Martians” would have no idea what turns on “Earthlings” and vice-versa. This exercise has an extremely high probability of turning very sexual, and the moderator(s) must exercise extreme diligence to prevent this from happening for the exercise to work. It may be desirable, or even necessary, for the moderators to promise that that the exercise would be repeated later as “Earthling” to “Earthling,” this time with sexuality allowed.

A few final notes: When I moderated this workshop, I was concerned when and how to encourage nudity. This decision was taken out of my hands when the group expressed the desire to get naked even before I had planned for it. The entire group chose to participate in the nudity. By keeping the exercises graduated in intensity, the participants freely dropped out when things got too intense for their individual tastes.



This entry was posted on Sunday, May 6th, 2007 at 11:56 PM and filed under Uncategorized. Follow comments here with the RSS 2.0 feed. Skip to the end and leave a response. Trackbacks are closed.

One Response to “Tribe Building Ideas”

  1. Mike Blaxill said:

    the finger painting sounds fun!

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