Friday, 22 February 2008

Tutor in Role and Development of a Narrative

Explain or indicate, by putting on a bit of costume (e.g. coat, veil) and picking up a prop, (some airmail letters with addresses on the back), that you are assuming a role. As the group sit round, move around them and ask for help pointing to an address. Explain with as few words as possible that you are looking for your child who left and came to this country some years ago. He used to write often, but stopped writing some months ago. Maybe they know your child? Individuals may offer help and you might engage some in an anxious discussion about why the child has not written - imparting some information about his age and what he was doing. Leave and lay down the costume and prop. There are many ways that the drama might be developed - allowing for different interpretations of the narrative. The child’s gender need not be fixed.For example, the tutor takes on the role of the parent again, poised on the doorstep of the child’s home. She addresses the group - asking for suggestions about what has happened to the child and worrying about how she might be received. Volunteers take it in turns to play the child, drawing on the suggestions. This scene need not have many words, actions work - e.g. a hug or door slam.

Roles that are low status and appear vulnerable help to empower the group, and are engaging. This drama gives the students the opportunity to be the experts - to offer advice about a situation that they may recognise from their own experience. In role you can prompt everyone to get involved in a gentle way that is not exposing. There is no need for individuals to stand up and act, they need only respond to the role in the simplest of ways and they become part of the drama - their actions as well as words can inform the story. Through tutor in role even the most difficult groups can find a common language or understanding in their development of a story together. Emotional engagement is often the key to this. Watching the tutor assume a role and acting alongside her can also provide a useful model for a group that is learning to do drama.
In terms of the content of this drama, there is scope to explore what it feels like to be lost in a new city and concerned about loved ones - in a safe, fictional context.

One of the benefits of developing a story with a group is that it can be sustained over a series of sessions. The group will maintain their engagement if they feel that their ideas have helped inform the narrative. A mystery helps to maintain engagement, so it works to delay the appearance of the child. Before that, the group could develop the parent’s nightmare at his arrival in a new city - using music to create atmosphere, and different or made up languages to generate a sense of confusion. They could improvise situations that the parent might find bewildering in a new city, e.g. crossing at a zebra or encountering authority figures. There is scope to create scenes from the past - flashbacks or memories.

The group may not be able to work alone in small groups, because it is hard to negotiate ideas without a common language. It is easier to create scenes spontaneously and if you model or demonstrate then others can follow your example - without it being prescriptive. Once the group recognises the outline of a scene or encounter, individuals can have a go at doing it their way.

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