Weekly drama sessions were at the heart of the Booth Centre and Royal Exchange Theatre partnership.
The most effective partnership projects are those developed over years rather than months, and this is particularly true of the relationship between the practitioner and the participants which grows during these weekly meetings. This creative process is just as important as final events or performances.
A skilled practitioner will demonstrate a multitude of micro skills in a session or a rehearsal; directing the play is one small element of their work. For example, they will praise participants at every opportunity, letting them know they’re getting it right: the great thing about taking part in ‘drama’ is that there’s no right or wrong, just by taking part/joining in you are getting it ‘right’. They will know that, just as theatre games can have a very positive effect on participants, they have the power to humiliate or irritate a participant if they're not delivered with sensitivity and empathy. A skilled practitioner will also work hard to ensure that the quality of any final performance or event reflects the best possible creative outcome for the participants.
The role of the support organisation is also key in the successful delivery of weekly drama sessions. Support staff on the project (including volunteers) need to be willing to take part in the activities on the same level as participants and to support them all the way.
5 Top Tips
1. In order to be creative we need to feel safe. Find moments in the sessions to praise individuals so that people feel a personal sense of development and use the creative process as an opportunity to let people know how brilliant they are and to raise their self esteem.
2. Everyone gets there in different ways and at a different speed. Every participant has the ability to be creative… some need more support than others to reach their potential. Whatever the outcome, praise participants and encourage their next creative step as soon as possible. This is something people will get better at with time: it’s all about confidence and self worth.
3. Accept people’s limitations and focus on developing the skills that can transform them. In order to make a piece of ‘theatre’ you first need to form a theatre ‘company’ where everyone is working together towards a mutual goal. Set the creative bar high, but set people up to succeed. Theatre games are a great way to achieve this.
4. Work on ensemble pieces as much as possible. Plan creative outcomes that won’t be ruined if an individual is forced to withdraw their involvement at the last minute. Encourage commitment and responsibility. And remember that participants are discerning; they know when they are taking part in something that has been half-heartedly created.
5. Stay calm and trust the process. Every group and every session is different and regardless of how much planning has gone on at the start, adjustments will need to be made once the project is underway.
“I was nervous at the first but the longer it went on the better I was, more at ease… it brings the confidence out of you in front of the audience… In front of an audience I felt very shy but confident as it went on… Being my second play with the group I was really pleased that I didn’t want to run out the door before the performance.”
“It’s been great, all of it. It’s been great to meet other people and work together. It helps keep me motivated. I go to a depression group, but this is better for helping with my depression.”
Booth Centre participants