Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cracking Under Pressure

Well, I'm back from my Theatre of the Oppressed workshop.

On the drive home I slowly recovered from the strong desire to crawl into a corner and start weeping. Now I just want to sleep.

I was, in a sense, set up to fail. The youth at this conference came expecting to spend a day at a "Servant event." They came looking forward to helping New Orleans and her people. They came with paint brushes and clothes they could get dirty. They had their refillable water bottles.

Instead they were assigned to my workshop; stuck in a room with me and 43 other people, playing theatre games, doing improvisations, and talking about using art to address the injustices around us every day.

Well, at least we had air conditioning.

I knew that this was the situation that I would be in. I knew it. But I had high hopes, regardless. I prepared for this, and very specifically spoke of our time together as a workshop that was preparing them to go back to their communities and SERVE. I outlined that as my goal at the beginning of the workshop and kept tying it back into that for the whole six hours.

The workshop itself went OK. On my part I had planned it well and we took EXACTLY the time we had been allotted. Certainly there were things I could have done better, but I don't feel like there was a glaring mistake where I fell down on the job.

And to their credit, they tried to be game. No one was hostile or mean or anything, and several of them were willing participants and readily volunteered to get up and play.

But I knew. I knew they were disappointed. I knew that it was not the experience that they were looking for.

I had groups from 3 different churches, and I think that they will go back to their congregations and use some of the theatre techniques to share with their congregation what they experienced at this 5 day conference. But I have no delusions that they are going to use this work to address oppression or social injustice. The passion and the interest just isn't there. It never was.

It was an exhausting 6 hours where I had to remain cheerful and soldier on. I had agreed to run the workshop and that's what I was going to do. I reminded myself that it was my job to do my best to equip them with tools to use this in their own communities. It was my job to do my best to inspire them. But I have no control over what they DO with these offerings.

And who knows, maybe they will indeed go home, and when an issue comes up they might think "hey... what if we addressed this using theatre?"


When the last person left the room my eyes filled with tears. I sat on the edge of the riser in the small hotel conference room we had been working in. And I allowed myself to fall apart, just a tiny bit. Because 6 hours is a long time to fake it till you make it.


thailandchani said...

Heck, yes! That does sound extraordinarily difficult under the circumstances. I think it's amazing that you were able to make it work!


Unknown said...

Ohhhhh, I'm so sorry. That sounds unbelievably difficult. But I do believe that even if they don't understand or think they can apply it right now, it will be there for them to call upon, and maybe a handful will indeed use it in ways neither you nor they can predict.

You've been planting seeds all day. That's huge. HUGE. Not all will bear fruit, but it was a worthy effort. A valiant effort. Certainly not in vain.

Thinking of you,

Melissa said...

Ouch. That's rough. I've had a few presentations like that and all I could do was to will the seconds to tick by faster.

Six hours is a long time to spend with people who would rather do something else.

But you lived to fight another day, and that's good. And you did plant a seed somewhere in one of those kids I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Oh noes! I wish I had a battalion of clones I could have sent down with half of my enthusiasm from the last post.

Bah. Teenagers.

Kyla said...

That DOES sound tough. With kids, though, often much more sinks in than we think. Hopefully at least a few of them will use what they learned well.

Louise said...

It IS a long time. And you deserve another award.

kayerj said...

I think you must have been a brave little soldier! hooray for you! Now sit back and take a time out. I've worked with youth groups for about 20 years of my life (not large scale) and the need they have to be entertained begins to wear on you. But now and again you get an experience that makes all the tough work worth while. I'm sure some of those kids went home better prepared to serve in their communities.

Aunt Becky said...

Oh sweetie, I felt the same way about BlogHer.

Amy said...

I'm sorry it didn't feel better to you. Who set them up with the wrong expectations? It sounds like it would have been awesome for them if they'd been prepared for it - mentally.

Are you in New Orleans? My daughter moved there Saturday. (deep breaths)

Sarah said...

I'm sorry it was tough, hon. xo

imbeingheldhostage said...

Oh PM, don't be so hard on yourself-- you never know which person went home with a little spark ignited in them. I remember doing a college stint as a high school photography teaching assistant and I went in all excited to share my passion-- and got a classroom of kids who were there only for the credit plus one obnoxious teen who felt he knew it all and there was nothing left to learn. It knocked the wind out of me-- but I still love photography.
YOU are passionate and performed honorably. They came expecting something else and got more-- they just need time to realize it... and I sincerely believe it just needed time to sink in past their expectations.

Jen said...

Oh, PM, this is REALLY tough - and you did a great job and hung in there. Don't feel they won't use this. You never know what people will take away from theater. I just saw the mom of a student I know who had been through incredible trauma, and theater brought her back out of it. I was able to teach in Russia due to my experiences with theater. Theater opens up entire new worlds, and even if your group doesn't know it today, I have no doubt it will become a tool for them that may open doors beyond their dreams.

Anonymous said...

the problem with this type of teaching is that the results are terribly delayed. although people usually learn a lot, it is one thin layer in a process. the more they are exposed to ideas like these, the more it will affect their activity within the community. they themselves will never realize you affected them, but you did.