Welcome to the COVID-19 TfL Newsletter of April, 2020
In the darkness there is also light
and a message from COVID-19
Things have changed dramatically since my last newsletter in February. I will join those who are saying that this virus is a message to humanity. The Earth has been trying to educate us for many years about the destructive nature of industrialized behaviour: Increased flooding, drought, hurricanes, infestations, much more. The consumerism that fuels capitalism has, for the most part, 'partied on' in unsustainable ways. We are now being forced to find some kind of stillness and within that stillness, air pollution is decreasing and non-human life is returning to places from which it had been driven out. Please don't be lulled into thinking the pandemic is solving anything regarding the climate crisis. There is a lesson here, that I hope we all learn, but the environment and life on the planet are still under siege. Climate change has not gone away.
I do not want to diminish the hardship people are experiencing. We are in a shocking time with businesses that people rely on for both service and income to survive closing and perhaps collapsing, a terrible increase in family violence, our surrender of civil liberties (this seems necessary right now but we must be vigilant about possible permanent erosion), medical services being overwhelmed, loved ones suffering alone; depending on where one lives, increased food and water shortages when they are already severe, (how does one with no money wash one's hands in a drought, for instance, when water is only available in plastic bottles) and much more - the list is far too long to itemize. And of course people who are already marginalized are suffering the most.
And so while I agree with the current saying, "we are all in this together", I think it is more realistic to acknowledge that we are all in the same ocean storm together. Some are in very well equipped yachts, others in sailboats, rowboats, some rowboats are leaking. Some people are hanging onto driftwood.
Yes, there is darkness. And yet…..there are also some beautiful things emerging. There is the incredible heroism from medical professionals at the front lines around the world and the tireless work of scientists searching for a vaccine. There is also a long overdue recognition that those people who have been invisible, who make our cities and towns run behind the scenes, in the food industries, sanitation, transportation and many more are, in fact, essentially crucial to our collective survival. As are those who are staying home.
People in communities including my own are caring for each other in new (but old) ways. Re-evaluating at personal levels what living means, and what it is that is truly important. My hope, along with many, is that we recognize this time as an opportunity and work together to create a 'new' normal that is healthier and more equitable than the 'old' normal, which wasn't normal at all as far as the planet and a majority of life on the planet are concerned.
Here is a (somewhat surprising) message from the COVID-19 Virus: https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/a-letter-from-the-virus-listen/
The 22nd Annual TfL Trainings are canceled & rescheduled to 2021
You might know from Facebook that I moved the Trainings from July to August, imagining this would make them possible. It has become apparent in the last few days this was wishful thinking. We will not, here in Canada, be at a place where up to 30 people can gather safely in a room and 'speak theatre' by August. In other words do group building work, create group Images, analyze those Images in interactive, embodied ways, make plays, rehearse those plays and do interactive Forum Theatre. It is very possible activity like this may not be able to happen until next summer, as another COVID-19 'wave' is expected in the Fall/Winter. Embodied, live theatre creation may not be possible until a vaccine is available.
The 2021 Trainings are now scheduled for:
Level ONE: Saturday, July 10 to Thursday, July 15, 2021. 9AM – 5:30 PM daily
Level TWO: Sunday, July 18 to Friday, July 23, 2021. 9AM – 5:30PM daily
It has been suggested that I take the TfL Trainings online and I am choosing to not do that. Here's why:
To ZOOM or not to ZOOM
I am attending many Zoom, Facetime and Skype meetings these days. I think they are a wonderful platform for bringing people together to have conversations when they cannot be in the same space. It has been great to see old friends and to make some new ones this way.
The power of both theatre process and product is that it is 3-dimensional, living and breathing, embodied, organic. It is a space in which humans look each other in the eye and (sometimes) actually touch each other. I have tremendous respect and admiration for people who are trying to understand how to take applied theatre onto online platforms. This works fairly easily for music and visual art. It also works for theatrical monologues, solo dance and already rehearsed and produced plays that are recorded in performance in a theatrical space.
Moving theatrical process online in challenging. It involves taking a 3-dimensional, living thing into a 2-dimensional digitized (not embodied but mechanical) realm. Inside that digital realm there are some things that are not possible. For instance, we cannot actually look each other in the eye. In order for you to believe I am looking into your eyes, I have to be looking at the camera. If I am…I can't really see you. This is not an incidental thing making theatre, including playing theatre games. The same goes for touch, smell, body movements, etc. It makes it very difficult to actually play a scene with another person standing beside you – imagine the difficulty with people who are all in different locations.
And so, while I am excited about the possibilities that people are working on, moving their work online, I believe a new language must be invented that acknowledges and is designed for the 2 dimensional, digitized platform. This is much more than adapting games/exercises and pretending we can touch each other and look each other in the eye. I applaud the people who are embarking on that journey. It will take experimenting and time and discovering techniques that are invisible right now.
The heart of the Theatre for Living work for me is working against the mechanization of humanity – in other words, working towards the deeper humanization of an already mechanizing humanity – and so I will not be attempting to take the Theatre for Living Trainings onto an online platform. My concern would be, because that 'new language' is just in baby steps of emerging and I certainly do not know how to speak it, that the 'lessons learned' would be an acceptance of mechanizing an organic process. We will eventually be able to create together again in the same room.
What to offer instead of the Trainings?
I will be offering online DISCUSSIONS from July 18 – 23, 9AM - 11AM PST each day, free of charge. Sixteen of the people who were coming to the summer trainings have signed up so far. I will take up to 40 registrants.
Each day we will have a subject, but the discussions will be best driven by the participants' questions. Here is a POSSIBLE outline:
Day 1: Introductions, evolution from Theatre of the Oppressed to Theatre for Living, group building (and anything else people want)
Day 2: Organizing workshops, Image Theatre (and anything else people want)
Day 3: Image Theatre and larger exercises (and anything else people want)
Day 4: Internal Techniques (Rainbow, Cops, Corporations) (and anything else people want)
Day 5: Creating Forum Plays (and anything else people want)
Day 6: Joking Forum…closing (and anything else people want)
In preparation for these, as we won't be DOING the work, I suggest you read my book: http://www.theatreforliving.com/tflbook/tflbook.htm. Not compulsory but may be helpful regarding discussion (and I think it is a good read ;)). I will also, close to the dates, suggest 2 of the large TfL Projects to watch - all of them are available here (scroll down): http://www.theatreforliving.com/video_and_sound.htm
Because I believe that the 6 days will be a 'journey' that we take together, I will not allow people to 'drop in' for say, Day 4 and 5. We start all together on Day 1.
There are already people registered from across Canada, the US, India and Germany. If you want to register send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Update on Theatre for Living Society devolution
The devolution of the Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) Society continues. We are close to the end, although the physical distancing is making it impossible to have an in-person Board Meeting! The Society recently made small donations to the Vancouver Food Bank and an agency that deals specifically with COVID-19 issues in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (an area of extreme poverty). The Society will officially not exist by the end of 2020. Incredible.
Ironically, last year may have been an accidentally good time to devolve. I am very concerned we will be losing smaller cultural organizations across Canada and globally, who will not be able to survive this period of no production.
Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) Society legacy videos are complete
The TfL Board of Directors hired David Ng to create a series of "legacy videos" about the Society's work. There are 14 of them, each 10 to 15 minutes long on various aspects of the 37 years of production. Feedback has been great. They are available here
Also, if you scroll further down, ALL of the Society's large plays are available for free viewing.
Spanish language book on Theatre of the Oppressed adaptations, including TfL
"Ensayando el Despertar – Miradas Movilizadoras desde el Pluriverso
del Teatro del Oprimido"
(rough translation: "Rehearsing our Awakening – Mobilizing Perspectives from the Pluriverse of the Theatre of the Oppressed")
This new compilation of articles (45 texts from 66 contributors) is written by TO practitioners all over the world and edited and translated by friend and colleague, Hjalmar Joffre-Eichhorn. Although the explanation below is in English, the book is currently in Spanish only.
Contact Hjalmar directly for purchase options at:
Want a Theatre for Living process in your community (in 2021)?
Like for many people doing embodied theatre, ALL of my Theatre for Living projects have vanished for this year due to COVID-19. I am hoping work might become possible again by March/April of 2021. Having said that, it can take that long to plan a project well.
Things I believe might be useful coming out of the pandemic are family violence and/or projects on addiction issues as well as:
And Corporations in our Heads
Of course TfL projects can be designed to suit a community's needs – 3 hours, one day, multi-day, a Power Play (taking a group to performance), Wildest Dream (community visioning workshop)…or let's invent something. Details are here: http://www.theatreforliving.com/workshops.htm
or email me at: email@example.com
Wishing you and yours health and safety in this complex time.
Photo: Emily Cooper