A few weeks ago I decided to take my Day of Devising to the virtual stage and co-create a play surrounding topics that have come up due to Covid-19. As a director and theatre practitioner, I am endlessly curious about shared experiences and the threads that connect us. As a Clinical Mental Health Counselor and drama therapist in training, my curiosity goes deeper into how those shared experiences are processed (or not) as a group or individually and what that processing can look like.
For some history, last Fall I facilitated a Day of Devising with Dallas theatre artists titled "Healing, Unscripted". This project implemented drama therapy techniques to address trauma experienced as a theatre professional and to initiate personal transformation through the lens of theatrical performance. Performers embodied the change they wished to see within their own stories, creating not only a discussion, but an action plan in regards to personal responsibility in the healing process. I wanted to do this again, but when Covid hit, a pivot was in order.
SO PIVOT I DID. Transparently, I had reservations about anyone wanting to spend MORE time on Zoom talking about something and creating theatre that could feel too close. It is arguably impossible to processes and transform trauma while you are experiencing it, so this day was set up to be an avenue to connect creatively and processes judgement free. The goal was not to reinforce the negative stories, but to create some flexibility in how we were navigating an unprecedented situation. I put out the call to performers and "Witnesses" (in drama therapy the audience has a giant role in healing and transformation). Six performers from across the country and 30 Witnesses later, we created a play in 4 hours on Zoom, and no one got hurt.
Below I have included the outline of the day, and some rational behind choice points. A big thank you to all who participated and witnessed! Check back in for Part 2!
Warm Ups: 10a.m. - 11:00
Name and Motion with group repeating - Silly, fun, low stakes.
Sound and Motion describing current emotional state with group repeating - higher stakes, good way to get temperature on group and invite vulnerability in.
Mirror Exercise- I lead the mirroring at first, playing with tempo, proximity to screen and perceived limitations of space before calling out new "leaders" to mirror. This was to continue group cohesion as well as start playing the with limitations and limitlessness of our "stage".
BREAK OUT ROOMS TO SHARE COVID-19 Experience- I paired up participants who did not know one another and instructed them to pay close attention not only to the story being shared, but the body language, voice, and movement of their partner as they shared their stories. The group had 5 minutes before coming back from the breakout room where they shared the story of their partner with the entire group. The performers "put on" the role of their partner and told their Covid story as if it was their own. (Remember to de-role) I love this exercise for instant validation and building group cohesion.
Noting common themes and connection points-After each story was shared, we began to notice common themes and connection points between experiences. The group had homework over an hour break to each lunch and come up with a 5 minute or less performative piece inspired by our discoveries.
The group came back with their piece to share and from there, we co-created a piece! I will do another post on that process and navigating witnesses on Zoom!