Facilitator tone goes a long way in helping to relax people and is a big part of any workshop activity. This is important for several reasons. At the beginning of a workshop series, participants are often quite anxious about the idea that they are going to perform publicly or even in front of those attending the workshop. Most people are nervous about speaking publicly. Because TSDC participants often encounter stereotypes and negative judgements in daily life, they are understandably wary about what might happen if they share their stories publicly.
Creating a relaxed atmosphere is also important because during TSDC workshops we often find ourselves discussing things that can be painful. While as a facilitator, you never want to take what is being said lightly, with tone you can communicate that though it’s not all going to be fun, it’s all going to be okay. Nobody’s going to get judged, and if somebody is hurt or feeling that this is too much, we’ll respect that and deal with it on the spot.
In large part, the relaxed and sociable tone of the workshops is established during the weekly activities focused on Gathering, Checking-in & Wrapping-up. In both informal as well as more structured sharing activities it’s important to recognize that tone and rapport are reciprocal exchanges. Facilitation requires paying attention, reflecting, and responding to the tone of both the group and individual group members. It’s helpful to remember that while, as facilitator, you may be inviting participants into your world (the world of theatre), through their contributions in informal exchanges as well as the structured creative activities, workshop participants are also inviting you into their worlds.
With tone, the facilitator is also able to convey a sense of confidence in both the group and the creative process. Since one of the norms of theatre workshops is that we are always trying out new ideas, tone becomes an important tool for communicating that this means things aren’t always going to work out as planned — and that’s okay! Really, it is! In fact, it’s necessary. Supporting participants to become comfortable with creative and collective experimentation (which includes doing stuff that flops), is a big part of facilitating theatre workshops.