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Blog Post

Stuck? Try Theatre

January 30, 2024

In 2004, I had an opportunity to see The Vagina Monologues, a play written by V, formerly known as Eve Ensler produced by Louise Fagan for the Sexual Assault Centre London.  It was unlike any other theatre experience I have ever had.    As a survivor of sexual violence, The Vagina Monologues gave voice to my own experiences and truths I had not spoken out loud before.   I wanted to use that voice to educate, to speak truth to power, and to incite my community into action.   

In 2005, I gathered, with Adèle Séguin, a group of French speaking women, originating from different parts of Canada and the world.  We were Franco-Ontariennes, Québécoises, and New Brunswickeres.  We were Burundaises, Sénégalaises, and Francophiles.  We came together, with our different French accents and cultures, to produce the first ever and only French version of The Vagina Monologues in London, Ontario.   

Witnessing firsthand the power of theatre to transform individuals and communities, I set out on a path to bring theatre into my work as a leader, change-maker, coach, and consultant. Since 2008, I have been training in Theatre of the Oppressed, Theatre for Living, and Social Presencing Theatre (SPT) with gifted social artists committed to creating a more just world.   

Since 2011, I have been using a variety of theatre-based exercises and processes to engage individuals and groups of people around the issues they care about.   

Theatre for Living, developed by David Diamond, and strongly influenced by Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed offers theatre and arts practitioners and facilitators a myriad of tools – theatre games, exercises, and processes – to, as David describes in his book, “awaken a group’s consciousness” and help them tell their stories.  Building these theatre approaches into my work has deepened my capacity to make visible many viewpoints, that with traditional workshop techniques, may remain hidden or silenced.  It has increased the impact of my work in a variety of contexts, from examining how “us vs them” dynamics show up in an eco-system and its impact on marginalized communities, to exploring organizational resilience, to talking about harassment and bullying in the workplace.

In SPT, developed by Arawana Hayashi, there are different methodologies that can be used to support people and groups to access the wisdom in their body and move toward more awareness-based systems change. It has been game-changing for my clients to explore concepts like power and Whiteness in leadership from the inside out, using tools that help them do the inner work necessary for meaningful, sustainable change.

Arts-based approaches like these build community and connection among those involved, invite empathy and understanding of different perspectives, shift power dynamics, access body-wisdom, make visible the forces– internal and external – that keep us stuck, and provide a forum to hear and witness each other. 

This past week, I started a new adventure with my Dancing with Power series where I have an inaugural group of leaders and change makers who are using embodied ways of knowing through specific SPT practices to better understand their relationship to and grow their personal power.  

In April, I start a new series, again using SPT practices to explore how Whiteness lives in our bodies. Click on this link for more information.  

Our world is begging for more life-giving ways to come together and make meaning of our challenges. Embodied ways of learning and knowing, leading, and being – like theatre– are a doorway to deeper, more sustainable, awareness-based systems change and to activating collective intelligence and creativity in communities.  

For over a decade, I have been practicing with theatre tools and methodologies like SPT, Theatre of the Oppressed, and Theatre for Living, quietly and sporadically.  As I contemplate what is alive for me now and in 2024, I know it is about crossing the edge of visibility. Being fully out there, bolder, and more creative, and growing Theatre Époché – my heart space for weaving together leadership, power, and systems change. 

Is there an issue that has you or your team stuck? Email me and we’ll chat about how we can CREATE THE SHIFT you need.