And adapt in terms of what? I believe we don’t really know all the details with any kind of certainty yet. Possibilities here on the West Coast could include but would not be limited to:
and on a global level:
A project such as the one we are proposing functions from a philosophical understanding that a living community has both the ability and the responsibility to deal with issues in the community. The theatrical process unlocks knowledge that already resides, but may be dormant in the community itself.
What is Forum Theatre? And the evolution of THEATRE FOR LIVING
Forum Theatre is an opportunity for creative, community-based dialogue. The theatre is created and performed by community members who are living and/or are knowledgeable about the issues under investigation.
Over the course of many years, Headlines has developed a process for creating main stage projects with living communities:
Headlines’ THEATRE FOR LIVING workshops have evolved from Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed”. Since 1989 Headlines’ work has slowly moved away from the binary language and model of “oppressor/oppressed” and now approaches community-based cultural work from a systems-based perspective that a community is a complexly integrated, living organism.
“Meth has had a profound affect on the audience members and has resulted in a significant increase in self referrals to our mental health services. This is a good thing! We are moving forward with facilitated discussion groups and would really like to use a live theatre performance as part of our follow up. On behalf of Kitamaat Village and all those who attended. Thank you all for the work, the performance, the energy that you bring.”
Lorna Morrison, Director of Health Kitimaat Village
“As a physician who works in the Downtown Eastside with substance-dependent patients, I found the Headlines Theatre production of Meth a riveting depiction of people's inner conflicts around drug addiction and, too, of the conflicts addiction creates in their social world. The play was a realistic representation of some of the physical and psychological risks incurred when young people become hooked on crystal meth. The powerful lesson this dramatically conceived and executed production conveyed was that even a few words, if offered with compassionate presence and attention, can alter the self-destructive trajectory of another human being's life.”
Gabor Maté M.D.
Focus of this production
Because the actual content of a project like this must come from the workshop participants who are living the issues, it is impossible to be absolutely specific about what exactly will be addressed in the play, but we can be certain that the story will somehow deal with the complexity of human relationships (both internal and external) that contribute to an overarching paralysis regarding changing the core behaviours that have led to climate change. While the play must tell a human story, the human actions and relationships will also translate into larger, structural processes.
It is not enough, doing issue-based work of this nature, for the play to be about something important. It must also be good art. It is, I believe, the artistic quality of Headlines’ work that ‘hooks’ audiences. It is the deep engagement in the experience of the art that opens the doors to community transformation.
“(Headlines’ Meth) leads to an immediacy of understanding that no amount of well-intentioned discussion can achieve. Many of the (audience) interventions demonstrated that when people attempt to make meaningful connections, it can go a long way toward filling the hole that addiction—whether to drugs, alcohol, or work—keeps trying to fill. ...director Diamond skillfully brings home the point that even the smallest gesture can open the door to positive change."
Kathleen Oliver, Georgia Straight, December 7, 2006
We at Headlines know from years of experience that this project can and will function as a true voice of people who are themselves struggling with the issues. Because the play creators carry this expertise the play will certainly help audiences seeking personal and structural solutions.
How do we make it ‘sticky’?
In today’s world, in which we seem to be coated with Teflon regarding behavioural change, how do we get the insights in the Forum Theatre events to ‘stick’?
It may be possible to turn the Forum Theatre event into a kind of game. We are thinking of having an environmental consultant at every performance; someone who has the knowledge and ability to calculate the theoretical carbon reductions that result from the ideas audience members put forward at each performance. At the end of each intervention, the consultant will calculate and announce these reductions. At the end of each performance, we will announce a total and compare the total to previous audiences. The consultant will be able to point out how ideas (and the subtleties of different ideas) contributed to high or low carbon reduction scores. This good-natured competition should help the ‘stickiness’ factor of the event.
Yes, but does it have a concrete result?
Headlines has a long and strong history of developing process-oriented theatre with communities. The project forms the basis of transformational dialogue. In 2002 we had the opportunity, through our production on school violence, Don’t Say a Word, to have a quantitative survey done by Dr. Shelley Hymel. The survey found measurable, positive result in the school regarding changes in attitude towards school violence and bullying. We have known this was true for years through anecdotal evidence, but it is great to have the hard, statistical data.
"Students who participated in the Anti-Bullying Forum Theatre events were significantly more likely to feel that they "know what they can do to stop harassment" than students who did not participate. Students who participated reported more willingness to respond and be responsible than did students who did not participate.
Given that these data were collected only a short time after the Headlines Theatre presentation, these effects are actually most encouraging. In just a few short weeks, this unique theatre effort planted seeds that have already begun to grow in the minds of those students who participated. Over time, the increased awareness that is evident among participants should continue to affect how students think and behave, as students apply what they have learned to their own real-life situations."
Excerpted from the quantitative report: "Impact of Headlines Theatre's Anti-Bullying Forum on Secondary Schools" April 4, 2003, by Shelley Hymel, Ph.D., UBC Faculty of Education. The full report is available here
In 2005 Here and Now contributed to work of the “Group of 10: Integrated Community Response to South Asian Youth Violence Committee”, which we believe, if implemented by the Federal Government, will have a measurable impact in reducing violence in the community.
“The Here and Now project holds a great deal of value within our local community and within our larger global community. As a member of the local Indo-Canadian community, to introduce this production with a discussion on the politics of race was valuable. By illustrating this point with an example of the non-racial identification of a 'white'/'Caucasian' gang like the Hell’s Angels - it does hit home with individuals that have never considered the racial profiling conducted by the media. And the exercise of interrupting the play and re-placing one of the performers and performing the "choice" was extremely useful. Many of us can sit back and judge what needs to be done but by performing the actions - you become involved in not only critical evaluation but the common sense factor. I think this project was highly effective and positive on multiple levels.
I came with my mother, brother and partner. Sitting within the family context was important to me as many of the issues were mirrored in our lives. As much as that exact story doesn't live out in my reality - it is far too close of a possibility in my world. I think it is important to see how something may play out. Personally, I found mirrors for all of us - and perhaps not embedded within one specific character but with certain mental constructions or characteristics. It is so easy for many of us to stand back and say call the cops - but it isn't as easy as that. There are so many strings that are interwoven and if you tug one - it impacts all of the rest - there isn't one all mighty fix all. Thank you for allowing us, as a family, to view this.”
Bindy Kang, audience member.
Meth (2006/07) worked in collaboration and support with addictions counselors throughout BC. Responses from them are above.
The 2º of adaptation project Community Research
In November 2007, we will hold a week-end of three public events at the very popular Rhizome Café. At each these events we will do a two hour long theatrical workshop using either “Rainbow of Desire” to investigate the collective conflicting fears and desires that stop us from making behavioral change, or “Cops in the Head” to investigate the voices, embedded in our collective psyches that also stop us from making behavioral change. These public events will fill two functions:
“I often think about my participation in that phenomenal Rainbow of Desire process at the CAPACOA Conference in Ottawa; the experience started me down a different path here at Arena Stage. Even in my own life I am thinking about my own motivations, the subtext that underlines my personal speech, and how I couple physical expression with speech. And it all started with that evening in Ottawa.”
Neill Roan, Director of External Affairs, Arena Stage, Washington, DC
In February, 2008, (at the Russian Hall) we will gather a group of up to twenty participants together who are cognizant of the issues. Prior to the start of the research workshop, we will interview all the participants and from those interviews, decide on a cast. The workshop itself should not be an audition. It is important that each person coming into the process knows what their involvement and time commitment will be.
All twenty participants will be paid to participate in a week long THEATRE FOR LIVING research workshop, out of which will come the core material for the Forum Theatre play. Using theatre games and exercises we will explore how the issues affect the lives of the participants, both today and speculating into the future. We will, at that point, be seeking to understand the struggles in which they are engaged regarding climate change. It is these points of tension that will form the subject matter of the play. Click here to access the Callout to Participants web page
Using the workshop as the material from which the performance grows, the cast, production team and I, will then have 3 weeks to create an artistic production for presentation to the public. This is the same creation model as was used in Headlines’ very successful Forum Theatre projects such as Don't Say a Word, (Don’t Say a Word was honoured in 2003 with the Red Cross “Power of Humanity” Award.) Practicing Democracy, (Practicing Democracy was honoured at the 2003 Jessie Richardson Awards with Jessies for “Outstanding Production” and “Significant Artistic Achievement”.) Here and Now, Meth and many other projects.
Final reports on all these projects are on our Past Work Section
Designers, technicians, and a stage manager will be involved at this stage to ensure that the play has a high quality of production. By creating the best art we can from the material and artists emerging from the community, the production will in itself provide a positive focus of community energy.
The play will tell a story in which characters are struggling with the complex issues emerging from climate change. The Forum events will ask the audience to engage in concrete solution investigation that leads to personal and structural behavioral change.
We will perform from February 21 – March 2 at the Scotia Bank Dance Centre in downtown Vancouver. Community organizations involved in the issues under discussion will work with Headlines' Staff to promote the theatre events.
2º of adaptation will be surrounded by day-time workshops led by representatives of grassroots organizations dealing with specific aspects of the issue. These workshops will focus on concrete steps people can take on both personal and structural levels to create behavioral change that will decrease stress on the environment and also increase functionality as the world around us changes.
The workshop sessions will be planned by a working group of environmentalists who will have knowledge of the most valuable subject matter on which to focus in February/March 2008. For this reason actual content of the workshops is TBA. However, we are already discussing the possibilities of some of the workshops not having to be at the performance venue. They could, for instance involve:
We are considering that admission for the performances will be:
$12.00 to see the play. $5.00 to attend one workshop. $20.00 to see the play and get a pass to attend all workshops.
It is essential that costs are affordable for lower income people, and are about equal to the cost of a movie. It is for this reason that we are undertaking fundraising a large percentage of the budget. Ticket prices will be finalized closer to the end of our fundraising process.
We have confirmed the participation of SHAW Community TV on an interactive tele/web cast of the production. On average, we do these tele/web casts once a year. This will broaden the reach of the performances greatly. It will also generate a non-commercial DVD that can be used by communities after the live project has ended.
An estimated 15,000 viewed the Meth telecast. Another 578 computers logged onto the viewing site for the web cast. Some of these computers (hooked up to large screens) had up to 50 people attending, as there were “web cast parties” organized in many places around the world. We will never know an exact number of web viewers but even averaging 5 per computer, this gives us 4,660 web viewers.
If a computer logged into the chat space, they gave us a location as part of their login. A viewer did not have to login in order to view the web cast. Logins happened from:
Burnaby, Calgary, Coquitlam, Fort Nelson, Kitimat, Montreal, Ottawa, Prince George, Saskatoon, Terrace, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria and Winnipeg, all in Canada; Bellingham, Everett, Milwaukee, Norfolk, New York City, Sacramento, Washington DC, and unnamed cities in the States of Arizona and Honolulu, all in the US; Armidale, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Perth and Sydney, all in Australia; as well as Osaka, Japan; Scheemda, Netherlands; and Tel Aviv, Israel.
As well as the intervention in the theatre, we took interventions from Australia, Honolulu, Israel and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
…and further…a ‘carbon neutral’ experiment
The 2º of adaptation project should do what it tries to discuss. Do professional theatre companies think about the carbon impact of producing theatre? This topic has never, to my knowledge, been raised in the discussions of Professional Cultural Associations, the Canada Council or other arts bodies.
Is it possible for the theatre to be completely carbon neutral? Probably not. Is reducing the theatre's impact on the environment possible? Absolutely.
How do: fundraising, outreach, publicity, the community workshop process, the creation and rehearsal processes, design, construction, technical aspects, performance and also final reporting impact the environment? How do we reduce the impact? What is successful? What is not? What can we DO in THIS production? What could be done in future productions?
As we move through 2º of adaptation, all personnel will do what we can in all of these areas, both to be aware and also to act. We are seeking out tools to help us keep track of the carbon impact of producing theatre. When we are finished, Headlines will bring all the information together and contribute a document to whoever wants it that could open this conversation up at the level of professional cultural associations, unions and funders. It has to start somewhere.
Why is this project important?
An e-mail circulates about two mansions in the US. One of them is a gas guzzler, with a carbon footprint 20 times the national average. The other is a “model of green-ness”. The former is the home of Al Gore; the latter the “Texas White House” of George W. Bush. The story makes me sad, outraged, uncomfortable – and then I think – why do I care? I care about this seeming “injustice” or “hypocrisy” as an excuse to not change my own behaviour. Each and every one of us has to get our own house in order, and step out of the pattern of convenient excuses.
How do we do that?
While it is true that we need leadership and policy change from Government and the business sector, we cannot rely solely on Government to make the changes that are necessary in the coming years and decades regarding the results of climate change.
A community is a living organism. In the same way that our bodies are comprised of cells that make up the living organism of our bodies, a community is comprised of people that make up the living organism of the community. The way communities used to express themselves and process information was through song, dance, drama etc. Today, these activities have become commodified; we buy movies, books, dance, theatre, TV – we pay strangers to tell us stories about strangers.
It would be a deepening of the global tragedy that is evolving if the ramifications of climate change become yet another “entertainment” that we watch unfold on TV. The use of primal language (in this case the theatre) to tell collective stories (in this case about the community’s struggle with climate change) and then the resulting community dialogue through Forum Theatre cannot help but be a very healthy and enlightening way for the living community to collectively process the steps necessary to both cope with and reduce the human impacts regarding this issue.
A final report on both the process, the finances and the product will be created for funders, and also for theatre practitioners and other interested parties around the world who are interested in the practical applications of THEATRE FOR LIVING.
“In the Cold War, we had a single well-defined enemy. In this case, the enemy, in a sense, is ourselves. We have this problem because of the aggregate of billions of consumption decisions taken every day by people around the world.”
John Ashton, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s special ambassador on climate change in the Vancouver Sun, April 17, 2007. P. A5