At our last community workshop (October 19th), we led a workshop based on one that Fiona MacBeth from the University of Exeter led with us, which was in turn based on exercises from the book From Violence to Resilience, which collects techniques used by Leap Confronting Conflict, which specializes in youth and conflict. See what a twisty road our exercises take to find us? This is one of the many aspects about Applied Drama that I love – we beg and borrow from other practitioners in order to make our own practice as effective and great as possible. We all share our best games and activities in order to make the entire field stronger.
Anyway, Michelle and I decided to lead the “Acts” portion of the workshop. According to the book, an “Act” is a front, attitude or mask that you put on when you don’t want someone else to know what you’re feeling or thinking. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the actual process here, but we discussed Acts and gave them names; I’m going to talk about Ms. Disengagement. We discussed how people are so glued to their phones now that you see people everywhere just looking at little screens, and completely tuning out everything around them. When we created an image for Ms. Disengagement, it was three people in a little triangle with their backs to each other, all looking at their phones.
We put these concepts into our bodies to gain a different perspective on them. When we talked about Ms. Disengagement, I thought, “That’s probably me some of the time.” When I actually put my body into that pose – head down, shoulders over, phone held up to my face, weight over one hip – I realized, “Oh shit, that’s me like, a lot of the time.” As the facilitator, I don’t always have much time to explore my own insights during a workshop so it was interesting to have that moment. I spend quite a bit of time in public by myself (riding the bus, walking around downtown, working in coffeeshops) so pulling out my phone has become habitual to shield myself from other people. On the one hand, it makes me feel safer at times. On the other, it keeps me from noticing the world around me and connecting with other people.
Those costs and gains of an Act became part of the discussion and we made images about them as well. What does the Jokester gain and lose from being the class clown? Does the Critic really have any friends? Why does the Dodger need to duck away from conflict?
Since the workshop, I’ve been making a conscious effort to keep my phone in my bag and not whip it out every time there’s a tiny lull in my day. We always talk about how transformational theatre can be but when I’m watching other people have “aha!” moments, it can still be very hard to believe that they’ll follow through with them or that I can actually make a difference with theatre. When I have these moments myself, however small, it reminds me once again how powerful this work can be.