Friday, 16 May 2014

DRAMA 2013 - Turn Around Project’s Applied Theatre Techniques with RAFT – Niagara

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Final Paper – RAFT / Turn Around Project
Monica Taylor - 4522884
Prof: Carolee Mason
March 27, 2013

Turn Around Project’s Applied Theatre Techniques with RAFT – Niagara

        To begin to understand the applied theatre project that I am proposing for the Resource Association for Teens (RAFT) it is beneficial to understand the Turn Around Project. I am assessing the existing connections between the Turn Around Project and the RAFT and proposing changes and the addition of an applied theatre component to the Turn Around Project’s association with the RAFT. This report will outline the background of the Turn Around Project and the RAFT as well as providing a description of clients and staff as well as the needs of the group. The proposed workshops will be outlined and provide rationale to its efficacy. To conclude, this report will explore the anticipated outcomes of the project.
        The Turn Around Project (TAP) was created September of 2006 at Brock University when Dub Poet Michael St. George was hired to teach a class called “Alternative Forms of Theatre”. TAP became a group of students who had a desire to work with Jamaican youth. The goal was to foster positive attitudes, generate change, and bring awareness to alternative ways of thinking. Since 2006 TAP has been in charge of summer trips to Jamaica, India,
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Japan and locally in Canada (Turn Around Project). These trips bring arts supervisors and session leaders to these areas to work with disadvantaged youth and to give them an outlet of expression and education through the world of arts. Meaghan Gowrie, a member of TAP and session leader in Jamaica had this to say about the experience; 

“Our mandate is to connect communities through the arts. So we offer a variety of workshops in music, dance, theatre, film, photography, visual arts, culinary arts etc. We try to enforce communication, peace, love, unity and respect through them. In the past five years we’ve done projects in Jamaica, India, Japan and Niagara. We look for communities that have been affected in one way or another. So we do projects at the RAFT (homeless shelter for teens) in Bhopal India (where people are facing the effects of the chemical explosion 20 years ago) and Jamaica (where we bring half of the youth from the inner city, and half from the country because there is a lot of conflict and hostility between the two groups) (Gowrie).”

        Meaghan is one of the many volunteers that assist the not-for-profit organization that has grown to incorporate many dramatic and artistic educators around the world. The drama facilitators, for example, work with groups of eight to twelve youth in one workshop a day for two weeks. The facilitators run two workshop groups consecutively, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. A typical session for TAP to run is eight weeks. The drama facilitators in this time will spend forty hours with each youth member over the course of the summer. In Jamaica, specifically, the drama facilitators use applied theatre to address the conflicts that have been created between the youth of Jamaica. Youth from the city and youth from the country are brought together by applied theatre in order to understand each other and eventually come to an understanding and respect for each
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other through applied theatre practices.
                It was these practices of conflict resolution that I believe would be beneficial to the RAFT. In 1994, in response to the lack of services provided in the Niagara region for at risk youth and homeless youth, the RAFT was opened. Community groups, service clubs, the faith community and concerned individuals in the Niagara community, fund the RAFT. The program provides many services to homeless or at risk youth in the community such as the original drop in center operating five nights a week. The RAFT expanded to include a “16 bed 24/7 hostel, a Steps to Independent Living Program, a Regional Transportation program, a community based Youth Reconnection Program and Community Development Initiatives aimed at strengthening stressed neighborhoods and empowering at-risk youth” (The Raft Helps). The community development initiatives are aimed at reducing and preventing the number of at-risk youth in Niagara. Through its Neighborhood Awakening Initiative, the RAFT helps build stronger, caring communities in Niagara by engaging potential at – risk youth and fostering their empowerment, independence and self-esteem. I believe that an additional resource (applied theatre workshops) would provide a program for these youth that would enable them to see their projected and current successes and help prepare them emotionally for next steps they want to take.

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Workshops and Activities Outline               

Conflict resolution is the motivation behind bringing Turn Around Project facilitation techniques to the RAFT. The Turn Around Project drama facilitators use drama games, activities and discoveries to foster an inclusive environment of learning and wondering. There are many ways to resolve conflict. Many responses chosen by people result in an escalation of the conflict. Physical violence, war, verbal abuse and silent treatments are some reactions to conflict. It is essential that the participating youth learn how to communicate with themselves and with others about conflict that can arise on a day-to-day basis. The applied theatre program may seem like just games and activities but it is building an essential skill set that will assist these youth in achieving a happy, fulfilling life.
The program will be run on a day – to – day basis to adhere with the needs of these Niagara youth. Most youth stay approximately six days but some only stay one night and some others for longer. It is unreasonable to ask these youth to commit to a five-day program when they may feel that they cannot commit or may feel pressured into showing up. A drop in daily program would be the most beneficial style of program delivery for this clientele.
As each day would be different, a common theme will run throughout them so that the returning youth feel like they are experiencing something new and learning something new but new clients will not feel like they are intruding on an already on going process. The goal is to create an inclusive environment that fosters the safe and creative venture into self-discovery and conflict resolution through applied theatre. To give an example of a “typical

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program day” a breakdown will be provided below for the hour that the facilitator will have with the youth.

Warm Up:  5 – 15 Minutes
Augusto Boal’s “The Structure of the Actor’s Work” provides activities that assist in developing awareness and control of emotions. The warm ups that will start every session will be chosen based on Boal’s principal that will aid in understanding personal emotions and emotions of others when deconstructing the meaning and resolution of conflict. Boal describes how “like all human beings, the actor (the at risk youth in this case) acts and reacts in a repetitive way for this reason, we must start with the ‘de-mechanization’, the returning (or detuning) of the actor, so that he may be able to take on the mechanisms (of other people involved in the conflict in this case) of the character he is going to play. He must relearn to perceive emotions and sensations he has lost the habit of recognizing” (Boal 30). Muscular, sensory, memory, imagination and emotion exercises are provided to achieve a level of emotional understanding that will help the at risk youth find a base to their opinions and beliefs about the conflicts in their lives.

First Activity “Two Revelations”:  15 Minutes
         In his book, Michael Rohd lists several conflict-preventative dramatic activities that he has collected. An activity called 'Two Revelations' helps rid of conflict that might arise in the future. The basic idea of this activity involves secrets. Two people form a pair and each member of the team comes up with a secret. One of the team members reveals his or her
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secret to the other. When the secret has been revealed, both individuals have to talk about them and identify what misconceptions were formed by keeping this secret. This activity portrays the malicious effects of secrecy and distrust. Rohd provides an example: “John and Jane are in a team together. John thinks up of a personal secret. Jane thinks one up too. Then John reveals what his secret was. Let's say that secret was that he hates Jane because she always uses him to cheat on a test. Jane might have been thinking all along that John doesn't mind. The bitter mistrust between them would grow. Then Jane takes her turn to reveal a secret” (Rohd). When both secrets have been revealed, a lot of mistrust evaporates. This shows the individuals who don't keep any secrets have a greater possibility of avoiding conflict.
Second Activity “Bad Sentence Structure”:  15 Minutes
      Once the youth have experienced an activity that reveals the issues that can arise from a festering conflict (example provided: two revelations), the follow up activity will provide the youth with a possible solution or a new conflict resolution skill. An activity outlined by Patricia Sternberg in her book Theatre for Conflict Resolution: In the Classroom and Beyond provides an activity called “Bad Sentence Structure”. She recommends making lists of sentence that promote the reduction of bad behavior. For example “rather than saying ‘I hate you,’ which might antagonize the other person, you could say, ‘I hate what you said about me.’ This may cause a change in the behavior because unlike the first sentence that attacks the person as a whole, the second doesn’t target the individual but rather the behavior of that particular individual” (Sternberg). This activity will provide the youth with an applicable example to conflict resolution. It is recommended that the facilitator attempt to encourage
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youth to share their conflict sentence resolutions to the group to give the group more examples to think about. Of course, if the youth are not comfortable with sharing they are not expected to. Forcing youth in these situations to step way outside their comfort zone may lead to disruptive behavior, walking out and the choice to not attend any more sessions.

Wrap Up/ Cool Down: 10 Minutes
         It is always important to debrief with a group after teaching them something. I love the quote that is out these that to teach someone something effectively you must first tell them what you are about to teach them, teach it to them and then recap what you just taught them. The debrief acts as the portion of the session where a solid conclusion can be driven home to the youth. It provides time for individuals to discuss issues that may have arisen during the hour or in their personal lives. These cool down activities will usually be facilitated in a circle so the group members can feel connected and on equal playing fields with their peers. Having the facilitators sit on the floor (or chairs) with the youth provides the visual and emotional sensation that the facilitators are approachable and accessible. The cool down can consist of the facilitator posing a question that stimulates community discussion. The facilitator could provide the group with a conflict scenario and have the group come up with a solution together using the skills that they had learned that day. 

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Anticipated Outcomes
Boal brings life to the anticipated outcomes for this kind of theatre; “ We cannot live in isolation, under arrest inside ourselves. We can learn enormously when we recognize ourselves in alterity: the Other also loves and hates, fears and has courage – just like me, like you, even though he/she, you and I have cultural differences. Precisely because of that, we can learn from each other: we are different, being the same” (Boal 2). Providing a drop in conflict workshop through applied theatre techniques will be essential component to ensuring that the needs of all clients are met. There are many at risk youth that will benefit from hands on application of conflict resolution skills. The workshops have the main goal of learning strategies and perspectives on conflict resolution but the self-discovery that happens during these sessions can have positive influences on other aspects of their lives as well. Building confidence, awareness, community skills, communication skills and empathy can assist these youth in understanding the world around them. These activities for this client group are activities that they may not have the opportunity to access in other venues. Many times, at risk youth miss out on extra curricular activities both in and after school. The applied theatre drop in workshops at the RAFT will provide these clients with opportunities they may not get elsewhere.
            I will test the efficacy of these workshops by providing a method for feedback from the youth. Anonymous cards will be available for the youth to write their concerns and wishes on to assist the tailoring of the program to the specific needs of the clients.

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Boal, Augusto. Games for Actors and Non – Actors: Second Edition. Abingdon: Routledge,           2002. Print. 

Gowrie, Meaghan. Personal Interview. 5 March. 2013. 

Rohd, Michael. Theatre for Community, Conflict & Dialogue: The Hope is Vital Training             Manual. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1998. 

Sternberg, Patricia. Theatre for Conflict Resolution: In the Classroom and Beyond.            Portsmouth: Heinemann. 1998. 

The Raft Helps – Resource Association For Teens. Niagara Resource Service For Youth.    Web Page. Accessed: March 20, 2013. 

Turn Around Project – Connecting Communities Through The Arts. The Turn Around      Project of the Arts. 2012. Web page. Accessed: March 20, 2013.

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