Drama A Way To Social Inclusion 1193768916981576 5
- a WAY to
Practical process descriptions
for drama workers
- a Way to Social Inclusion
Practical process descriptions
for drama workers
Jouni Piekkari (ed.)
University of Turku,
Centre for Extension Studies
This handbook is one of the outputs of DramaWay project
(107247 - JA - 1 2002 1 FI JOINT CALL-SITG, http://www.tkk.uty.fi/dramaway).
The handbook has been done with European support.
Publications of the Centre for Extension Studies in Turku University A: 88
Cover Keijo Viljakainen
Coverphotos Ulla Halkola and Titi Lillqvist
Layout Rivico Oy, Jouni Vilhonen
Publisher Centre for Extension Studies, University of Turku
Print Dark Oy
Printing year 2005
Sales Centre for Extension Studies
Tel. +358 2 3336280
Fax. +358 2 333 6220
Drama – a Second Chance to Learn ............................................................. 5
1. Introduction ................................................................................ 9
What is Drama Way? ................................................................................ 9
2. Aims and Methods .................................................................... 12
Why to use drama as an alternative tool for learning? ....................... 12
Some Genres of Participatory and Interactive Drama ........................ 14
3. Projects in the Co-operation Countries .................................. 21
Estonia ...................................................................................................... 22
Social Theatre Festival “Spartacus” (VAT Forum group) .............. 23
Visits at Tallinn’s Centre of Children at Risk (VAT Forum group) ..... 27
Forum Theatre in TV Youth Program “The Fist”
(VAT Forum group) ............................................................................. 31
Using Improvisational Technique in Forum Theatre
(VAT Forum group) ............................................................................. 35
Forum Theatre Workshops in Estonia (Jouni Piekkari) ................. 39
Spain (Catalonia) ..................................................................................... 44
Clowns for Clean Clothes -Campaign (David Martínez) ................ 45
Uncovering the Conflict. Exploring Our Decisions Through Drama
(David Martínez) ................................................................................. 51
School for Parents (Jordi Forcadas) .................................................. 61
Theatre Project with Immigrant Children of Raval
(Anna Caubet & Jordi Forcadas) ........................................................ 64
Session of Interactive Theatre (Anna Caubet) ................................. 69
Invisible Theatre with Immigrant Youth (Jordi Forcadas) ............. 71
Portugal .................................................................................................... 74
Interactive Class. Learning about Drama Literature
(Marco Ferreira) .................................................................................. 75
Youth & Job – Equality of Rights (Marco Ferreira) ........................ 80
Sonho de Amanda - Amanda´s Dream (Baal 17) ............................ 89
Finland .................................................................................................... 100
Free fall – Project in Lohja (Titi Lillqvist) .................................... 101
Photo as a Step to Drama (Ulla Halkola & Tarja Koffert) ............. 115
Arts, Educators, Communities – a Participatory Approach
(Jouni Piekkari) ................................................................................. 119
Kullervo. Social Exclusion of Youth in Mythology
(Titi Lillqvist & Jouni Piekkari) ....................................................... 130
New York, New York. Parents Making Choices Concerning
Their Careers and Children (Jouni Piekkari) ................................ 142
Aleksi. How do I know someone is using drugs?
(Jouni Piekkari) ................................................................................. 148
4. Literature on Different Genres of Drama ............................ 155
Information of the writers of the articles ................................................. 164
Appendix: Drama a Way to Social Inclusion CD .................................... 166
Drama – a Second Chance to Learn
It is common to experience discomfort at Finnish schools and work places. Several
surveys and public discussions show that such aspects as bullying, burn-outs,
psychological violence and sexual harassment have become a significant issue in
Finland.These phenomena seem to be common also in other European countries.
The society is evidently increasingly emphasising competition, specialisation,
technical knowledge, know-how and consumption. In such a society it is more
and more difficult for human beings to interact in positive, human ways. And the
same challenges are met in family life as well.
It is visible in public discussions that parents, people working with youngsters
and educators often try to search for forums and methods to learn social skills
needed to tackle these problems. However, where are these kind of forums in
which people with various backgrounds could learn together through play: observe
their lives with open eyes; experience moments of sharing? Where could we
strengthen our communities and learn the social skills needed in that process?
Drama a Way to Social Inclusion (Drama Way) was a project by the European
Union Socrates Joint actions program. The project was started in 2002 and
concluded in the end of February 2005. It was coordinated by the University of
Turku, Centre for Extension Studies from Finland. The project has studied and
explored the use of drama as forum-based tool in four countries in Europe;
Spain, Portugal, Estonia and Finland. The basic idea of the project was to connect
participatory drama and informal learning. Participatory drama methods were
seen in project as a way to social inclusion.The utmost intention was to promote
the equality of values and active citizenship among different minority groups of
We, the active participants of the project, have explored especially the use of
drama in social exclusion of youngsters.We want to believe that drama could be
the “second chance to learn” for those who have lost their first chance in the
mainstream school system.
In Catalonia (Spain), young prisoners try to understand their decisions in life
through Shakespeare’s story of Hamlet. In Estonia, youngsters at a drug
rehabilitation centre create constructive conflicts with their parents, relatives
and drug dealers – in an imaginary drama. In Finland, 7th grade school children
learn critical awareness in drug questions - through an interactive forum theatre.
In Portugal, children from isolated schools in the countryside are learning social
skills through allegoric drama stories and self-expression exercises. In Finland,
the secrets of sexuality are revealed and shared through world-famous fairy
tales; the pre-Christian Finnish myth of Kullervo has been a tool for social work
students for approaching and discussing cultural history concerning young people’s
marginalisation and suicides.
In the city of Barcelona, second generation immigrant youngsters create invisible
theatre dealing with the rights of teen age girls. In the town of Turku, youngsters
escaping their family problems to youth shelters get new perspectives to their
lives through cross-artistic methods, such as photographs, music and diaries.
Catalonian clowns fool people of all ages to think about the injustice of the
global trade and how to live ethically in a more sound way.
These projects and many others have been an unusual way of sharing. Young
and old, prisoners and non-prisoners, immigrants and non-immigrants, rural and
urban, artists and non-artists have encountered each other on equal level. Everyone
has done something different from what they usually do; taken positive risks.
On the contrary to what one might expect, Drama Way did not produce a
large number of theatre performances. Instead of creating shows, the participatory
drama that we explored is an art form of a moment; creating and sharing meanings,
process leading one towards understanding.
In our project we have explored and developed new combinations and
adaptations of a wide range of applied and interactive drama, such as forum
theatre, live action role play (LARP), process drama / Drama-in Education (DIE),
clownery, photo drama, cite-specific theatre, and education on theatre art. The
participants of Drama Way are mainly young professional, who want to broaden
their scope of work, for example, from conventional theatre work to interactive
Drama Way project has produced results beyond expectations. Some of the
ideas born in these projects have already received funding from local or
international co-operation partners. The most delightful thing is to see how
some lonely people working with youngsters have made friends with other inspired
people in the field. Some of them have found completely new directions for their
lives and for their work with youngsters. Drama Way is not meant to be walked
alone, but together with other people, in a creative interaction.
In this handbook our purpose is to introduce our work in a practical way, so
that anyone with some experience in applied drama can try to adapt these
processes in one’s own work. Even better, we hope that you could improve and
develop our work: experiments presented here are “works-in-progress”. Some
of the processes that did not function in first attempt in the best possible way
are also included in this handbook. We believe that we can learn a lot from our
mistakes as well. The great creativity and mercifulness of drama work lies in its
unpredictability: how we succeed depends on the methods, people, environment,
expectations, mood, context – often even the lucky position of stars…
Only some of the projects that were borne due to the Drama Way are
presented in this handbook. Many of the project reports are to be found on the
project’s web site, which is updated regularly www.tkk.utu.fi/dramaway/. Project
reports are published in the internet as original versions and as English translations,
when possible. Many of the stories are so multidimensional and fine, that they
will never be written down anywhere else but in our hearts.You have to go and
experience them by yourself.
We hope that you can also contribute to this sharing of experiences in our
Drama Way project in the future!
Behalf of the DramaWay project team
Editor, drama trainer
What is Drama Way?
There is a need for alternative and more adaptable ways and means of learning
for the young people who are under a threat of social exclusion. This need has
been recognised throughout Europe. The demand for this project has become
evident through the results of various previous educational programmes and
projects. Special ways of working, such as participatory and experiential methods,
are often required to guide the groups in threat of exclusion towards social
inclusion. Drama in its various forms is one example of these tools.
The need for a new approach is perhaps most clearly recognised with those
working with youngsters who have various kinds of problems, such as school drop-
outs, young substance abusers and immigrants. For example, European Socrates
Grundtvig project Social inclusion through APEL made a research, which summarised
that the informal ways and methods of learning are of crucial importance in the
efforts against marginalisation.The need for networks of drama groups and individual
drama specialists with training institutions and various projects is clear.A continuous
need to develop the practice has become evident though the previous projects
and training programmes. Also drama as a tool has to be explored in new and
applied ways to ensure its applicability for various target groups.
General objectives of Drama Way
• To share practical tools and insights between the young/ beginning
professional or semi-professional drama workers who are interested in
working with youngsters under a threat of social exclusion
• to improve local and international networks of drama workers, funding
instances and social workers – to improve the visibility of the work
• to create practical, easily accessible material and project descriptions to
help the development of practical and pedagogical drama work of young
professionals in the field
• to identify themes that are locally important
• to initiate small-scale pilot drama projects with various youth groups in
need for social inclusion e.g. drug addicts in each partner country (Estonia,
Spain (Catalonia), Portugal and Finland)
The main target of the project Drama – A Way to Social Inclusion (Drama Way)
was to promote the opportunities of the young, especially 14-18 year old people;
to adapt them to the larger society and to the community they are living in, as
well as, to the possibility to get education and to learn from the methods tailored
for them. The learning methods used for these youngsters must be different
from the formal methods of education; the methods must provide a genuine
second chance of learning in an informal way. The methods often include taking
the youngsters away from the conventional school context: into the nature, youth
centres or theatre schools. Many of the projects also integrate different age and
social groups. For example, it has been important to bring “outsiders” to the
prison environment in order to create a new kind of interaction in the drama.
The aim of the project was to gather, apply and mix different pedagogical
drama tools in order to utilise them in different local training contexts. The
project aimed also to activate the target youngster groups to participate actively
in planning of the curricula and in developing the methods. These aims were
reached mainly through pilot workshops, practical evaluations and feedback
discussions with the youngsters.
The project was realised locally in four countries: Finland, Spain (Catalonia),
Estonia and Portugal.The local groups organised workshops and real life laboratories
in each country.These experimental laboratories also produced material for internet
based data-bank of experiences (see www.tkk.utu.fi/dramaway) and for national
discussion forums debating the use of drama methods in local context.
The local workshops were also important forums of networking: participants
had various backgrounds; teachers, youth workers, drama workers from the whole
region, not only from the co-operation area.The workshops created co-operation
on local and national levels.This promotes multi-disciplinary approaches and co-
operation in the future. We often noticed how people working close to each
others and struggling with similar kind of problems and target groups did not
know about each other.This tendency of segregation is seen everywhere: without
an outsider input one rarely has time to look outside one’s own work field and
In the end of the project, the European workshop in Turku (Finland) presented
some of the results of the projects to the wider audience.The results of the local
workshops were presented though practical workshops and other suitable means,
such as video and slide shows.
Locally adapted themes and working methods
All the four partner countries have their own specific focuses. In Finland the
main theme was substance abuse. Finland used to have one of the lowest rates of
drug abuse and crimes related to illegal drugs. Nowadays the figures are
skyrocketing in the fastest rate in whole Europe. Furthermore, alcohol
consumption has increased due to suddenly sunk prices and increased availability
of alcohol. Especially amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised groups it has
evidently caused a growing number of social problems and health risks. “We are
finally becoming European - is that what we wanted? How can we suddenly change
the cultural patterns of substance use that seem to be a result of decades of mal-
planned policy and perhaps hundreds of years of colonised mentality?” These are
question that many people ask in Finland.Therefore, the preventive work is the key
interest area in the Finnish Drama Way project. However, we see the prevention
work in a broader perspective. Through drama work we want to support the
welfare and building of healthy social environment for the young people.
In Catalonia (Spain), the focus is on the work with young prisoners and
immigrant groups. Spain is one of the entrance countries of great numbers of
legal and illegal immigrants, especially from Africa. Massive anti-globalization
demonstrations, Iraq war protests, terrorist attack to Madrid and the policy of
the previous conservative government that paid less attention to the social welfare
seem to draw more attention to the integration of the immigrants and to the
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Third World issues. During the project period these issues have been clear for
the drama workers and artists in Barcelona. This general atmosphere also
contributed to the success of Drama Way seminars and networking in the area.
In the rural Portugal drama workers tackle with problems of the countryside
and small rural towns. Such issues as norms and sexuality, substance abuse, the
possibilities of the young people to develop and stay in their own region are
considered. Portuguese partners claim that these problems are a result of
“backwards mentality” that derives from the era of dictatorship, a short history
of democracy, neo-liberalisation and harmful and de-moralising effects of many
aspects of EU policies.
Estonia is a newcomer in the EU ”family”, and the country is characterised by
the rapid social change from Soviet system to an independent nation maintaining
one of the most neo-liberal economical systems in the world. Estonian youngster
in the projects deal with their issues through a national debate in TV forum theatre
sessions, in schools, youth rehabilitation centres, festivals, live action role game
associations etc. In Estonia the main focus is young people discussing with their
peers through an interactive drama.The topics are handled in a participatory way
and consist of the topics that the young people themselves are concerned of.
Drama Way gathers people with various backgrounds and ways of working to
work together.This has resulted in a tremendous range of working methods and
Different approaches are utilised in Drama Way: some emphasise celebratory
aspects in their work: carnival, fun, wild imagination, mass approach, some prefer
more issue-oriented and intimate approaches, using also sociological and qualitative
research methods along with the drama work.
In the first meeting in Finland our working tool was Finnish oral poetry, since
from there we could find same kind of stories of social exclusion of youngsters,
which are visible in the lives of the modern refugees, victims of human trade or
amongst the young people committing suicides. We chose a pre-medieval story
of Kullervo as a tool, and situated it in the forest of an island close to Nokia
cellular phone -town Salo. In Finland forest and water are present practically
everywhere, and it is quite natural for people to use these natural settings for
summer theatre, pedagogical adventures or other celebrations. We developed
this process drama also to suite more simple processes that can be easily used in
classrooms and social or youth work training sessions aiming at focusing a
discussions in the lecture on certain social topics.
The new EU member state Estonia is another good example how the local
culture can be used in drama. In the workshop, the Estonian actors and drama
workers gave the other Drama Way partners a chance to explore how the live
action role play (LARP) and traditional Estonian wedding games and dramas
could be used to help the youngsters build their identity in the new and changing
Europe. On the other hand, we explored these wedding traditions as a local
form of interactive and participatory drama. Participatory drama is often
considered as something modern, but we tend to forget that the local folk forms
have used quite similar techniques. In the past, they were also ways to empower,
educate and help people participate in the creation of the society.This is valuable,
locally rooted, indigenous knowledge and know-how.
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2. Aims and Methods
Why to use drama as an alternative tool for learning?
Drama as a learning method is gaining increased interest throughout Europe and
the world. There is a wide range of different participatory drama techniques
which are developing rapidly. However, no methods should be used merely because
of its popularity, but they should preferably be used when based on conscious
arguments or clear evidence. British drama pedagogues Allan Owens and Keith
Barber define their arguments with four categories: a) play as universal expression;
b) practical experiences; c) empirical evidence and d) ideological reasons.
Firstly, play is an essential element in the life of a human being. This is
apparent with children, but concealed and suffocated with adults and young people,
who for several social reasons have stopped creative playing. Such reasons can
be fear of ridicule, finding safety in rigidity of values and standard behaviour and
disbelief in personal potential for creativity. By giving the children, youth and
adults an opportunity to ”play seriously” through drama, we can offer them a
genuine ”second chance” for learning through play. We can also offer them an
opportunity to enjoy the learning process, an aspect that is all too often neglected
in formal education. In this way drama in a safe environment can lower the
barriers of learning, since negative attitudes often prevent learning in formal
Secondly, practical experience of drama workers show us that it is possible
to use drama as a learning method even in such situations which seem to be very
difficult for promoting learning. By offering a ”new start”, drama has functioned
as a motivating impulse for people with learning difficulties or low motivation for
learning. Therefore, the use of drama in such situations has also opened doors
for social inclusion by increasing self-esteem, personal and emotional skills and
approve creativity. Drama can also serve as a holistic therapeutic healing device
(Koskela 1999; Blatner 1996). It can offer a safe environment to explore difficult
personal issues through safely distanced allegories and symbols of drama. The
holistic group processes as such have also proved to have healing effects on the
group members. For example, a group process can offer sense of belonging,
opportunities to reflect oneself as a personality and enjoy mutual support
(Jauhiainen 1999; Blatner 1996).
Thirdly, the empirical evidence shows that process drama has had a
remarkable impact on learning of various groups in prisons, schools, youth shelters
etc. This evidence has been gathered in several countries that have practised
drama as an alternative arena for learning for several decades. Effects of drama
use have been researched, and the results showed that drama can promote
qualitative learning, which considers the different individual learning styles.
Participatory drama seems, for example, to use and combine practically all the
different learning channels and processes such as auditive, kinaesthetic, visual,
tactile, multi-sensory, mathematical, interpersonal, intuitive. However, due to the
complexity of these processes, it is difficult to measure this kind of quality learning.
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Fourthly, reasons for the use of drama can be ideological. Drama can be used
as a tool for empowerment and therefore it can promote social change and
inclusion of marginalised groups, and create a chance based on their own priorities,
not those dictated from above or through the formal education system.
Participatory drama (not just any drama) is considered as a democratic and
critical device for learning, where both the ”teachers” and ”pupils” can learn
from each other, and more precisely learn together. A teacher/educator of
participatory drama can never be a fully learnt specialist of the subcultures s/he
is working with. To give an example; only the gypsies can truly understand what
the life of a gypsy is like. However, both non-gypsy drama educators and the
gypsy participants of drama process can get new perspectives into their lives
from each other.
The so called constructivist paradigm in education emphasises that learners
are not empty vessels to pour information and ideologies into. They are rather
to be seen as radiating starting points of their own learning through their own
life experiences and values that they have formed in the socio-cultural contexts
they live in both within and without the formal school system (von Wright & von
Wright 2001). Drama as a multidisciplinary form of art can activate and bring
forth these life experiences through the use of imagination, dreaming, use of
body, symbol, imagery, visual arts, music, writing etc. and help to use them in the
individual learning process in a holistic manner. Drama is also a group process
that always activates and develops social learning, emotional intelligence, argument
on values, spiritual thinking, intuition and other meta-learning skills, that have
been recognised as essential elements in learning process of a human being.
These skills are still often neglected, or cannot fully be covered through the
formal learning system, especially in the case of youngsters with learning difficulties,
which are often based on socio-cultural background (see also Goleman 1997).
Blatner, Adam (1996): Acting-in. Practical application of psycho dramatic
Hannula, Aino (2000): Tiedostaminen ja muutos Paulo Freiren ajattelussa.
Systemaattinen analyysi sorrettujen pedagogiikasta. Helsingin yliopiston
Jauhiainen (1999): Ryhmäilmiö.
Koskela,Virpi (1999): Elämäntehtävä Legioonateatterin opetukset – Kokemuksia
ja ajatuksia ohjaajan ja kouluttajan roolista. Kuikka, Suvi (toim.): Friikki.
Nuorisoteatteritoiminnan opas. Vapaan Sivitystyön liitto.
Owens, Allan and Barber, Keith (1997): Drama Works.
Rohd, Michael (1998): Theatre, Community and Conflict Resolution. Hope is
Vital Manual for educators and youth workers.
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Some Genres of Participatory and Interactive Drama
In the Drama Way project we use and mix various forms of participatory and
Piekkari applied drama.These forms are borne in different cultures and contexts. Despite
the differences there are also a great number of similarities in these forms. Many
of these genres overlap each other, and the boundaries between them are
therefore rather blurred. However, each of them emphasises some aspects of
using drama as the tool in the process.
A general feature in these different genres is that the process of making and
creation is an important aspect, even in some cases more important than the end
product. For example performances are emphasised, since they are eulogises of
human interaction and create meanings through the symbolic form of drama in a
group process. In spite of these general features, the different genres have varying
ideologies and philosophies.These approaches interpret the nature of human being
differently. Furthermore, the concept of good learning and the question how a
human being learns may also be different in different genres.Therefore, it is essential
to be aware of these basic ideas and aims of different approaches, even if many of
them can be applied together. Respectively, many of the different concepts developed
in varying cultural contexts can actually refer to strikingly similar processes. The
best way to understand the processes is to discuss them with people who use
these methods: what do the practitioners try to achieve by using them? Even more
important is to discuss the experience and empirical evidence: how do these different
forms actually work? Are the set goals achieved with these processes?
Drama-in-Education, and often simply the drama itself, refers to the use of drama
as a tool of education. This methodology of drama used in education is most
extensively developed in the British and Australian contexts.This form of drama is
mainly used in a school context to supplement the curriculum. It can be used in
any subject as a way to learn through experience. In the most typical situation it is
used to learn, for example, history, but it can be applied to learn mathematics as well.
In the DIE method the emphasis is on the processes of exploring different
topics through drama conventions (techniques). On the contrary to conventional
school drama the DIE rarely aims at creating polished performances for the
audience, but instead the teachers or educators from outside try to offer ”safe
environments to create meanings through pretence” in a learner-centred group
process.Therefore, these methods are also called as process drama or pedagogical
drama.The new view emphasises the concept drama as an art form in its own right,
instead of overemphasising its use as a tool of learning.
The TIE method refers to the use of pre-written and rehearsed theatre
performance as a tool of learning. The plays in the TIE process are usually
performed by specialised and professional touring theatre companies. The plays
are carefully designed to complement different subjects in the official school
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curricula. These performances are often partly interactive. Furthermore, they
may include so called pre- or post-performance workshops, where the pupils
can be more actively involved in their own learning processes. Through various
exercises the pupils can further explore the themes of the play. Sometimes these
workshops take place before the play, in order to prepare the pupils for the
themes that are discussed in the play. These kind of sessions can be organised
either with the theatre group or separately with their own teacher. Therefore,
many of the groups also produce complementary materials and teachers’
information packs to integrate the theatrical intervention into the learning process.
Forum theatre is a form of interactive theatre developed by a Brazilian director
Augusto Boal as part of his participatory theatre method system called ”Theatre
of the Oppressed”. In the forum theatre method, the theatre group presents a
social problem – an injustice or ”oppression” - that is relevant to the audience.
In a forum theatre performance there will be no end solution for the problem,
but the conflict is left unsolved. The audience is activated to explore solutions
for the problem by inviting the audience (“spect-actors”) on the stage to act the
solutions for the problems.
Julian Boal is directing Forum Theatre in Barcelona in March 2004.
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Forum theatre is also a workshop technique where there is no pre-determined
time span for the play. The group, for example a group of mothers, creates these
plays entirely by themselves. These theatrical exercises are used to explore the
social themes, problems and oppressions of the group. Forum theatre has been
used to tackle such issues as racism, substance abuse, sexual prejudice or bullying
in schools. It is also utilised in media education and interactive discussion forums
on TV. According to Boal, it aims at empowerment of individuals and groups; it is
”rehearsal for the reality”.
Invisible theatre method was invented by Augusto Boal. It was born during the
dictatorship of Brazil, when the politically critical play-making was forbidden.
Invisible theatre is a form of theatre where the audience does not know that
they are witnessing a play. These performances have a pre-written storyline that
portrays a social problem or oppression and the performance is taken into a real
life situation, it can be performed, for example, in a tram, bar, market place or
shopping centre. The aim is to provoke people to participate in the ”play” which
they believe is a real situation of oppression.
Legislative theatre is a further elaboration of Theatre of the Oppressed or forum
theatre, where different techniques are used as a tool to discuss local or national
democracy and public decision making.The solutions that the audiences draw in
the forum plays create a starting point for legislative level discussions.This method
uses also internet discussions, thematic festivals, political rallies etc. to help the
disadvantaged people to participate in politics.
Theatre-for-Awareness / Theatre-for-Development
These methods of touring theatre have been used especially in the Third World
Countries as a tool for participatory development programmes and awareness
raising campaigns. Instead of telling people educationally what they should know
– inform them - this form of theatre raises questions, for which the audiences
themselves have a chance to answer through the organised post-performance
discussions.The plays are based on a field research on certain topic amongst the
target groups, in order to identify what the local people themselves consider as
the most crucial problems of the area.The themes considered may be completely
different from the issues, that the “developers” or the authorities regard as
These theatre forms aim at a self-motivated social change of the communities.
They can even aim at a very concrete completion of a local or regional
development programme, for example anti-poaching programme, agricultural
development, women’s rights etc. Other names used for these forms of
participatory drama are popular theatre and community theatre.
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Devised Theatre / “From Fact to Fiction”
Devised theatre refers to all processes of theatre making where there is no pre-
written play text or where a play text is used only as a starting point for a
completely new piece of theatre. Devised theatre is created in a so called
democratic group process where the group explores a chosen theme through
movement, theatrical improvisations, visual techniques, videos etc. From Fact to
Fiction is one form of devised theatre where the starting point of the performance
is factual material concerning the chosen theme: research reports, newspaper
articles, interviews, TV programmes, internet etc. This material is converted into
a dramatic form in a creative group process. Devised theatre techniques are
mainly used in creating plays concerning the themes chosen by the youngsters
Play Back Theatre
Play Back theatre is a form of interactive drama created in the United States.The
most famous developers of this genre is Jonathan Fox.The idea of play back theatre
is that the participants of the workshop (or the audiences of a play back theatre
performance) tell short, real episodes of their lives where after the actors (or
other workshop participants) improvise them on stage by following certain drama
conventions. Only a few aspects of the stories are emphasised in the scene,
aspects such as specific emotions, personified objects presented in the story or
some selected sentences or meaningful interactions. These symbolic scenes are
often accompanied by improvised soundscapes or music.
Play back theatre is a form of sharing individual experiences in a community. It
can be a purifying or healing experience, even though the creators of this genre
emphasise it as a form of sharing real life experiences in an entertaining way.
Sociodrama, based on the work of Jacob L. Moreno, is one of the earliest genres of
applied drama. Sociodrama is not a simple drama technique; it is a complex
theory and method of analysing, understanding and learning about the different
social phenomena of people’s everyday lives.The techniques used in sociodrama
are similar to many of the above mentioned techniques, emphasis being on the
analytic understanding of social dynamics. Sociodrama is commonly used method
of training. Sociodrama is also a non-therapeutic sibling of Moreno’s psychodrama
and has strongly influenced the development of Play Back theatre.
Celebratory approach in theatre making often aims at identifying certain
concentrated settlements or groups of people that seem to be less involved in
the community.Typical example of these concentrated settlements are the urban
housing areas. Celebratory drama emphasises aspects of carnival, the use and
creation of myth, creativity, visual theatre and street theatre style of expression.
As such celebratory theatre can have a healing impact on the people that are
taken into the process of collective creation.
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The philosophy of celebratory drama emphasises that arts should be
democratised: anyone can be an artist, and the responsibility of a professional
artist is to set this creativity free from the culturally learned inhibitions and fears
of ridicule. Celebratory artists believe in that opening up the in-born creativity is
an almost necessary prerequisite for the human being’s capacity to solve personal
and social problems.The British artist collection Welfare State International is one
of the best known examples of celebratory arts and drama.
Hospital clownery, originally invented by Patch Adams in the United States, is
increasing its popularity also in Europe. Hospital clowns target their performances
to seriously ill children in hospitals. It is believed – and proved– that laughter can
support the healing process even in serious cases of illness. Most importantly,
the philosophy of hospital clownery emphasises the basic human need for laughter
and joy. Laughter and joy should be taken into such places where it is most
unlikely to occur. Many of the hospital clowns have also worked e.g. in refugee
camps of Yugoslavia amongst the victims of war.
Site-specific theatre refers to any kind of theatre that takes place in a non-
theatre environment and uses the special features of different environments
theatrically and symbolically. For example, a theatrical event or performance can
take place in a dumping area, old abandoned building or in nature. Performances
and their audiences may also wander from one place to another. In many cases
this kind of performance blurs the rigid distinction between the audience and
the performers: in a similar way as in rituals or ceremonies the spectators become
an integral part of the event.
Drama, myths and ritual forms of performance
Traditional forms of performing art can function as a inspiring starting point for
a community theatre event. Myths and their modern applications can invoke
allegories between the factual and fictional; past and future; concrete and imaginary;
collective and private.The use of local myths and traditional forms, such as songs
and dances, can be important for building the local identity by revitalising the
As the name suggests, this theatre is performed on the streets or in public
places. Street theatre is probably one of the oldest forms of secular theatre.
Street theatre often uses strongly visual and carnivalistic means to draw attention
to these often spontaneous performances.
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Live-Action Role Play (LARP)
LARP could be defined as a genuine cultural movement of young people, since it
is mainly organised and run by the young people themselves. LARP is a series of
highly interactive and imaginary dramatic events, where each participant takes
part in an improvised drama by following their own pre-determined roles. The
game is totally improvised and has no script. The role games take often place in
an imaginary world of myths, sci-fi, prehistory or any other world created by the
participants or the game leaders.
Sometimes a LARP session may continue for several days, or the same group
of people may explore the same theme for several years. LARP communities are
often partly virtual, as well. Internet sites and discussion lists form an important
forum for creation of characters, stories and reflection.
Community Theatre or Theatre/Drama in the Community is a loose
umbrella term that can refer to almost any kind of theatre making which is in
some relation to a community. It can be created with, for or by the community.
This vague umbrella concept applies to any genre mentioned above in this list,
therefore these concepts are avoided in the Drama Way project.
Draditional wedding serenomy in Estonia, June 2004
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Social Theatre Festival “Spartacus”
The background and participants of the festival
Forum The project “Spartacus” was organised by Tartu Anne Youth Centre, and the
group event took place in Miina Härma Gymnasium, 14th – 16th of November, year 2003.
Altogether 135 youngsters from different schools from all over Estonia participated
in the three-day long Forum Theatre training session. The head-director and
instructor of the session was the director and “Joker” Margo Teder of the VAT
Theatre Forum Group. His assistants were Andres Kask (director of Kanuti Youth
House’s theatre group), Kadi Jaanisoo and Piret Soosaar from VAT Theatre Forum
The participants were gathered from the following Estonian towns/areas:Tartu,
Tallinn, Narva, Jõhvi, Viljandi, Kuressaare, Sindi, Ahja, Nõo, Luuja and Tarvastu.
Working process and phases
The work phases of the festival:
1. On the first day, the head director explained the whole group, what is
forum theatre and how the forum scenes are built. After this people were
divided into groups and the groups continued individual work in separate
rooms (class-rooms and gym-room, etc.). The group work consisted of
defining and exploring problematic issues, thus the themes. Each group
were given 2 words/themes, which functioned as a starting point for group
discussions. Group work was the working method. Youngsters prepared
independently one forum scene of some problem that concerns themselves
as youngsters. Firstly, the group had to find the themes based on their
discussions and then create still-images, so called stop-pictures.The stop-
pictures were then dynamized, meaning that the people in the pictures
started to move. The scenes of forum theatre were born.
2. On the second day, dramaturgical expressions of the problems under
consideration were created and put in practise. The problems were, in
other words, transferred into theatrical language (the scenes were
developed based on the pictures prepared during the first day); thus short
forum-scenes, where the main character tries hopelessly to overcome the
kind of oppression in his way, were borne. In other words, the main character
was faced with some kind of conflict.The assistants helped the participants
with this process.
3. On the third day, the results of the work of the previous days were
performed in form of a group work.This group work event turned into a 3
hours long marathon-performance, where all groups one by one showed
their vision of one issue/problem that concerns youngsters. After each
group had performed its scene, the head director introduced forum theatre
techniques to the audience with the help of particular group scene. He
introduced, for instance with the help of one story, the hot seat technique
where all characters sit one by one in a so called hot seat and the audience
is allowed to ask all kind of questions from them concerning the background
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of their behaviour. With another group he introduced how the characters
can say out loud their thoughts – the Joker (the leader of the show) can
whenever he wants say “stop” and ask the character to say out loud, what
s/he is thinking at that particular moment. With the third group he used
forwarding and rewinding of the scene -technique. This means moving in
time - the things that happened in the past, present and future were played
out. What happened before the conflict, what could happen afterwards?
Techniques used in the work process
In order to reach co-operation with this kind of large assembly of youngsters
the work processes had to have several clear steps.
The following methods/techniques were used during the festival:
1) Ice-breaking, different warm-up games;
3) Group Discussions (defining and exploring the problems);
4) Creating the forum theatre story (through pictures/still-images,
5) Playing out the scene within the group (converting the created story into
6) Interactive discussions between the audience and the performers;
7) Combining all the prepared forum scenes into one big performance;
8) Interactive feedback circle with the participants.
Different techniques were used in different stages– some of them were
applied to small group work, some to all participants. Sometimes it was
the small group that had to be active, sometimes the head-director of the
festival or the leader of the happening/action.
| 24 |
An old fashioned teacher carrying the traditions of Soviet times maintains
strict discipline in the classroom.
Demand for this kind of interactive theatre projects in school theatres:
positive and negative aspects
In addition to traditional school theatre festivals, there is a demand for happenings
that are socially directed and for events of participative theatre schooling and
training. However, there is quite much of confusion with defining the concepts
of this field in Estonia. For instance, this event was called social theatre festival
even though only school theatres were present in the event and the participants
had no previous experience of social theatre. What is social theatre as such after
all? It can be said, that making theatre is always a social phenomenon, but so
called social theatre as such is actually something else than the typical school
theatre represents. Social theatre aims at changing some social issue, for example
at increasing people’s educational level, growing general awareness and other
similar issues. Naturally, it would be nice if school theatres could take over this
function even partly and would try one of the social theatre forms - forum
theatre - in their schools.There is evidently enough problems and themes to deal
with in schools. But on the other hand, the question is: are our schools ready to
talk publicly about the themes/problems that concern the youngsters, even in
theatrical language? The answer to this question would be a vivid indicator of the
developmental level of the school.The idea of organizing this kind of educational
gathering of school theatres is extremely. This kind of gathering works as good
advertise for this interesting theatre form – forum theatre – and, furthermore,
the willingness to participate in further training meant for smaller groups could
rise inside the school-youngsters/schools.
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These training days were not aiming at offering thorough knowledge concerning
forum theatre; they offered a brief introduction to the methodology of forum
theatre. Some imperfections concerning this event are the following:
• The number of youngsters participating in the training, where a specific
method was introduced, at the same time was too large (many of the
youngsters did not know anything about the phenomena considered and
most likely felt at the end that the provided knowledge was too shallow
and created no clear picture of forum theatre methods)
• Too little time to introduce forum theatre method step by step, slowly and
thoroughly.Youngsters did not understand very well how the forum theatre
story is prepared and how to build up one forum scene. If there were to
be less children, maybe there would have been more time to do this as
well.This is the reason why some of the scenes that were prepared did not
work as forum theatre scenes. Some of the school-youngsters could not
understand what forum theatre, the purposes and expectations, is all about
in such a short time period
• The assistants did not have enough concrete work tasks and the head-
director was not present all the time
• Lack of information and poor distribution of information during the festival.
These problems were mostly due to the organizational aspects of the event.
In the future it could be wise to take a smaller group of school youngsters
when organizing forum theatre training. The training could also be shorter, more
intensive and concentrated. All three working phases/days could be arranged
during one day. If this kind of mass event is organized again, there should be more
professional assistants and directors helping the children in the groups in order
for them to understand how forum theatre works.
On the first day there should be more time to get used to the spirit of the
event, and to learn about the purposes of the forum theatre in smaller groups–
the groups could be assisted by the directors. In this particular event the whole
mass was divided into groups according to the schools they attended, and all
together nine groups were born. The groups could also have been differently
organized, in order to enable youngsters to make new friends and share
experiences with new people from all around the country, not only with one’s
A positive aspect of this festival was that, all in all, quite many youngsters got
the possibility to get acquainted with forum theatre method and got to try
creating forum scene by themselves for the first time– to put some problem/
conflict/thought/experience into theatrical form. Furthermore, the forum-
performance/demonstration put together from the different scenes and played
out on the third day ended up being quite interesting.The head-director managed
to lead the event rather well.
| 26 |
Visits to Tallinn’s Centre of Children at Risk
Work environment and background of the children
Forum Tallinn’s Centre of Children at Risk is an institution where under-aged children
group are kept isolated from their usual everyday environment from six months up to
a year.These children have problems with alcohol, drugs and other toxic substances.
They have an increased need for attention and a labile nerve-system, and therefore
often behave hyperactively and nervously.
Some features describing these children (description of features of one or
several children in the group):
• have experienced violence and have been left without attendance during
their early ages
• have roamed on the streets in gangs and developed criminal behaviour
• unstable nerve-system, deficit of attention
• highly egocentric
• have tried suicide
• using alcohol and toxic substances for amusement, escaping from the reality
• early sexual relationships and several different partners
• bad relationships with the parents
• not going to school
• has no-one to trust to, and therefore suspicious with all people
The VAT Theatre Forum Group visited and organized Forum Theatre
workshops in Tallinn’s Centre of Children at Risk during a time span from
November 2003 to June 2004. The group usually went to the centre 1-2 times a
month, and arranged a group session including 6-10 persons; half of them were
girls and half boys. The length of the workshop was about 2 hours and it was
organized in a medium sized computer classroom (once it took place in the gym
of the centre). Participation was voluntary for the children.
Working process and purposes
Each forum theatre workshop differs form previous ones. At this time we were
faced with a quite “difficult” group instead of so called ordinary children. It meant
that we had to organize our activities and plans according to the situation and to
the concrete moment of time – how many children wanted/could show up in
the workshop. It is clear that organizing and participating in the workshops was
obviously a challenge for both sides – for us, as guests and VAT Theatre Forum
Group actresses, and for the children as local habitants and as so called “bad
children” in the eyes of the society. Both sides were put into a test.The children
put themselves, as well as us, into a test by trusting us and confiding in us with
their secrets and (life)stories, and we tested ourselves - how and in which way
we know how to react to these stories of much-experienced and much-seen
children without hurting them or seeming too false, cold/rough.
On the other hand, our purpose was not to be a constant supporter of their
opinions and a friend to the children. It was important to stay neutral and discrete.
| 27 |
Analyzing and recognizing the limits was a part of the process during the whole
working-period, and every time when we met the process was repeated. Judging
or showing negative evaluation to them was out of question, since that would
have destroyed the trust. But nevertheless, there was place for discussions and
saying out loud opinions for us in a non-judgmental tone.
Its is anyway complicated to start working under the name of voluntary
participation in a firm institution, where the habitants are kept inside non-
voluntarily. It is natural that skepticism raises up among the children, since they
are used to living in a world of bargaining and abuse, and therefore tend to ask:
what do you want from us? When they finally understood that we do not require
any material or effort-based activity from them we gained the contact.This contact
and trust are based on the surprise they experience, when they realized that
nobody expects favors from them. This feeling is in strong contrast with their
reality outside the centre and also with the system inside the centre, where the
youngsters receive minus-points from bad activities and plus-points from good
behavior. Every child has so called point-account, which grows or decreases
according to their behavior.The points are to punish or to reward – the youngster
are allowed, for instance, to go outside of the building with the guard if they are
behaving well and when behaving badly they loose some privileges. The system
that we proposed – system without giving-taking points – was a shock. But it was
functional – the surprise worked.
At first the children were unmotivated and untrusting.They felt that we were
just teachers, who come and try to tell them how they should live and behave.
Within a short time period we gained contact, cooperation (group-work, team-
work), increasing interest and initiative, raise of the trust and working towards
Most likely, the main aim of the children was to have some variation and
excitement for their everyday routines in the centre. Certainly, one important
aspect for them was the fact, that somebody visits and is interested in them –
listens what they have to say. Realizing that we are interested in their opinions
was of great motivation to take part in the workshop.
Our purpose was to learn more about the lives of the children – the way they
feel, think and act in the world – to learn about people different from us. The aim
was to show with forum theatre games how it is possible to have fun and feel nice
and that there are always choices and other possibilities in life… Another goal was
to provide the children with variation in their life and to consciously lead and
direct their thoughts towards a direction where they could think at least for some
time about something else that they usually do (which is about escaping from the
centre, toxic substances, drugs, etc.). There was also an aim to prepare a forum-
play and perform it for the strangers who come to the centre to visit.
In the process of the forum theatre workshop we considered following activities
1) Strong and purposeful icebreaking with forum theatre games was needed
2) It was necessary to build trust and that we did with different types of
games invented by Augusto Boal and Markus Zohner games (so called
“Boal and Zohner games“);
| 28 |
3) Creating games with using improvisation techniques;
4) For the creation of the forum-scenes we used pictures (still-images/stop-
5) Preparing and performing forum play to strangers who come from outside
of the centre;
Markus Zohner is a director and an actor from Switzerland, who is the owner
and former of a theatre school concentrating on improvisational techniques (http:/
/www.zohnertheater.ch/Markus Zohner Theater Compagnie).
Local need for Forum Theatre workshop, positive and negative aspects
In this kind of closed institution there is a big need for forum theatre kind of
activity, but more importantly there is big need for every kind of activity coming
from outside and inside the house, which activates positive thinking and behavior
among the children. It could be, for example, amusement-groups/rat packs or
some other kind of activity-trainings.The forum theatre methods we used, were
just a drop in the sea. More easily measurable and larger number of results could
be reached in regular forum theatre workshops. The best way would be to have
a regular schedule for the visits and to have the same participants each time -
there should be a fixed week day and time to the workshop, in order to reach a
clear rhythm for the visits.
In the future there could be two groups in work at the same time– one for
Russian and one for Estonian speaking children. Why it is possible to say that
| 29 |
forum theatre is just a drop in the sea? Because we are dealing with deeply
violated children, who would all actually need different kind of therapies (preferably
creative ones) and thorough regular individual attendance to work with their
thinking-patterns and deal with their childhood experiences etc. Forum theatre
can support these issues and function as a courage-lesson, teaching better self-
expression, developing emotional intelligence and in other different ways, but it
is not therapy. Forum theatre can have a therapeutic influence, but is not therapy,
and the children who participate in the process are not clients or patients - they
are spect-actors, they are human beings, children.
One mistake that influenced the work process was that there were too long
pauses between the meetings, which made the process a little dissipated and
forced us, forum-group members and the children, often to start the process
from the beginning after each brake. On the other hand, this was good, since in
this way we had to be creative in our works and extend ourselves, which created
better basis to be able to create trust between the children and us.
From all the positive aspects here could be mentioned the whole experience
that we got from the work with these children - creating a contact takes time
and effort - but after it is reached it is therefore rather stable.The communication
stage that seems impossible in the beginning can be reached with patience. If you
have patience, the change is slow, but will nevertheless happen – from time to
time these children were more focused and attentive and were able to work as
| 30 |
Forum theatre on TV youth program “The Fist”
The Background and the Format of the Program
Forum The VAT Theatre’s forum theatre work on TV has not been directly involved in
group the Drama Way project, but it has been presented in the National workshops as
an excellent method of distributing the drama work to a wider audience, and
create a genuine, young people’s forum to publicly discuss the themes that are
relevant to them.
The Estonian Television’s (ETV) youth-program “The Fist” (“Rusikas”) was
shot during a period from January to April in 2000. The authors of the program
received the impulse to use forum theatre scenes in television from the VAT
Theatre Forum Group performances in spring of 1999, during the “Youth without
Violence” festival (“Vägivallata Noorus”).
Fifteen short plays on different themes were created in co-operation with the
VAT Theatre Forum Group. Each one of the TV shows lasted 40 minutes and the
recording of each one took about 90 minutes.
The Working Process
The VAT Theatre Forum Group actors played different scenes, which dealt with
the problems that young people have. Each show had its own theme, which was
then dealt with. Before recording the show for television, the producers sent the
theme of the play to the VAT Theatre Forum Group director, Margo Teder. The
Forum Group worked with the script, and after three or four meetings or
rehearsals, during which the group used Forum Theatre methodology (still-images
etc.), the group made a short play on the theme. Then the play was performed
| 31 |
Young lady harrassed at the bus stop on the Estonian TV forum.
for the TV show directing team. After that there was a discussion about the play
- the purpose of which was to make it as real as possible.
The structure of “The Fist”:
1. Introductions by the host of the TV show.
2. The VAT Theatre Forum Group actors play the problematic scenes.
3. The Characters sit in the hot seat (This means that the guests and the host
of the show can ask questions from the characters in order to better
understand the scene, how the characters feel about each other and what
had generally happened in the story. Actors have to answer through their
characters and have to stay in their roles through the whole duration of
the show and to answer the questions honestly, just as if they were having
a discussion in their head, with themselves). The three guests (high school
and university students and specialists – psychologist, gynecologists etc.)
of the show sit opposite to the actors. The guests then help to deal with
the theme problem by asking questions, until the guests find a way to solve
the problem presented in the scene in a way that does not result in anyone
getting hurt. The dialogue between the characters and guests is organized
by the host of the show, who also puts the new way of seeing the situation
into words and describes to the characters how they have to change their
behavior in the scene.
4. The problematic scene is then played again, but now in a new way.
5. The host of the show concludes the show.
The main point of the dialogue is to stimulate people into thinking about the
problem, not to give them exact solutions or ways to deal with the conflicts.
| 32 |
After the show, people watching the program at home had a chance to give
feedback and tell what they would like to see in the next show by sending an e-
mail or a letter. Before the next show the directing team went through the
Some of the topics that were dealt with in the TV show “The Fist”:
• street violence
• family problems
• money problems
Similar interactive TV shows are also done in Canada by David Diamond who
handles themes like problems with street children and native people by using
interactive theatre methodology (see www.headlinestheatre.com).
3. Are these kinds of interactive TV shows needed? Positive and
negative aspects of the TV show.
Forum Theatre creates a possibility to discuss the problems of Estonian youth.
These problems are not dealt with much in Estonia.Although, it is very important
to start in early, from the roots – from young people, maybe even kindergarten
children. This is because sometimes the reasons for unemployment, deviant
behavior and asocial lifestyle have their roots in the childhood. During childhood
the environment affects a person very much. The media have a big influence,
through all of its channels – radio, press, television and other media. It is known
that computer games, different chats and dating sites on the Internet are very
popular. The popularity of these kinds of activities shows that youngsters need
to communicate and speak their minds on various issues.
It is important for young people to talk about their problems and relationships.
Nowadays children’s TV programs often underestimate the children’s abilities
and way of thinking. Television should offer more shows in which youngsters
could tell their opinions about things; they should be equal members of the
society. Youngsters could be the best specialists in making decisions about their
own lives. They might be full of interest to find solutions to the problems, which
they can relate to; Forum Theatre methodology gives them that opportunity.
In Estonia there is a show for women, in which they can appear to the public
and speak their minds. This show is called “Mamma Mia”.
There are also some interactive shows, mainly on the radio, which deal with
themes such as men and women in relationships. People can participate in the
| 33 |
discussions by calling the show, but television offers a chance to visualize and
illustrate the problems that are handled. The show “Mamma Mia” also used the
hot seat method, in which the people sit in their seats and tell their stories. The
host of the show is like a Joker, who asks the questions and controls the discussion.
The difference between the TV shows “The Fist” and “Mamma Mia,” is that in
“The Fist” the participants are anonymous, no-ones real story is presented, but
in “Mamma Mia” people talk about their own stories.“Mamma Mia” does not try
to find solutions to the problems either, nor is there a scene performed in it.
Both of the shows are produced by the same person.
Performing forum theatre in television is different from doing it at youth
centers or schools, as television is a very technical environment. In the usual
surroundings the play is not performed more than once, but for television the
play was shot many times in order to make it technically better and to have it
look good on TV. On television the performance is not a traditional forum theatre
performance with a big audience; neither is it a workshop in which all individuals
are physically involved in the process. On television, it is forum theatre form
conformed for television, where the public can not go on stage and show how
they would act in this kind of a situation.
If there would be a possibility to do this kind of television show and use the
forum method in it in the future, the host of the show should have knowledge on
forum theatre, and he or she should have gone through a Joker training.The host
of “The Fist” show was not very competent (she had no experience or educational
background connected to Forum Theatre).The host of the show should be good
a show-man and have a good social sense. He or she should not be a psychologist,
who goes into details of the characters problems. Forum theatre story represents
common problems that are recognizable for larger groups of people. This makes
the people feel that the story is about people and things that they can relate to,
and if it affects and attracts them, it will activate them to start a dialogue. Forum
theatre should certainly not be TV-therapy session.
In the future it would be interesting to make public or open recordings of the
forum theatre performances in schools (of course participation would be
voluntary). Other possibility would be to take more audience into the TV studio
during the show – then the audience members could also be involved in the
forum-process. Another option would be a live TV show, where people could call
from home and tell what they think of the problem and how people or characters
should act so that the story would end in a better way. The theme of the show –
problems of the young people - could remain the same, but the format of the
show should be more innovative.
In addition to the youngsters’ themes, there also should be other themes
dealt with in the public TV forum shows in order to start dialogue and discussion.
Themes could vary – starting with changes and processes in the community,
which involve little groups of people, going all the way to the problems that
involve all the citizens of the country (for example, this could have been useful
before voting for or against the European Union membership). Forum plays could
be used before making big decisions or voting for laws. Forum theatre method is
good for making things more visual and understandable.
| 34 |
Using Improvisational Technique in Forum Theatre
An Example of an Improvisation Exercise
Forum One way to apply improvisational techniques is to use them in the story-finding
group process of forum theatre, for instance during the workshop or group work. In
that case using so-called picture-system technique is a part of the working process.
The stages of the picture-system exercise:
1. Somebody from the group says out loud one noun (for instance a tree, a
spoon, a chair, etc.).After that, the members of the group compose a three
person statue or a still-image according to their first impulse.
The rules: The first actor must follow the word and set a fixed position or
an image that is physically strong.The second actor sets into a fixed position
according to the first actor’s position and his position should show a conflict
with the first actor (it does not have to be physical contact). The third
actor takes a fixed position according to the conflict he sees between the
first two actors and acts as a counterpoint to them. This means, that the
third one supports the conflict between the first and the second person
for instance by presenting the contents of the conflict with his fixed position
(time, place, relationships, etc.).
2. The Joker works with the concrete and correct statue or still-image that
has been created by the three members of the forum theatre workshop.
When the statue is ready and formed according to the rules, the Joker
asks each actor that is posed in the statue to say one sentence that should
contain more information than what the statue can visually convey.
| 35 |
The rules: It is important that the person who came to the statue first, also
says the sentence first.The second person must follow the first person’s idea
and say his sentence according to the first one’s direction of thinking. The
third person says his sentence in accordance to the first and second person’s
thread of thought. For instance when the second person thinks that he is in
a conflict with his mother, but the first person says a sentence, where it
becomes evident that she is a teacher, the statue is going to describe a
conflict involving a teacher and the second and the third person will have to
take notice of this. The first person who comes to the statue creates the
basis and the theme of the story that the other two have to acknowledge
and follow, even though they might have seen something else, some other
story, when they came into the statue.This is the moment when improvisation
is very important – the moment when the two last people have heard, what
the first one has said and have to become acclimatized into the plot.
A ready statue or still-image, in which the actors have scripts, could be the
base for a forum theatre play or story. This kind of improvisational work could
be used with any group from children to seniors and from so-called normal
people to groups of people with more problems. Improvisational techniques are
also useful to use with the actors in the rehearsals of forum theatre performances
and the story-finding process.
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Other possibilities for the use of improvisational techniques
The VAT Theatre Forum Group director and Joker Margo Teder’s comments and
experiences in using improvisational techniques are in the following:
“I have used the improvisational techniques in working with children
over 6 years of age. When using different improvisation-exercises
according to the needs of the group in group work, it is possible to find
new stories, develop the actors’ fantasy and listening abilities, concentrate
Certain improvisation-exercises are very useful to organize, for instance,
Lightning Forum performance – performance within and in the middle of a
performance. It is possible to perform a forum play without preparations and by
using the audience only. This is what I once did with the students of Viljandi
Academy of Culture.
The performance started with some warm-up games, where, for example, the
best players won a possibility to be or become an actor as a prize.The story was
based on the first conflict. The wishes and the needs of the characters were
formed on the base of the dialogue with the audience (the audience gave the
story). Then, according to the information given by the audience, the actors
improvised and created a forum play. I have used the improvisation-technique in
the work with young people very much.
Margo Teder and Mari-Liis Velberg, Estonia 2004.
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While being the director of the Tallinn 32 Secondary School’s acting group I
worked very thoroughly with a group of students and we used the improvisation-
technique very often in creating plays. By now some of the drama-group members
have become actors and actresses in the VAT Theatre Forum Group and have
very strong improvisational techniques. Improvisation-techniques are also very
useful when applied in teaching or developing group work. This is because
improvisation requires people to listen, support and help each other. Ideally, one
month is the minimum period to work with one group in order to reach a point,
in which the actors have learned the improvisation-techniques well enough to be
able to perform freely in an improvisational play.
Form the point of view of forum theatre some improvisation-exercises are
very good in fieldwork too. For instance when the VAT Theatre Forum Group
was working with the children of Tallinn’s Center of Children at Risk, I used many
playful and fun improvisation-exercises, and while participating and being a part
of the exercises, the children gave very interesting information about themselves.”
Handbook material from Estonia is based on the VAT Theatre Forum Group
members work experience. The VAT Theatre Forum Group actresses: Mari-Liis
Velberg, Kadi Jaanisoo, Piret Soosaar. The director and Joker: Margo Teder
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Forum theatre workshops in Estonia, October 2003
Jouni There was a Forum theatre workshop in Tallinn run by Jouni Piekkari. The event
Piekkari took place in October 2003.There were roughly 24-26 participants from different
backgrounds: secondary school drama groups, youth and social workers and
students, actors, activity therapy students and drama teachers.
The workshop was targeted at the first timers, who had no previous
experiences of forum theatre. This workshop was organized by the VAT Theatre
forum group independently from the Drama Way project. There was a need to
find a fresh start for the local forum theatre activities and create a network
within the new groups of people.
Jouni Piekkari has facilitated similar kinds of forum theatre guest workshops
with different groups in the VAT Theatre since 1999.
Description of the Activities
What is the Theatre of the oppressed? History, basic ideas, participation and
What is oppression?
The Toronto handshake. People shake each others hands, always having one hand
linked to someone else’s hand. Who am I, why did I come here?
A name game series. Atoms and molecules, groups according to hair type, type
of trousers, favorite music. People always learn each other’s names in small groups.
Check if people remember each other’s names in a big circle.
Blind walk with a partner. Moving front and back, touching things etc, free
movement. Share the experience.
Complete the image. Three people complete the image. Image becomes alive.
Example of a Forum Theatre Performance
(a simulation of an audience forum)
1. Explanation: what is forum theatre?
2. Audience warm-ups: a) draw a circle and a cross in the air, b) touch a color
etc. c) introducing oneself to the neighbor in a non-sense language
4. Watch the forum: A bus stop harassment scene
5. Analysis: What was it about? What is the problem actually about? Was it
ok? Who were in trouble?
6. Hot seating: asking questions from the characters.
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7. Intervention through questioning:
• How and what could the girl have done differently to avoid or overcome
the problem, to have a more positive result?
• OK – come and do it! Defining the actual spot of the scene to start etc.
3-4 interventions were only tried this time. No other techniques of exploring
were used, due to the actors tight time tables.
Creating Forum Stories Based on the Participants’ Experiences
Blind magnets. Pull or repel.
Random still images. Jumping, contacts etc. Freeze! Three selected in the same
situation. Various interpretations!
Rehearsal: SEPARATE Images of the EU and Estonia. Interpretations.
People’s own recent stories of oppression (when was I forced to do, think, or say
other than I wanted to).
5 different Magnetic images created: based on the feeling in that situation.
Others go to the magnets that call to them, and then copy their statue.
Sharing and discussion: (in small groups) what attracted me?
Create an image of oppression. With the use of real characters around. Done by
using the original magnet image. Create a new fictional story, characters etc.
Share other people’s images. Interpretations; images become alive.
Works as a basis for the next day’s work.
1. A negotiation with death
2. A student wanting to go to a forum theatre course
3. Teacher publicly scolds a student about exam results in front of the whole
4. Theft of a mobile phone
5. Drug rehabilitation center – case of a theft
The atoms and molecules game was used throughout the workshop to split the
group into groups of different sizes.
Energy clap. Three claps move in the circle from person to person at the same
time. Eye contact, concentration.
Trust falls. Done in groups of five people. The person in the center falls on the
hands, and bodies of the people around him or her.
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Limailjetys (Sticky gremlins or Infectious disease). The leader of the group is the
first disease or gremlin, who makes faces and starts chasing the others. Everyone
moves in slow-motion and tries to escape. When someone is caught, she or he
also becomes a Sticky gremlin and starts chasing the rest of the group. Finally
everyone is a gremlin.
Improvisation exercises. To learn how to solve conflicts, we have to learn to
dramatize them. This is the idea of conflict in drama.
Winning and loosing. In pairs: one person in the pair starts a definite activity,
the other one then tries to win power over the other, and again the first one
tries to win, etc. Words, statuses etc. can be used. The facilitator claps his hands
and the pairs begin to loose to each other in a similar way.
A wants B to do something that she or he does not want to do. Relationship (mother-
daughter etc.) First A starts an activity in a well defined space (for example in the
kitchen, washing the dishes).Then B enters, begins to do things in the same space,
talks, and little by little enters into the issue and towards the conflict.
An example of a forum dramaturgy
A forum designed for students, training to be teachers, to help them recognize
bullying (kiusamine) in the class.
The forum was designed by the students of Jouni Piekkari at Helsinki
Dramaturgy in brief:
1. Teacher training graduation party. Speeches on the modern theories of
learning. Dance, a karate ritual that fails.
2. The teacher and the new student preparing in the front of their mirrors
for their first day in a new school.
3. The teacher meets the headmaster, who “gives the ball in the teacher’s
hands”. (The headmaster passes by regularly to check on the class).
4. Scenes of starting with soft, game methods of teaching. Bullying of the new
5. Scene of not noticing the bullying.
6. Scene of bullying the teacher.
7. The bullied girl leaves the class.The teacher does not do anything, although
she thinks about calling the girl back, but fears the results.
8. Days pass by, the classroom routines are repeated ritually, pupils come and
leave, the bullied girl does not come back, and strict order methods prevail.
9. Announcement: the bullied girl is now in the hospital, the teacher is asked
to come and have a discussion with the headmaster.
See on minu koht! In pairs.Two people take one chair, the other sits; the other
enters in different ways trying to get the place. Sentences that were used were
“That is my place” and “No, that is my place”. Nothing else was allowed.
Evaluation: What type of manipulation could you find in that exercise? What
actually is “oppression”? What forms can it take?
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Voting the theme for the day’s work
The images created by the small groups during the previous day were listed.
The selected scene was about a pupil, who wants to go to a forum theatre
course during the school day, but teacher does not allow him to go.
”Scripting Forum on its Feet”
1. The original image seen again.
2. Give names, ages, and characteristics to the people: What good and what
bad can you find about them, how do you see them, how do the characters
3. Hot seating: the participants go to one of the characters and start asking
questions. The small groups share their research results with the large
4. Defining the problem. What exactly is the problem? Whose problem is it?
We saw that it was both the teacher’s and the pupil’s problem. We chose
the pupil as the main character (protagonist).
5. Opening scene.The participants split into two opposing groups.They think
of three movements and three sentences that describe the main characters
attitude towards life: what she wants and what are her values in life. Create
6. The person playing the main character selects four of these. They are
positioned in the scene and rehearsed to be one after another in a random
7. Second scene: Two friends at the yoga gym, the other one is writing a text
message about the soon to start lesson. Dialogue: one of the two is
suspicious about the training.
8. Reasons for why to go, and why to not go to the lesson: a conscience alley.
Again we pick those voices that were good and provocative and tell about
the person’s dilemma.The thoughts create a physical expression.Tried with
and without words. The idea is to also try and seduce the audience. A
choreographed scene is created.
9. Improvisation on the basis of the original scene is created and redirected.
Stage is emptied and important objects are added. We decided that the
stage is a biology class, with microscope examination of water. Teacher
checks the tests, and the pupil takes up the issue that she is actually leaving
to go to the forum theatre course. She leaves, the teacher turns, and
everybody else wants to leave as well.
10. Consequences and the future problems of a) the teacher, and b) the student.
Small groups created improvised scenes of what could happen in the future.
We watched all eight of them. After each one we asked the following
questions: Was this a logical follow-up? Could this really happen? What
parts were realistic?
11. In the play the scenes about the teacher’s problems and the student’s
problems were chosen. The forum play would end up in a situation were
the student slaps the teacher on the face without thinking, and then escaping.
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12. Brainstorming for solutions: What could the teacher or the student do
differently in order to reach a more positive result? In what situation?
Some solutions were discussed.The rest of the discussion was left for the
The improvisations were documented on video. This material could be used
to create a script based on the selected parts of the improvisations.
Actor’s work should be made deeper during various exercises. Motives and
the development of conflicts should be defined, music or soundtrack should be
added and stage design and costumes should be developed.
Finally, the forum should be rehearsed with different interventions several
times before taking on stage it to be tested by the audience.
Suitable audience warm-ups and introduction to the theme should be
developed, just as well as alternative ways of audience intervention and feedback.
The Feedback Circle
Brainstorm: What should be done in the future? What kind of training do we
need? Where could we apply what we have learned?
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Clowns for Clean Clothes -Campaign
“Are our clothes contaminated by injustice?”
What is the Clean Clothes Campaign?
Martínez In 1989 a demonstration was held in front of a Dutch clothing store to protest
against bad working conditions in the Philippines where the clothes were actually
produced.This protest grew in the Netherlands into an ongoing campaign, called
the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC).The campaign, which focused on improving
working conditions in the global garment and sportswear industries, is now active
in 11 other European countries too.
Each of the European CCC is a coalition of NGOs and trade unions. They
work autonomously at a national level, and come together to work jointly at a
European level. This European campaign network is backed up by a broader,
international network that includes trade unions, NGOs, and individuals in
countries, where the garments are produced. These areas include Asia, Africa,
Eastern Europe, and Central America. The CCC also co-operates with similar
campaigns in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
What does the CCC do?
The CCC has four broad categories of activity with the ultimate aim of improving
working conditions in the industry and empowering the workers.
These areas of activity are
• Raising awareness & mobilizing consumers
• Pressuring companies to take responsibility
• Solidarity actions
• Lobbying and legal action
The Clean Clothes Campaign has been organized by SETEM since 1997.
(see http://www.ropalimpia.org /www.setem.org)
The Origins of the Drama Workshop
Soon after the beginning of Drama Way in May 2003, Elena Estrada, the coordinator
of the Clean Clothes Campaign in Spain, and Toni Codina, the director of SETEM
in Barcelona, offered me the chance of creating a theatrical workshop based on
the CCC (Clean Clothes Campaign).
The interactive theatrical workshop was created to look at new ways of
raising awareness and mobilizing consumers, especially young people. People are
not used to attending conferences, and if they are, they usually get bored easily.
We came up with the idea of introducing the information whilst making it fun.
This type of interactive experience is perfect for helping people to become
aware of the issues, and remember them.
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The Description of the Workshop
Target Audience: Mainly young people in secondary education, between the
ages of 14 and 18, although it could also be extended to university students,
centers for the Third Age and the general public.
50 people or less would be the recommended number for enclosed spaces.
Timeframe: The workshop has been running since July 2003 and each workshop
lasts approximately 2 hours.
Location: Preferably in an enclosed space, where you can hang clothes on cords.
It can also take place in the street, although a few structural changes would need
to be made.
Materials: A sound system, six tables (four to make up the scenery, and two for
controlling the entrance and for storing the CCC equipment), chairs and pens
for the participants, decorative elements; colorful materials and different clothes,
the campaign material and a water bottle.
• To demonstrate the causes of why our clothes are contaminated by injustice.
• To show the situation of workers in the textile sector.
• To show the chain of events in clothes production.
• To bring attention to our own usage of clothes.
• To motivate the participants to come up with better alternatives.
• To present the ideas of the Clean Clothes Campaign, and what we can do
• To have fun in the process.
Checkpoint Clown:Are your clothes contaminated, asks the clown by David Martínez.
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The methodology of the workshop is always based on interaction. Two clowns
lead the workshop (Fefe and Fafata or an assistant), which is made up of different
activities and games, designed to get the participants involved in the ideas of the
workshop, using the interactive techniques of Forum Theatre.
We decided to use Clowns for different reasons. Usually these issues are
demonstrated aggressively to the audience, in terms of showing the worst side
of the problem in order to really hit the idea home and to make consumers feel
guilty or responsible.We believe that this is not a positive way of raising awareness
and mobilizing consumers because people can easily shut their minds to the
ideas as a sort of defense reaction. Using clowns is a quick way to make the
participants have a more open attitude towards the issues.
Humor is a nice way of bringing people together. Smiling is a good exercise
and unites people. The red nose has a power, so why not use it for a good
purpose? Clowns help to create an interest and their jokes are important as a
contrast to the seriousness of the problem. Clowns are not at all clever and they
are very innocent, so whilst they are joking they are able to ask important questions
instead of just providing answers. We want to make people think as much as
possible and provoke them into participating.
Process: Work in Progress
We are changing or creating new aspects after each workshop, because each time
we learn something new from such a variety of different groups: teenagers, working
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people, parents, University students, etc., and thus we are able to improve the workshop.
We create different characters specific for each group. We always try to create a
good atmosphere to encourage people to say what they really think or feel.
Content (basic script)
It can always be varied depending on the time available, the number and the type
of the participants and the dynamics of the session.
The Injustice Contamination Detector
Participants enter the workshop individually so that our detector can calculate
the degree of injustice with which any one person’s clothes are contaminated.
Normally we use a piece of wool as a sensor, although also we have used other
materials. The clown who welcomes the participants inside the workshop then
uses his own voice to create the sound of the detector.The other clown prepares
the people to enter.
Warm Up and Contact Games
The games vary depending on the group.
T-shirts and Trousers: Form 2 groups, one T-shirts, the other Trousers.The Trousers
keep their arms extended up in the air and the T-shirts keep their arms in a cross
formation.They all walk around and we shout out different clothes combinations
like trousers-trousers, t-shirt-trousers, t-shirt-t-shirt. On hearing this they have
to pair up with and embrace another participant to create the formation.
Touching an article of their companion’s clothes:
Each member of the formed pair chooses an article of clothing.
“Clean Clothes” Questionnaire
Everyone must respond to the questions that are on the piece of clothing chosen
by their companion. (The reading of the random questions is voluntary)
A group discussion on the results of the game and people’s opinions on the
issues. Finding out what the similarities in the viewpoints are between each
Acting Out the Commercialization of Clothes
A visual representation of the steps that have already occurred by the time we
see a product advertised, using an extreme example of the chain, where we see
as far back as to the moment when the worker makes the article.
Participants interact in the show and forum.
An Interview with Zoila and Najat
In the interview with Zoila and Najat we see how two different positions
concerning the same issue are reflected. Zoila is a worker who left the countryside
to look for his fortunes in the city of Tangiers (Northern Morocco) and now is
stuck in a textile factory working under very harsh conditions and without any
hope of improvement.
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