6 Voices For and Against

Often characters in scenes come to a cross-road. Do I say something or stay silent? Do I get involved in the situation or not? These decisions can play out as a mental tug-of-war. In this technique we bring this mental tug-of-war to life. One learner assumes the roles ‘for’ and another assumes the role ‘against.’ They each attempt to influence the decisions of a third character who stands in the middle. This technique usually involves three volunteers:

  • Person A assumes the role of the character in the scene who is experiencing some sort of dilemma and needs to make a decision.
  • Person B plays the inner dialogue of Person A, arguing for a certain decision.
  • Person C plays the inner dialogue of Person A, arguing against a certain decision.

These inner voices can offer ideas, cautions and new perspectives. After a couple of ideas have been explored ask for other audience members to give ideas both for and against. Once a number of arguments on both sides have been given the Joker instructs Person A to make a choice, based solely on the ideas that were given in this situation.

Considerations while Jokering

  • Know your group. If this would be fun and comfortable for your group, have Person B and C hold both wrists of Person A, gently pulling to their side, as if they are creating the tug-of-war.
  • Sometimes the final decision of Person A is not the expected outcome. For example, in a past workshop on Academic Integrity, a student chose to cheat on a test! As Joker, it is important to respect the decision of the volunteer. And often, these are the decisions that happen in real life. If this happens, see this as a teachable moment.
  • Sometimes leaving the decision of Person A hanging is the strongest option.
  • After the tug-of-war, have Person A replay the moment in the scene where they need to make a decision. What does the scene look like?
  • This activity may lead to a rich discussion about the forced binary nature of many decisions we make. Is it possible to reach a conclusion that is not either/or, for/against? What would a non binary decision look like in this situation?
  • Sometimes “Voices for an against” is confused with the cliché of the ‘devil and angel.’ This should be discouraged; using metaphors of the devil and angel implicitly communicates to an audience that one position should be preferred over the other. With ‘for and against,’ all options should be considered.

Examples of Voices For and Against

  • What’s in a Title? (See Chapter 14)
  • Donation (See Chapter 15)


Haunting our Biases: Using Participatory Theatre to Interrupt Implicit Bias Copyright © 2022 by Kevin Hobbs; Michael Martin Metz; Nadia Ganesh; Sheila O'Keefe-McCarthy; Joe Norris; Sandy Howe; and Valerie Michaelson. All Rights Reserved.

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