Aligning methods with goals & motivations
Facilitating creative processes in community-based theatre is an art that when done well feels more like magic. But even the best facilitators are not magicians. They are experienced practitioners whose skills are honed through preparation and practice, and through carefully listening to community workshop participants and community partners. One of our motivations for writing this workbook, is to pull back the curtain on the magic. In this and the following chapters (Workshop Activities & Exercises and TSDC Performance Scripts), we will share not only the kinds of exercises and activities used in TSDC community performance creation workshops, but also:
- The partnerships that support effective facilitation
- The considerations that go into the selection of activities
- The skills that contribute to the artful craft of facilitation
The role of theatre practitioners in relationship to community participants varies among different kinds of community-based theatre projects. Professor of Applied Theatre, Amanda Stuart Fisher, suggests that the range of roles can be defined as mediator, interpreter, and facilitator. Roughly speaking, an interpreter-playwright is someone who gathers stories from a community and weaves them into a play. A mediator-playwright works with the community using structured written and improvisational exercises to generate dialogue that the mediator-playwright then uses to write the play. In both of these models the community is involved in the story gathering and/or development stages of the performance creation process.
The facilitator model extends participants’ involvement to all stages of the performance creation process, from the creation of a collective story through to its public performance.
TSDC’s theatre practitioners adopt the role of facilitator. This means that TSDC’s creative approach works to enhance the potential of marginalized groups to be publicly heard directly through their own voices.This isn’t to say that the facilitator doesn’t play a substantial role in guiding the process and helping to shape the play. In fact, one reason it’s important to have an experienced theatre practitioner in the role of facilitator, is precisely because of the artistic skills they bring. For example, theatre practitioners know how to keep the audience’s attention focused on the story by ensuring that they aren’t distracted by activities that aren’t significant to the play’s narrative arc (more on this when we get to TSDC Performance Scripts).
The design of TSDC workshops, and the selection and facilitation of workshop activities, are done with two related goals in mind:
- To work alongside participants to create a play that communicates a publicly-framed, fictional, collective, and future-oriented story that draws on the knowledge participants’ have gained through their own lived experience and through witnessing and talking with others in similar circumstances.
- To provide participants with enough of a foundation in performance skills to enable them to hold the attention of an audience so that the play can be performed by the participants themselves.