Yeh, I know, pink legwarmers do look silly.
But I am embodying my image of a preferred future, and it was (yes, perhaps only internally) powerful.
What is Drama Therapy?
Drama therapy is a broad name for many different styles of performance, all which have a therapeudic aim. Methods of drama therapy also include psychodrama and play therapy. Drama therapy focuses on expressing a personal narrative that is not exclusively verbal, but also relies on image, sound, movement, and gesture. Primarily, it is an embodied therapeudic practice.
Drama therapists rely on drama to allow clients to distance themselves from trauma. The client is encouraged to describe and work through the trauma using metaphor. It uses drama to assist people solve a problem in their lives, and acheive catharsis.
Unlike the work I do, drama therapy does not rely on having public performances. I attempt to distinguish drama therapy from other forms of applied theatre through this characteristic. I look at drama therapy as an umbrella term that refers to using drama in therapuedic practice that does not have a public performance outcome.
How are drama therapy and play therapy different to community arts work?
Rather than focus primarily on community-building as I do, my impression of drama therapy is that it instead focus on building the strength of the individual. drama therapy works with a client/s, rather than a community/ies
Here is a picture from one of my community arts performances. These women are community performers from a local women's shelter speaking about their vaginas in front of 2,000 people in one of my productions of The Vagina Monologues.
At the Drama for Life festival there were several workshops and performances that utilised drama therapy. I want to have a look at 1 of those workshops.
Drama therapy with David Read Johnson
David Read Johnson co-runs the Post-Traumatic Stress Centre in the States. He believes that nothing cannot be played with. Nothing. Read Johnson works a lot with child survivors of sexual abuse. In order to deal with their traumas he plays with the abuse.
Read Johnson works on the premise that avoiding speaking the truth causes more trauma. Consequently, he wastes no time with his clients in speaking about their trauma. He says he 'does not even bother with hello', before asking 'what happened to you?'.
Unlike playback theatre in which the storyteller sits outside of the action, and watches a replay of their trauma, or some issue in their life, in Read Johnson's work, the client engages their body in a reenactment of their story.After speaking of what happened, Read Johnson then works with the client using a play-centred approach. He sets up a resistence for the client, attempting to put them into the position of the victim, which they will invariably resist. Read Johnson does this through:
- clicking the door shut and laughing menacingly
- shutting the door and saying 'no'
- simply closing the door firmly
The client then takes on the role of victim and Read Johnson threatens them. He starts to bring up the actual abuse ie:
- do you want me to poke you?
- do you want me to poke you with something hard?
- do you want me to poke you like your Uncle did?
Wow. Read Johnson is not afraid of the trauma. He is not afraid.
This work is WILD!!
Drama Therapy with Amanda Gifford
Here is a photo of after Amanda Gifford's drama therapy workshop.
Amanda Gifford has studied with Read Johnson and shares a similar lack of fear for trauma. She just goes straight in. Her lack of fear strips away a layer of fear, enabling the trauma to surface more freely. It also does not allow the client to back away from speaking through the trauma - the excuse of 'noone wants to know anyway', or 'I don't want to upset anyone' loses its hold on the client's mind. An atmosphere of safety and openness is established.
I suggest that creating a space of openess and trust is essential for those who have been sexually abused. It provides a distinct difference to an environment of secrecy that can accopany abuse.