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.