This activity deals with new attitudes and perspectives in solving conflicts through theatre methods. It is a very participative method suitable for diverse groups.
- exploring theatre work as a relevant method for coping with real existing conflicts for students and teachers
- developing new perspectives and alternative strategies through the acting “as if”
Preparation: setting of the room
For the warm-up exercise (Stop and Go) you need enough space so that the students can walk around.
For the second part (step 2 and 3 in the description, videos and storytelling in small groups of five persons) you need four or five tables and chairs.
For the third part of this activity (theatre), a theatre atmosphere is adequate: stage, chairs for the audience, if possible simple background (black curtains hanging over a pinboard etc.).
Step by step description
Start with a warm-up exercise: Stop and Go (5 min.)
Explain: Today we will deal with conflicts which are based on different attitudes perspectives of persons or groups from different cultures. „Culture“ is used in a rather broad sense of the term, it refers to different social groups, national groups, peer groups or to political groups, religious groups etc.
Ask: Have you ever experienced or witnessed a situation of a conflict regarding intercultural dialogue?
If the students are not familiar with the topic, two or even more of the following short clips (each approx. 2 min.) on Youtube are likely to be useful to rise the motivation and understanding of students.
If the classroom does not provide the necessary technical equipment (beamer, internet) to watch the clips, you could, alternatively, draw two examples or more from the clips and explain them to the students.
3. Developing scenes in small groups of max. 5 persons (10 – 15 min.)
Ask: Do you remember a situation within the last year, in which a conflict regarding intercultural dialogue happened to you? Or a situation in which you watched such a conflict?
Explain important points:
- The conflict should show very clearly different attitudes or perspectives of two persons or groups which belong to a different culture (social groups, national groups, peer groups, political groups, religious groups etc.)
- There should be no ‘real or good solution’ for the time being. The story teller should still have an open question (How could I have interfered? What could we have done? ....) and truthfully be in search for answers, possibilities, opportunities!
- We will practice Theatre of the Oppressed. This kind of participatory theatre is based on the idea, that we cannot change the ‘oppressed’, but that we can change the behaviour of the ‘oppressed person’. This new attitude will have an impact on the whole system. In our case we will try to find out how this person could act differently next time to improve his/her situation.
4. Rehearsal (20 min.): Now the group chooses one of the stories told by the students and illustrates the conflict in a short scene (max. 5 minutes). All roles should clearly be defined and the scenes should stop when the conflict is sufficiently displayed and understandable for the audience.
The students are told to get clear answers to the following questions and make them visible in their scenes:
- Who is the main person?
- What is his/her problem?
- What is the main question that the students would like to have answered by the audience?
5. Performances (time: ca. one lesson)
Before the first group starts, ask all performers of the first scene to come to the stage and introduce themselves as roles: For example ‘I am Gina, I am 13 years old, I live in a Roma village close to an Austrian town……..’ and what else is considered to be important for this scene.
Now the group performs the scene.
Afterwards ask the audience what they have seen, where the problem comes from out of their opinion and if somebody would like to replace the “conflict person” – the role which is affected most by the conflict and suffers from it.
If a replacer can be found, the scene starts from the beginning and the new ‘Gina’ tries to act differently. All the other roles act like before. But if the intervention of the new person is strong enough, they have to change their behaviour.
After the new scene ask the replacer, but also all the other roles: What was the new strategy? Did this new strategy change something for you? How were your feelings, what did you perceive, how was your reaction?
The audience is involved in the discussion and can tell the actors what they observed and felt. Hopefully, 2 or 3 more persons will try to replace the ‘conflict role’ and give new perspectives.
At the end the ‘story bringer’, the person who really experienced that conflict, will tell the group which strategies gave new ideas to him/her and were particularly attracting his/her attention.
Questions for debriefing
- What are important/interesting things you learned about “Intercultural Dialogue”?
- Do you think that Forum Theatre is a useful method for dealing with conflicts and for exploring new strategies to solve a conflict?
Reference / original source of the method
Hermine Steinbach-Buchinger facilitated such a workshop at the aces Kick-Off Meeting 2008 in St. Virgil (Salzburg), Austria; descriptions of the method are based on her workshop report.
Further tips and resources