Finding the light at the end of the tunnel through MCT’s interGEN project

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Through a series of workshops, MCT facilitators carefully prepare participants to get into their bodies, to explore their identities, and to develop deeper connections with themselves and each other. Amelie Sterchi participated in a series of interGEN workshops and played the role of Kate in the recent performance of ‘C’mon Granny.’ The character of Kate was created based on experiences that many of the older adults shared during the workshops. Stories of marginalization, exclusion and abuse of power surfaced as participants reflected on their experiences through various activities. Amelie reflected on what it was like to prepare for this forum theatre performance:

“The workshops were really intense. It involved bringing energy in and drawing energy out at the same time. By doing the exercises with the community members, I started feeling closer to them. We were slowly building trust towards each other. Sharing personal stories brought up a lot of emotions, as we were all going on a journey into ourselves—individually and as a group. It was a continuous flow of internal and external movements. Looking into your inner self to find a story, a song, an action, an image and bringing those to the group. The workshops allowed everyone to be creative and open. All the different exercises brought us to get to know each other better and to discover and use our skills.”

In forum theatre ‘finding the light at the end of the tunnel’ involves seeing the story transform and evolve into a positive ending. It also involves the exploration of different options for responding to oppression and ultimately engages everyone in deep, transformative, and creative self-exploration.

Just because Amelie played the role of Kate doesn’t mean that she agreed with Kate’s perspectives and actions: to abuse her grandmother verbally and economically. In fact, Amelie did not agree with Kate’s actions—but she didn’t waver from her role, as she was committed to “rehearsing for reality”:

“When I was playing Kate, the granddaughter, I could really feel the tension rising towards me in the audience. It felt awkward…I tried to concentrate on how a teenager would feel about the interventions and the audience’ reactions and decided not going to let go of my ideas. I was playing a stubborn Kate who is very self-focused and doesn’t realize or doesn’t want to realize how aggressive and arrogant she can be. I accentuated my character’s oppressive side so the audience would react and jump in. At the end of the play, a member of the audience asked me if I was like Kate in real life and said she hoped I wasn’t! When “rehearsing for reality” the boundary between playing a role and just being yourself becomes a lot thinner. In forum theatre the audience is part of the play—they make changes, to play with situations and open up other possible solutions. I may have played Kate, but I definitely didn’t agree with her actions.”

Like Amelie, all of the participants in the interGEN older adult project expressed their joy in being part of the first performance of ‘C’mon Granny.’ Many of them felt they took risks, and delved into uncomfortable spaces, only to feel more comfortable and connected by the end of it. As one participant said, “he had set his feet on chaos!” another found comfort in “finally being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.” However, the light continues to shine and expand in many different directions, as the interGEN project continues to engage more youth and older adults in different communities and contexts.

It’s not too late to join and have your chance to play your part. Kate and her Granny, Lucille, will perform again today, alongside a new performance created by a group of youth in Toronto: together they will tell each other their stories—and everyone will have the opportunity to join this intergenerational dialogue. The performance will begin at 6 pm at Urban Arts in Toronto.

This post was contributed by Amelie Sterchi– (Currently working at MCT through an international Student internship from Switzerland), and Christina Parker (Volunteer researcher for MCT’s interGEN project).

Speak Out With Art! Presentation March 20th

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Youth and Older Adults break down inter-generational barriers and present their issues and realities!

Come see the results of our Speak Out With Art! week long workshop series!

All are welcome!

For more information please email info@mixedcompanytheatre.com.

Supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and in partnership with UrbanArts, MCT facilitated 2 separate week long workshops with a group of older adults and youth. Each group created a forum theatre presentation based on their inter-generational issues.

Watch, on March 20th, as both groups face off in the theatre, perform their presentations and then ignite conversation about what divides/unites these two communities!

Share our Intergen Presentation Poster!

Identifying and challenging oppression through forum theatre: Moving bystanders to upstanders

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On Sunday March 1, a cast of nine performed ‘C’mon Granny’ to a full house at Lambton House in Toronto: Joy, Riva, Jeannette, Mike, Paivi, Aurora, Amelie, Cody, and Luc assumed their roles – and welcomed all of the audience members to participate in their dialogue.

The script, written by Luciano Iogna, was based on the lived experiences of the seniors who participated in the workshops leading up to the performance. They shared their stories through poetry, songs, art, and sharing circles. The collective voices were represented in the story of Lucille, a grandmother who was almost robbed while waiting for her granddaughter at a bus stop. Lucille fought the thief off with her cane, while surrounded by bystanders who did nothing—apparently concerned with their own safety and existence. Lucille was silenced even further when her granddaughter refused to believe her story about the attempted robbery, “Granny are you making things up again? Did you take your pills?” When the bus arrived, four people went ahead of Lucille, while her granddaughter requested her bus fare and money for lunch, and then impatiently hurried her along, “C’mon Granny, you’re so slow!

The story leaves the audience in a moment of angst, wondering what could have been done to change the sequence of events—to render it positive. The facilitator, Simon Malbogat, catalyzed the audience to identify the underlying issues, respectfully asking: What are the problems with this scene? What would you do differently? When a nine-year-old audience member volunteered her answer, “I would ask that someone give the Granny a seat,” Simon asked her to, “Show us what that would look like.” The cast members reenacted the scene of Lucille searching for a seat, and the young girl politely interjected, “Excuse me, there’s a lady here that needs a seat.” The person sitting in the seat displayed embarrassment and immediately got up to give Lucille the seat. The young girl illustrated the importance of the “upstander” – a person who recognizes the victimization of others and chooses to act on their behalf. Simon continued to encourage the audience to analyze these moments of oppression by identifying the implications of not helping a vulnerable, elderly person. Audience members, engaged in the pursuit to facilitate change, offered alternative options: challenging the thief, seeking support, and questioning the granddaughter’s disrespectful behaviour, with or without a third-party perspective. Collectively, the audience, moved by the scenes of injustice, identified different options for handling these conflicts: positive and constructive behaviours that changed the outcome and challenged the mistreatment of seniors.

The play ended with the cast sharing a poem, repeating the chorus, “I Get No Respect,” while identifying experiences of oppression that have rendered seniors invisible. The final line articulated the essence of what many seniors are asking for, as the cast shouted in unison, “Respect!”

MCT shared resources for seniors seeking support in the Toronto area, some of which included: Seniors for Seniors (www.seniorsforseniors.ca) and the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (www.onpea.org)

The next step in the InterGEN project is the Youth workshop, which will take place during March Break (March 16-20). When the youth create their script, based on what it’s like to be a teen in Toronto, the seniors will be on scene: On March 20th, both groups will perform for each other—and all will have the opportunity to participate in creating options to challenge oppression, by identifying alternative options to resolve conflict. Stay tuned for more updates from the set!

This post was contributed by: Christina Parker (OCT, Ph.D.), an educator and researcher in Toronto and MCT’s Volunteer Researcher for the Inter-Gen program.

Be Part of the Dialogue: Exploring Interventions in Forum Theatre

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In Forum Theatre with Mixed Company Theatre (MCT) there are no “acting skills” required to be part of the set. The process is based on a bottom-up, participatory approach focused on the participants’ experiences and perspectives. “The training is all about the facilitation too,” says Luciano (Luc) Iogna, a MCT facilitator working with the InterGEN project. “The hardest part for a facilitator is to remain neutral, but we have to maintain our neutrality for this process to work.”

After the performance, of a simple, yet complicated story about an elderly woman, named Lucille, who finds herself in a ominous situation at a public bus stop, the audience members will have the opportunity to respond: to change the script.

Simon will prepare both audience and participants by offering a simple direction: “As you are watching, look at what you can change.” And this is where the neutral facilitator comes in, as Luc points out: “It’s about engaging the different perspectives without shutting anyone down.”

In a forum theatre performance everyone has the opportunity to get into character. Simon prepared the seniors for the interventions by having them make connections to their roles: “It’s knowing who your character is and thinking about how your character would respond.” Through their carefully planned, and engaging, facilitation, Simon and Luc, will guide performers and audience members through a collective analysis of how people both react and respond to conflict. The interventions offered by participants can lead to greater opportunities for constructive and positive change—perhaps someone will speak up on behalf of the marginalized, perhaps the oppressor will be challenged, and perhaps the oppressor may be understood. Still, “you never really know where it’s going to go,” says Simon, “but that’s what this is all about… and it’s an incredible learning experience for everyone.”

Be part of the dialogueToday at 2 pm, “C’mon Granny” will be performed by seniors in Toronto at Lambton House.

Christina Parker (OCT, Ph.D.), is an educator and researcher in Toronto and is our Volunteer Researcher for the Inter-Gen program.

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