This week we had an amazing 6th day of our “Finding You Voice” program. The complex and honest stories of the characters are the heart of this program, and are the key to getting our participants to engage. One of our activities, Forum Theatre, allows youth to step into the shoes of the characters in the play and act out a different choice that affects the final outcome for the character.
The Scene from the Play: Alex is booing Frankie during her performance in the talent show, and trying to get the youth participants in the audience to join him. TJ, another character, is also sitting in the audience…he has become a bystander.
The Rehearsal for Reality: During the replay of the scene, one of our youth stepped in as TJ and began cheering each time Alex booed. Alex continued to boo, but was visibly surprised, and Frankie, the character performing in the talent show, felt encouraged to push through the song. Our facilitator stopped the action of the scene and asked, “Did that choice change the outcome the way you expected it too?”. The students decided that while it was a strong, empathetic choice, it didn’t have the effect that they expected on the person doing the bullying. The character of Frankie then shared with them that it made a big difference to her. She shared that she felt more supported and appreciated that her friend was standing up for her. The facilitator asked, “Let’s see what happens if we replay this scene again, and see if the TJ character can make a another choice in this moment.” This time, one student stood up to play TJ, and started clapping for Frankie as soon as Alex started booing. Then, a second student stood up and started clapping. The next thing we knew, the whole room was standing, clapping and cheering for Frankie. This action made it impossible for Frankie to hear the jeering from Alex, and Alex eventually gave up.
I have to admit, even as a developer of this program I would have never imagined having students use this tactic. It was so powerful. In this moment they were practicing upstanding for someone. They were also experiencing the positive feelings that occur when a group of people come together to accomplish a goal, and they were ACTING!
It’s why theatre is our tool. It connects us, empowers us, and reflects our world back to us. It allows us to ask ourselves, “If I was this person, and if I was in this situation, what would I do?”. Most importantly it provides a way to talk about our own lives through the experiences of the characters. These rehearsal moments allow us space to try bold, new choices that may or may not work. They might feel uncomfortable at first, but as we experiment and take risks we are shaped into the “character” we want to become, so that when it is time to stand up…
we can perform.