The pilot programme of NAYD’s Community Drama Training is well underway in Drogheda and is facilitated by Colin Thornton, NAYD’s Community Drama Development Officer. Some of the participants have very kindly agreed to share their experience with us. Here Ciara Duffin, a Youth Support Worker with Drogheda Youth Development, gives us an insight into the second and third months of the programme.
The second month of our Community Drama Training began with the group being encouraged to become more aware of our own reactions when confronted with some of the challenges of participation, and how individual reactions and behaviours can have an impact on the whole group. Following on from this, we were introduced to a simple method for reading the level of participation within each member of any given group.
The technique uses a sliding scale of three differing personality types and how these types will usually perform within a group context. Type A is the confident participant who is always willing to step forward and volunteer for exercise after exercise. This type of participant is very important to the facilitator, as they are often “ice-breakers” and encourage progression within the sessions. The role they play especially within newly formed groups, or groups with particularly low self-esteem where there can be a reluctance to participate should not be underestimated. However sometimes Type A’s never-ending enthusiasm can start to have an opposite effect on a group and alienate or distance some of the other members, so it’s important not allow them to overly dominate the session.
Then there is Type B who will typically allow type A to go first, however if type B is in a group where there aren’t any type A’s then they will take the lead and put themselves forward within the group. This type of participant usually has more awareness than type A when it comes to considering the larger group.
Finally Type C represents the type of participant who rarely if ever volunteers to put him or herself into the spotlight.
I found this to be a very useful tool for facilitation as part of the job can be about helping people who may be feeling vulnerable within a workshop. I also knew that I had been a bit of a type C so far in our training sessions, therefore I challenged myself to behave like a type B for the rest of the day. Using the scale allowed us to observe ourselves and our own behaviours as participants in a workshop. I imagine, as a facilitator, this is what you have to be looking out for whenever you lead a session with a group. You are looking for patterns and bad habits that may be developing, and from this you try to come up with ways in which to challenge this kind of behaviour in the hope of getting individuals within the group to step out of their comfort zones, which in turn will build a stronger ensemble.
Over the two days we explored and participated in a number of Process Drama techniques. Process Drama is a specialized area of drama where drama techniques are used to engage participants in a wide range of subjects and issues with the higher intention of learning.
This was of particular interest to me - working as a Youth Worker, I was searching for techniques that I could use to address various subjects of importance with young people, while still making it fun and engaging. The idea behind Process Drama is to give young people the opportunity to step into a variety of roles and situations, in an attempt to explore an intellectual or social problem. Colin offered us 30 different techniques we could use to achieve this. We got through as many of them as possible over the next two days as a group, and it was a fun and interesting way to discuss topics such as Sexuality and prejudices surrounding it, Crime & Punishment, Laws in Society and more. It really stirred up the emotions of the group, and some very strong opinions emerged along with stimulating conversations that spilled over to the cafeteria table at lunchtime.
At the end of the two days, Colin explained that next month we would participate in a one-day complete Process Drama Workshop, where everything we had learned over the past two days would be put into practice in a more ordered and sequential fashion. As there had been a lot of techniques to get through in a short space of time, we were all looking forward to experiencing Process Drama in a more concentrated form.
I thoroughly enjoyed the two days, and it was very encouraging to see the ways that young people could participate in an active discussion around a topic, without it seeming like a teaching environment. I am looking forward to putting it all into practice next month.
This one day Process Drama workshop began with the usual gentle warm up we have now become accustomed to - which is a great way of waking yourself up in the morning! Colin then initiated a game called “Anyone Who?…” which begins with the facilitator making a generic statement like “Anyone who is wearing jeans today…”. Upon which, anyone who is wearing jeans must cross the circle and take a different position in the room. A later question asked was “Anyone who went drinking on Paddy’s Day change places in the circle”, as St. Patrick’s Day celebrations had just taken place recently. This naturally led onto a brief discussion around drinking in Ireland, and whether we use national holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, as an excuse for over indulgence in intoxicating substances!
We asked ourselves, who do we think does the most unnecessary drinking on such occasions, and we decided that teenagers were most at risk, of feeling obliged to participate in binge drinking. Colin encouraged us to consider, what we were like ourselves as teenagers and the kinds of activities we would have engaged in to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Personally, as a teenager I spent a lot of time as part of a Youth Theatre, and we annually took part in the Drogheda St. Patrick’s Day Parade either through street performance art or as part of the local Samba band, so I had little time to spend “drinking with my mates”. However, plenty of others in our group admitted they would’ve engaged in under-aged drinking around St. Patrick’s Day when they were teenagers. Colin asked these people where they would have gone to drink at that age, considering the pubs and nightclubs weren’t an option. It was agreed, that back then and currently even now, the “Ramparts” by the river is probably the most popular spot for teenage drinking in Drogheda. We decided as a group that this would be the setting for our improvisations. Colin divided us into three groups and each group was asked to represent in a “freeze frame” what a group of teenagers might look or behave like, at the beginning, middle and end of a night’s drinking. We stayed in our groups and then we had to act out an “Incident” that may have occured over the evening’s drinking. Process drama is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and it was interesting to see how we had developed different scenarios and circumstances that young people could find themselves in when alcohol was introduced to the equation. Without realising it, we had entered into a deep discussion around teenage drinking where we were exploring the temptations, dangers and consequences surrounding it. It felt like a natural progression of thought rather than a structured workshop with a specific agenda.
Some of the other process techniques we used were: Tableaus, Thought Tracking, Hot-Seating, Imaging on the hour, Sliding Scale, Writing in role. In the afternoon Colin parked the workshop before it came to an end. We were then asked what would we do next if we were facilitating the workshop ourselves. We divided ourselves into smaller groups and each group came up with some ideas around how the workshop might progress from here.
My group considered using Decision Alley, or Meetings where the participants/young people would come together as concerned parents to address the problem of their teenage children’s bad attitudes towards under-age drinking. I thought that young people might enjoy impersonating their own/each others parents while at the same time being forced to look at things from an adult’s point of view.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop, and it was helpful to see how easy it is to create learning opportunities for young people, without them feeling they are being lectured to, or spoken down to.