Grundtvig Learning Partnership – Sustainable Cooperation at Local Level Title: Workshop theatre session on Civil Society and Mafia by Interkultura – Interkulturni centar NGO (Zagreb, Croatia) Date: 5th of January 2013 Venue: Santa Elisabetta municipality court yard Aims/learning outcomes: developing communication among the participants from SCOOLL and the local community in order to develop notions of active citizenship Rationale: Since SCOOLL partnership (Sustainable Cooperation at local level) aims to “improve the knowledge of edemocracy and democratic participation instruments for policy planning at the local level” and the “objective of those instruments is developing active citizenship tools among public and private actors of the European social fabric”, I have decided to focus on communication which, from my research experience, is the main problem for any community that strives to develop some kind of sustainable cooperation between the “antagonized” sides. The term “antagonized” is under brackets on purpose, since I believe that all social issues and “antagonisms” originate from communication problems. These lead to misunderstandings and, provided other factors are present, it may lead to social conflict or, as the anthropologist Victor Turner would said – social drama. Not understanding other cultures and focusing only on differences is exactly what interculturalism is saying is wrong with the societies today (and any other during history). We should focus on elements of culture that connect us, and those are plenty. The reasons why we don't see them are many, but basically they all originate from the biological preconditions of humans to perceive world in the me-other or us-them dichotomy way of thinking. But even so, them can become us if we put an effort to communicate better (without communication background noise) – since then we would find that all cultures in the world have more elements in common than those that distinguish one from another. Large scale problems like relations between the mafia and the local community or the general stereotype that all Sicilians are mafia connected will not disappear “overnight”. They can be resolved only through a long, and sometimes difficult, process of communication between all actors of this social issue – including the so-called mafia members and the wider (Italian, European, World) communities. Theatre is the one place that offers this communication in a very fun and relaxed way and since theatre has traditionally been the place for voicing social critique, a place of freedom from roles (which enables us to play any social character/role) and place of interaction (which allows us to convey our message of communication and understanding to those outside the workshop process) – theatre presents itself as an almost perfect tool for developing communication, cooperation, asking difficult questions or addressing touchy social issues. In short, by use of theatre we can further develop sustainable cooperation at the local level, through better communication and through honest voicing of all social issues. Method: I believe that there is no one Method (with a capital “M“) to be used in dealing with social issues. If the person implementing some method does not know the context of that community (meaning: having direct experience in that community), the implemented process usually ends up: a) being rejected by the local community, b) if accepted, leading to new an unpredictable social problems. Therefore I have used my knowledge of various theatre practitioners, directors and anthropologists in order to develop a very general framework in which the participants would feel comfortable working in and which is, at the same time, flexible enough to answer to any unpredicted situations (this was especially important as I did not know the details of the local mafia-civic society relations). So, in preparing my theatre session I opted for a combination of Victor Turners rites de passage (also known as the initiation process) and his social drama perspective with Augusto Boals forum theatre (a form of his very famous Theatre of the oppressed). Turner's approach gives us a very important overview of the whole process – sort of the meta-position or the meta-perspective. Having that overview is most
Grundtvig Learning Partnership – Sustainable Cooperation at Local Level important for the facilitator and it does not necessarily have to be known to the participants. The idea is for the facilitator to always know what types of activities s/he should use in a particular phase of the process and why those exact activities/exercises should be used. Turners approach (which is his version of Arnold van Genneps rites de passage) consists of three phases: the separation stage, the liminoid stage and the re-incorporation stage (details are available in the “Implementation steps” section). All three stages have meaning only if and when they are used together. Separating them (or not performing one or more of the phases) means that the learners most probably will not experience the intended learning effects and the process will become “painful“ for the facilitator (participants not cooperating or not understanding the process; not being relaxed etc.). On the other hand, Boals forum theatre gives the facilitator the basic “tools“ for immersing the participants into the process and into their roles. Most importantly, it enables the facilitator to transform the participants from spectators to spect-actors. Meaning – they become a real force and influence in the theatre practice process (as - often unknowingly - does the audience in any theatre play) and they can not only express themselves during the process but also actively change and influence the flow and the end of the performance being played before them – thus, physiologically, helping them to “open up“ their perception of active citizenship and their role in it. If used wisely and with enough time and patience, this process can lead to individuals realising their own potential as active citizens and their own position and power within the policy structure that they can use to influence bad or doubtful decisions made by the, up to date perceived as “untouchable“, policy makers. This is the basis, in my opinion of the active citizen that we in the partnership are looking for (thanks to the European Commission). Time is of essence in this process and it should not be taken slightly. More precisely, the process should be intense (taking hours at a time) so that the participants break down their inhibitions and “forget” about the outside world. Only then will they really take over their characters and act with conviction (they are not professional actors). Also, intensity allows them to develop bonds with one another and this is only helpful in the process. In the best possible scenario, the workshop would last at least three whole days (which was not possible in our meeting and so I presented only the “potential” and not the “real” process). Finally, since theatre allows its participants to take up any role, this “method“ is suitable for questioning or addressing any subject of social importance. The important thing is to perceive the given social issue as a Turners “social drama”, which consists of four steps: breach, crisis, regressive actions, reintegration or schism (details in the “Implementation steps” section) Implementation steps: First of all, it is important to follow the general scheme laid out by Victor Turners version of rites de passage. He found that theatre mimics the process that Arnold van Gennep recorded in some tribal communities. The process was the initiation process (child becoming a responsible adult) and it always included separation (child is separated from the safety of its home, parents and safe role of a child), liminal phase (child is left to explore the world or has to complete a difficult task – in order to prove itself, but also to experience living without the community) and reincorporation phase (child is accepted back and symbolically reborn as a fully privileged member of society). Turner noticed that this process goes on in theatre as well and that the theatre liminoid phase is the equivalent of childs exploration in tribal limal phase – which enables theatre to explore difficult questions without receiving reprehension from the society. Within that framework, I use social drama to help participants define their social scene that needs addressing (in this particular meeting it was a meeting between the mafia and the rest of the society) and I use Boals forum theatre in order to “engage” the potential inertia among the participants and encourage them to really participate and question themselves as well as the others – to the point of reaching a potential new knowledge or new type of communication that would allow the local community to cooperate in a better way. It is very important that participants design and develop the story themselves and not to have the story given to them by the facilitator) and that they undergo all three phases of the “initiation” process. VICTOR TURNER’S rites de passage 1. Separation phase
Grundtvig Learning Partnership – Sustainable Cooperation at Local Level This phase is designed in order to symbolically separate the participants for their everyday roles. Everyday life and roles that we play often restrict our willingness to play other roles in from of other people and it often leads to inhibitions. In order to resolve those issues, we need to offer participants “games” that relax them and develop their sense of group solidarity and trust. These games where taken from Augusto Boal and he liked to use games that help participants develop all their five senses. Depending on the game, the participants will work individually, in a pair or in a group. Boal’s games (this list is indicative not exhaustive): For this particular session, we planned to do seven games that should help participants feel included in a friendly space in which we can all explore roles and play without being worried that others might perceive us as being stupid or something similar (and negative). Name&Gesture: form a circle. Facilitator introduces him/her/self and makes a gesture that symbolises him/her. The same is repeated around the circle. After a while, we can add a “sound” to the circle (not words, but simple sounds). French telephone: stand in circle. Each person choses the person opposite to them. The goals is to do nothing! Do not move. However, if the person of your choice moves even slightly (e.g. blinks), you have to repeat that movement. Complete the image: stand in circle. One person goes in the middle and present some movement. Usually it is one element of the two part activity. For example, one can go into the middle and offer his/hers hand in handshake. Other volunteer should go to that person and complete the image (offering the hand in handshake). The completion of the scene can be expected (as the one just described), but it can also be very unexpected and creative (fun). Bombs&Shields: participants scatter around the room. Each participant has to choose one person as his bomb (from which s/he has to run away) and other as his shield (which s/he has to put in between him/her/self and the bomb). Facilitator counts of the time bomb (10-1) and when the bomb “explodes” we find out who was able to shield him/her/self. Columbian hypnosis: working in pairs. One person “hypnotises” the other by putting their palm right next to the other persons face. Then they can manipulate that person by moving their palm and hand in every direction. The other persons goal is to always look straight into the “hypnotising” palm. Encourage participants to explore the space and different movements/positions. Push not to win: working in pairs. One side pushes against the other with different parts of the body (forehead, ear, sholder, back, palms, feet), but not to win but to support the weight of the other. The goal is to find the balance between the partners so that they do not fall or that one side does not dominate. Blind cars: working in pairs. One person closes their eyes and is led through the space by another person. That person simply touches the left or the right shoulder of the “blind car” to make it turn. The goal is to “drive” the “blind car” and avoid crashes with others. At the end of the games, the participants are invited to further “distance” themselves from everyday life by designing their social drama scene. SOCIAL DRAMA
Grundtvig Learning Partnership – Sustainable Cooperation at Local Level First of all, we help our participants develop their scene. For that, we used Victor Turners social drama perspective which consists of four steps. Participants should be divided in to groups with no less than four members. Each group should have these roles:
a. b. c. d.
Mafia member Civil society member (citizen, civil activist etc.) Government representative (police, major etc.) Foreigner (this role was added due to the international nature of our partnership) + JOKER: each group has to decide among them who will be the Joker (the person used in the forum theatre to re-enact the “solutions” chosen by the members of their group (more information in the Forum theatre section). To help the group develop the scene, I encouraged them to define their scene through journalist questions (the famous “Five Ws”: Who is it about? What happened? When did it take place? Where did it take place? Why did it happen?). These five questions actually represent the Michael Chekovs “leading questions” that enable the actor the develop the “how” (to play my character) and to develop his “psychological gesture”. In other words, it enables the actor to define the intentions behind his character actions and this helps him define the details of his character. Through asking themselves those questions (individually or in a group), participants will be able to create a short scene and define the details of their character. Having decided on the roles, each group is left with the task of designing a short scene (up to maximum 5 minutes) of everyday life that involves all of the aforementioned roles. They should be instructed that they have to have an antagonist role and a protagonist role. Antagonist is the one who is oppressing the others and protagonist is a person (or a group!) that is being oppressed. They are free to choose who will be the oppressor and who will be the oppressed (from the aforementioned list – and their choices can be a good point for stereotype discussion later on). Also, they can have “missing” characters – those that come into the performance after a while (not all of them have to be on stage from the very beginning).
2. Liminoid phase This phase is designed to help participants experience different perspectives, to exchange roles, to explore and play – in order to question our own perspective or those of others and to, perhaps offer an answer. In our example, to try and experience the “other” side and to try and present the communication patterns that occur between the mafia, the local government and the local community(and reflect the social issues). Additionally, they were given a role of a foreigner which should be incorporated (in any creative and possible way) in the local Santa Elisabetta scene. FORUM THEATRE In this phase we use Augusto Boal’s forum theatre. In order to do so, our participants need to know some ground rules before they begin. The process consists of one group presenting their performance to the other group(s). The group which is performing will do it twice, first without interruption and second after a short discussion (defining the details of the performance to the other group(s)). While one group is performing for the second time, the other group(s) acts as an audience – but, in Boal sense of “spect-actors”. In other words, they are experiencing the performance, but with a possibility (and encouragement) to shout “STOP!” at the second performance. Obviously, the idea is to stop the performance at any moment in which one of the spect-actors (or group members – if you prefer for them to act as a part of a group) feels that the scene being played out is helping the
Grundtvig Learning Partnership – Sustainable Cooperation at Local Level oppressor (in our example bad communication) and s/he is ready to offer some other strand of communication that could lead to a better solution of the social drama. If that individual is too shy to perform that idea on their own, they can call the Joker from their group to do it for them – with active guidance from them. This enables all participants to really be involved and to influence the flow of the play. It also helps them realise that their role and power in the policy structure or their community life. They might also find our sometimes about the perspective of others and why are they often bound to act as they do. Finally, it might help them realise the mistakes in communication that occur in everyday life (leading to unnecessary conflict, social stigmas etc.) and they might try and disseminate this information to other members of their community. Rules for the audience (spect-actors) a. View the first performance of the “social drama” b. Applaud (if wanted) and discuss the performance in order to define potential vague details c. View the re-enactment of the performance but look for instances in which you feel thing might be done differently or communication could be developed better. Shout “STOP” at that time and re-enact your idea (alternately, use Joker to do your “dirty work”) d. You can only exchange roles with those individuals who accept that change. In other words, if you offer to change someone’s role and that actor does not accept, you must allow it to go on e. The performance does not need to be interrupted. If everyone is satisfied with the performance, just let it play out f. Joker is there to re-enact your idea if you are to nervous to do it yourself g. Violence is the only suggestion that cannot be made as a solution to your social issue. Rules for the Joker In a usual Boal forum theatre, there would be only one Joker. This person would usually also be the facilitator who overlooks the whole process. However, due to the international nature of our partnership, I have decided to allow more Joker’s. More precisely, each group should nominate one person for their Joker who will re-enact their ideas (if such emerge).
a. Do not use personal view when re-enacting – follow the instructions of the person suggesting the idea
b. Do not offer solutions, only questions to the spect-actors (leave the answers to them) Suggestions for the facilitator: a. Avoid manipulating the participants, let them make their own conclusions b. Ask questions, do not offer answers c. If you have to emphasise something important, do it in a participatory manner (ask the participants if they agree with your idea) d. To develop good debates is more important than to achieve final solutions e. Remain separate from the spect-actors and overlook their activities, helping them if necessary f. Be flexible (do not let your personal expectations influence the apect-actors). This could only be a fun process, with no real solutions found g. Help participants relax and feel safe (there is no strategy for it, simply be open and honest) h. Explain through example (participant relax much easier if they see that the facilitator is not uncomfortable with doing that they are asked to do)
3. Re-incorporation phase The final phase is designed so that participants gradually “fall back” into their everyday roles and lives, but having first discussed the performances and activities that they experienced just
Grundtvig Learning Partnership – Sustainable Cooperation at Local Level recently. In other words, facilitator should encourage the final discussion among the participants about the learning outcomes (Did we learn anything – if so what? How did you feel? Where there any discomfort – if so, when? How do you explain the communicational choices that were used? Can you define the positive and negative communication choices? etc. – the list should be “populated with questions of relevance for the social issue you are addressing). These questions and their answers (or conclusions) should be written down for further reflexion. This process is an “open end” process and it does not have to offer final solutions. It is more about getting the participants involved and getting them to question themselves and others. To explore roles and perceive their situation from both (or more) sides. To try and learn, to express themselves and to be heard.