As promised to participants of the Act Out workshop during the recent AIP2 Conference in Fremantle this October, here is a summary of what we did.
Act Out borrows mostly from Theatre of the Oppressed, a methodology developed by the late Augusto Boal, who dedicated his life to the use of theatre as a tool for social transformation. It is based on a number of premises, some of which are:
1. All human beings are actors and we are able to transcend our struggles through enacting and re-enacting our various roles;
2. It is all about power; who or what holds power over individuals and communities; how can power structures be redefined?
3. Each individual hold the key to their own liberation and empowerment
We started the session with a series of exercises and activities that centre on affecting:
1. Tactile Sensitivity – these exercises stimulate the sense of touch by awakening the feeling of what we touch. Similarly, they challenge ways of moving that are mechanized, bring up emotions that are not externalised and new ways of using muscles and expressing. Different parts of the body are disassociated form each other and cerebral control can be exercised over all muscles, no matter how small (Boal, 1992)
In the workshop we did circle and stretch, clap together, the hypnosis in pair (where one person held their hand in front of their partner and led them around the space while the partner had to maintain the same distance from the hand)
The hypnosis exercise is a great one for generating feedback on what it feels like to be in control of someone’s movements and also to be controlled by someone else. It can represent any number of relationships, in this case the comments that were made related to what it might feel for communities/individuals when we are trying to engage them.
2. Listening sensitivity – these activities aim at recreating ways of listening and finding ‘inner rhythms’ to avoid stereotyping people and characters. Rhythms can represent emotions better than words or faces.
In the worksop we did an activity called ‘two by tree by Byford’ in which pairs stand opposite each other and alternate in counting ‘one, two, three, one, two, three, etc’ and then one by one they replace each number with a movement and a sound. Everyone had a lot of fun in this one because people get to be silly together but at the same time they are working on listening, mirroring and creativity.
3. Sensory sensitivity/dynamising – in these activities sight is taken away to enhance other senses and what they perceive.
In the workshop we did ‘blind cars’ where one person stands behind their partner.The person in front is the car, the one behind is the driver. The ‘car’ has their eyes closed and the ‘driver’ gives directions by touching different parts of the back and head. They drive all over the space.
This game is great for generating trust as well. It can be done in fours as an exploration of communication and team capacity building.
4. Visual sensitivity - these activities use mirors and images to help us to see what it is that we actually see. Done in silence the dialogues created can be rich and very deep.
We did mirrors and we also did complete the image where we had people in the middle make a frozen image and a second person join them with another image to make a scene. Then the first person steps out and a new person makes a new image with the last person to go in.
a tableau representing disengagement.
When wanting to explore issues deeper TO uses the frozen images numerous ways.
The opposite image is a technique in which a tableau is made and each of the characters is asked what their internal monologue is, so if we could hear what they are thinkin what would we hear? It can also be varied to ask the characters what they are thinking, what they are feeling and what they are saying. This is done while other participants also watch. It may be the case that other participants are given the opportunity to make one change to the image.
In this workshop participants were asked to transform their image of disengagement into one of engagement. The following picture is the second ‘engagement’ image for the same group.
A tableau representing engagement
We can see that there was still one character that was not wholly engaged. In this case we took away the two engaged characters and left Ian and Tammy. We then asked what it might be that each of these characters feared or wanted. Images were made of what they expressed.
And the participants were given an idea of what a session using ‘Rainbow of Desire’ or ‘Cops in the Head’ teachniques may have looked like.
The total session was 1 hour and 15 minutes so there was not enough time go into depth with the more exploratory techniques. The aim of the workshop was to give participants an idea of the benefits of using TO as an engagement tool and the potential for allowing participants to step out of their intellects and into their bodies and their emotions.
Thanks to all of you for your wonderful feedback. I truly appreciate the input coming from practitioners like you with so much experience in engagement and public participation.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with further questions, or just to say hello!!