A Headlines Theatre production ©2003

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Don't Say A Word
Interactive theatre about how not to get your ass kicked

Directed and Joked by David Diamond
Featuring Students from Gladstone and Tupper Secondary Schools

Headlines Theatre is proud to announce Don't Say A Word, an original forum theatre play created by students from Gladstone and Sir Charles Tupper Secondary Schools. This play is based on their experiences of bullying, harassment, intimidation and violence. The language of theatre allows them to communicate the truth of these experiences in a symbolic way. The title, Don't Say A Word, reflects the code of silence that prevents us all from stopping violence or seeking support.

Forum theatre takes a moment from real life and theatricalizes it in order to create a symbolic moment in time that a larger audience - friends and families who are also dealing with these issues - can work on. When forum is performed, audiences are invited to jump onto the stage and into the lives of the characters to test ideas for resolving conflicts. This style of performance and dialogue is more than talking about the problems; it asks audiences to practice solutions. Rather than putting forward a didactic message, it engages the community in making meaningful choices. And, as our audiences have told us many times, the experience is engaging, enlightening, fun and even transformative.

Don't Say A Word will be performed on and around the main stairway in Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School (419 East 24th, 3 blocks east of Main Street). We would like as many youth, families and people who struggle with violence in their community to participate in this event. As seating is limited, it is very important to make reservations.

Call 604-871-0508 or e-mail the box office to reserve your seats now!


For background information on the Don't Say A Word, keep reading...


What is Forum Theatre?

Forum Theatre is a unique type of participatory theatre that Headlines has pioneered and adapted into a North American context in Canada, but that derives from the work of Brazilian theatre director and activist visionary Augusto Boal and his "Theatre of the Oppressed".

A short play is developed out of a Headlines' THEATRE FOR LIVING workshop -- perhaps 5 - 10 minutes in duration. The theatre is created and performed by community members who are living the issues under investigation. The play is performed once, all the way through, so the audience can see the situation and the problems presented. The story builds to a crisis and stops there, offering no solutions. The play is then run again, with audience members able to "freeze" the action at any point where they see an incident of oppression, or a character engaged in a struggle. An audience member yells "stop!", comes into the playing area, replaces the character s/he sees struggling against the problem, and tries out his/her idea. We call this an 'intervention'. The process is fun, profound, entertaining and full of surprises and learning. It is, ideally, 2 hours long.

For many years Headlines has also been the only theatre company in the world taking this interactive theatre style to live television on the Community Channel 4. (This has ended now that Rogers has become SHAW.) We have been taking interventions from the live audience, but also have actors on telephones. People call in from home, talk to an actor, who runs into the studio and does the intervention on their behalf. Live, interactive television! We have won numerous awards for these broadcasts.

We have also, in the last two years, been experimenting with live, interactive web casting. During Corporate U, in 2000, we took interventions over the web from as far away as Croatia!

A little history about this project

This project grows out of a pilot project we were asked to do in 2000/01 in the Richmond School District. This was a 5 day THEATRE FOR LIVING workshop in Charles E. London Secondary that led to a Forum Theatre performance for 300 students on issues of bullying in the school.

In a letter to Headlines dated November 15, 2001, Peter S. Healy, Principal of Charles E. London writes: "It was wonderful to see how our young actors worked with such difficult topics (as bullying and homophobia) in a manner which obviously struck home with the audience of 300 Grade 9 and 10 students, and in a way that will have lasting impact on those who viewed it." Maureen Reid, the Vice Principal of Sir Charles Tupper has told me anecdotally, that she knows that since the project was in Richmond, the word "fag" has virtually disappeared from the hallways of the school.

After the Richmond workshop, we were approached by Dr. Shelley Hymel, Associate Dean, University of BC. Dr. Hymel was at the performance. She works on anti-bullying issues in schools throughout the Lower Mainland. She was so impressed by what she had witnessed, and the resulting changes in the school, that she expressed interest in replicating the work in Richmond into other School Districts.

We will be doing this in October/November 2002, in one High School in West Vancouver (Rockridge Secondary) and two High Schools in Vancouver, (Sir Charles Tupper and Gladstone). The dates are:

  • Rockridge:  Oct. 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 2002
  • Gladstone:  Nov. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 2002
  • Tupper:  Nov. 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, Dec. 2 and 3, 2002

These three workshops will all have the same format: the sessions will be seven days, working 6 or 7 hours a day. Workshop participants will be up to 20 students from each school. Through the intensive THEATRE FOR LIVING process of issue identification, image creation, play creation and Forum Theatre performance, students will create and perform plays about bullying in their school that are specific to the environment of that school. This is play creation by and about the students in each school. The resulting plays are highly relevant, but also provide safety for the actors. No one is telling their own personal story. We will have created a collective story that tells a truth for that school.

During the course of two extra interactive performances on days 7 and 8, I will hand over the facilitation of the Forum Theatre event to two of the students from the group who have self-selected to be trained as Jokers (facilitators). While this is not a long time to do this (only 2 shows) it is the model we used in Prince George to create the highly successful youth company Street Spirits, which is still going after almost three years. Each school will then own their plays and be able to keep performing them in classrooms inside their school and school district, peer to peer.

We will also, as we have been doing with our community projects for a few years now, run a graphics competition through the Art Departments of the schools. The winner of the competition will be paid for the graphic and teamed up with a professional graphic artist. Working together they will create the poster and flyer for phase 2 the project.

The validation and skills transfer of this model are, I think, obvious, as is the opportunity for the project to have an "authentic" voice that speaks to youth about bullying.

In setting up the first phase, we have made all the players aware that the second phase, the Anti-bullying MainStage project, is in the works.

During the first phase, I will keep my eyes open for 8 students from the two Vancouver schools who "light on fire"; who understand the nature of taking a moment from real life and theatricalizing it in order to create a pluralized symbol that a larger audience, the community, the school, the public can work on. I will be on the alert for a diverse group who I believe can work together as a team. Having identified these five young actors, two designers and one technician, and having secured their participation in the second phase, the MainStage aspect of this project will begin.

The Anti-bullying MainStage project

The process we will engage in is modeled after out very successful Squeegee project with street youth a few years ago. The young actors and I will treat the previous workshops and performances as research -- the mandate for the play we will create together. We will have videotaped the performances in the schools during phase 1 as a way to archive those plays for research purposes.

We will have two weeks, working evenings during the week and full days on week-ends, to build a common theatrical language in the small group through physical exercises and to create a more sophisticated short play than can be fashioned in a one week THEATRE FOR LIVING community process with 20 people in a workshop group.

Professional designers, a publicist and Headlines' staff and producing expertise will be attached to the process. The two students interested in design will work with a professional designer to create the set, props and costumes. The technical person will work with our Stage manager as crew and, possibly, as lighting operator.

Our graphic arts team will work with the winner of the graphics competition to create the poster / flyer, and then the project publicist will mount a publicity campaign, along Headlines Outreach co-ordinator.

A full-time counselor will be attached to the project, on salary to Headlines throughout rehearsals and all performances.

As a member of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) and a signatory to the Canadian Theatre Agreement (CTA) Headlines has secured the permission of PACT and Canadian Actors' Equity Association to mount this non-Equity Production, using high school students. All student personnel will be paid at least union minimums for their services, with statutory deductions, and be covered by Headlines' insurance policies.

As in all of Headlines' work of this nature, the reason for this entire project is to orchestrate a process in which the community involved can articulate a true voice about their struggles (in this case youth and the issues of bullying) and then to engage in a dialogue (through interactive Forum Theatre) with their peers and the general public about these issues.

  • Creation/rehearsal:  January 28 - February 9, 2003
  • Set-up in school (no actors):  February 10
  • Tech rehearsal:  February 11
  • DressTech and preview:  February 12
  • Public performances:  February 13 - 16;  February 20 - 22
  • Possible tele/webcast:  February 22

Attached you will find letters from the Vice-Principal of Tupper Secondary, the Principal of Gladstone and from Dr. Hymel. All rehearsals and performances will be at Tupper.

As well as programming eight public performances we are also in early stages of investigating the possibility of a live, interactive tele/web cast on the final performance, February 22. This would, of course, increase the reach of the Anti-bullying MainStage Project tremendously.

We are very excited about the possibilities for this project and the combination of artistic creation and community development woven throughout every aspect of the process.

For further information, please contact me at the above address, or: david@headlinestheatre.com.

David Diamond

Artistic and Managing Director/Joker