30 April 2017

Good practice: using theatre for social inclusion of young people with fewer opportunities

Our volunteer, Andreea Lupu was hosted by Denizli Municipality during a 2 months Short-Term EVS (European Voluntary Service) in November-December 2017 in Denizli, Turkey. 
She had the chance to improve and share her artistic skills with the local young people and she will share some techniques with us that might be useful for your work.

I have been doing a series of workshops in Turkey, a few with children, but most with adults over 18 years old, students and socially disadvantaged ones that wanted to have an alternative theatre experience. 

Many of the methods I used are derived from the inter-subjective method found in the theatre of the oppressed, in psychological mindfulness, and in the "entanglement" from quantum physics as a metaphor where you have inter-connected atoms: that is the observer and the observed are mysteriously connected. 

After all, theatre evolved with self consciousness and is a metaphor of it. I played a lot with rituals in sensorial theatre and context oriented arts. If we look at indigenous communities, we see that they are able to balance their natural state, but nowadays we do not have those bonds anymore, so in my work in Turkey, during my EVS stage, I tried to remake the missing bonds, that disappeared thanks to cultural of religious beliefs (for example when I first tried to work with my students I was told by my translator they don't like to touch such as touch each the other's hands and so on, and I could also notice that). 

The environment influences you and you pass those "crooked" genes on. 
Non formal education is the best methodology to promote active participation

I had about 5-6 different groups of students, but an example of the kind of exercises I used to get a group from a beat-box musical band that were playing in the street, but had issues in their own families, to work better with each other is the following:
  1. Warm up: I got them in a circle, and I asked them to massage the first person on their right side, using different massaging techniques, and when that was over I asked them to close their eyes and chant the vowels existing in their mother tongue, than chant the vowels in their own name, and finally whispering their names slowly in the way their mother used to call them when they woke up as kids. 
  2. After that I guided them towards a meditation session and at the end of it, I asked one person to close his/her eyes and walk in the center of the circle. The person was then moved from one to other gently and with care. Gradually I increased the number of persons with closed eyes inside the circle, until everyone had a pair. Then I asked the ones with open eyes to re-create another world for the person with closed ones. The atmosphere was great, as they were coming from a musical band, they worked a lot with sounds, they were chanting like birds, humming and whistling, and teaching the others how to follow dance movements with closed eyes. The truth is when you start to move, you start to feel more. Having eyes closed means you are more vulnerable to the experience that happens, and the guide is more responsible for you. This depends a lot on the creativity of the group, as a whole new world can be recreated together. 
  3. The unfolding exercise: when we are human embryos, we have our vertebral column like a stick with cells, than the heart comes, and the head is bowed towards the heart. I got them to work in pairs as the exercise is very intimate, and unfold their own birth in front of their pair, 3 times, with the following sequence: getting their head out of the heart and stretching their arms looking at their counter part, first as the person they don't like to be, the person that they are are, and last as the person they would like to become. They could emphasize that with a gesture, for example if you wanted to become a violinist after the metaphorical birth you could make use of an imaginary violin to play to the one that observes you. To prepare this exercise i used in advance theatre image on their own specific country (imagine Turkey, imagine what you don't like about, what you like about it, and what you would like your country to become). 
  4. To complete the exercise I used the walking exercises after birth. The one who starts walking and gets observed, imagines an obstacle coming from within himself/herself. The observer exaggerates that movement and it complicates it but dragging the other. The roles are than switched. 
Turkish coffee is the best reward after an intensive workshop

Some of the workshops where also promoted by the television

After my workshops, I noticed a general increase of happiness and trust, and I was absolutely amazed that this particular group of students coming from the street musical band asked for more hours being allocated on these exercises, they wanted to experience 3 days in one. It is very important to know that all this needs to be carefully planned and this article is just a demo of how to use theatre related exercises for community and individual benefit. Normally it takes up to 10 days of continuous work to create the basis of trust for a sensorial or immersive play in context oriented theatre and get people to trust one another enough to create and experience for the spectator.

Of course, no workshop without a selfie

Andreea Lupu

You can also connect with Andreea on LinkedIn or Instagram