Ciara Duffin, youth worker with Drogheda Youth Development and participant on NAYD’s Community Drama Training Programme, continues to keep us to up to date with her experience of the training. April saw the participants begin to facilitate drama with the young people who participate in their programmes:
April’s training felt like a giant leap forward into drama facilitation, and most importantly, I felt ready for it! We began planning the first four weeks of workshops which we were going to be doing with our individual youth groups, in my case with teenagers from Drogheda Youth Development. We would be co-facilitating alongside Colin Thornton, who would be leading the workshops while gradually allowing us to take on more responsibility each week by facilitating individual exercises on our own. It was an exciting prospect, as we all could finally begin to see ourselves for the first time as workshop facilitators rather than just participants. I won’t deny, it was also a daunting prospect, as none of us really knew how our young people were going to react, or what there feedback in general would be (if any!). My experience has been that it is often difficult to assess the level of enjoyment our young people find in new types of experiences as their verbal communication skills can be lacking when it comes to expressing their feelings. Of course, we were hoping to challenge and change this through the medium of drama. We have just finished week 4 of the program with them and so far I can honestly say that I’ve already seen huge improvements in this area.
In order to achieve this, we had to work gradually with them though a very specifically designed series of workshops with a deliberate order. The first session would focus on introducing one another to the other group members and creating a group dynamic. We were also instructed by Colin to create a group contract with the teenagers in order to establish the rules and what they hoped to get out of the eight week program. This is important when working on any long term project with young people, especially making them a part of the rule making process. The first workshop would also establish the importance of a mental and physical warm-up and the relevance of both to drama. We would also attempt to begin to break down physical barriers though subtle games and exercises like “Hug Tag”. The beginnings of a group dynamic are easily formed through the use of “Our Circle”, which demands everyone at least knows the names of the other group members so that they can arrange themselves in alphabetical order. This is then further developed through the use of exercises like “Group knots” (requires teamwork and co-operation), and “Carousel” (requires small group co-operation and negotiation). We would also introduce the idea of giving and receiving feedback, and how important it is to be vocal about your opinions and to listen to the opinions of others.
The second workshop’s focus would be on Team Work and a sense of “play”. We would reaffirm the importance of the warm-up and do our best to energise the group as well as giving them focus. This would be achieved through developing co-operation and negotiation skills using exercises like “Stops & Starts” (requires group intuition) and “10 seconds to create” (requires working in pairs or smaller groups under pressure). The latter exercise also introduced image work by asking the participants to work in teams to produce an image or symbol using only their physical bodies as props.
There would also be smaller confidence building exercises interspersed through the workshop like “Anyone who…” and “Opposites”.
The third workshop to be part of our eight week program would centre mainly on tableaus, image work and audience performer relationship. It would also introduce an element of stage-craft. The exercise “Change three things” is an excellent example of image work combined with performing to an audience skill development. It requires the participants to both create a pose/image and then change three things about the pose while their team mate isn’t looking, and their team mate must then correctly identify the three changes that have been made. Tableau work is then introduced as they have to work together to create the shapes of their own initials with their bodies in groups of four or five. This further enhances their ability to perform well as a team while working to strict time deadlines and with little time for discussion.
The fourth workshop would concentrate on team work, trust and observation. It would contain concentration games like ” Zip, Zap” and “In the River, On the Bank” which also energise the group and create excellent focus. Trust exercises like “Colombian Hypnosis” and “Blind handshake” help to strengthen group bonds and promote a healthy attitude to team work. “Blind cars” is also an excellent exercise which young people in particular would enjoy, as it combines a fun element of imaginary driving with trust and negotiation challenges. The fourth workshop would also begin to explore character development and improvisation. Simple games like “Greetings your majesty!” begin to introduce the element of character creation and voice play, while “Where do you come from?” also challenges the imagination and demands the practice of physical role play. “Who’s Knocking?” develops this further by requiring the participants to imagine various scenarios involving a person knocking on a door, and how that knock may be interpreted or varied. Script work can then be added to this exercise to help create their first prolonged improvised scene devised entirely on their own interpretations of a short piece of dialogue. This is a tremendous achievement for a group of young people whom three weeks previously would have been highly intimidated by the proposition of being required to perform in any way, and it is the direct result of a gradual building upon of skills and confidence, in a carefully controlled manner. Through drama, it is possible to raise the self esteem, communication skills, and social skills of young people in our communities and I have now seen this for myself in Drogheda Youth Development where I proudly observe vast improvements in these aspects of our drama students every day.
If you want to find out more about the training, contact Colin Thornton