The play is not just a play but also a playfulness. It is through playing that we can return to our inner child and gain a deeper understanding of the present moment and what is needed for a life-sustaining culture. Brazilian Augusto Boal, in his Theatre of the Oppressed, suggests that playfulness and creativity are tools for social and political liberation and redemption of the oppressed. Boal developed a range of theatrical techniques, games, and exercises to achieve this goal, including Newspaper Theatre, Invisible Theatre, Image Theatre, Forum Theatre, Rainbow of Desires, Legislative Theatre, and Aesthetics of the Oppressed. Everyone can and should act and create, as we are all artists, and theatre and art can help us change reality, not just wait for it. This is the essence of Boal’s thought and legacy.
But how can these techniques meant to liberate the oppressed be used to help an oppressed entity that is none of us and all of us at the same time, Gaia, our Mother Earth? How can we adapt these techniques and others, like the Playback Theatre developed by Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas, to address this great challenge of our times? What kind of play do we need to raise awareness not just of the king but of all of us?
The Spiral “Modern man must descend the spiral of his own absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it.” – Vaclav Havel
A spiral unites the circular and linear perception of time into one theory. Science, as a more established source of knowledge, is learning simple truths that indigenous cultures have known for a long time. Are we at the end or beginning of the spiral? Can a spiral have beginnings and ends? Are we descending or ascending in the spiral? Does up and down have any meaning in a spiral?
Joana Macy proposes a spiral model for the inner work of an activist: “The activist’s inner journey appears to me like a spiral, interconnecting four successive stages or movements that feed into each other. These four are: 1) opening to gratitude, 2) owning our pain for the world, 3) seeing with new eyes, 4) going forth. The sequence repeats itself, as the spiral circles round, but in new ways.”
This model inspires us to think of a dramaturgy that works from the inner to the outer. We believe that by reproducing the spiral phases as metaphorical creative and collective actions, we can bring about both healing of the “inside” and shifting of the “outside” in harmony with the world.
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” – Mother Teresa
What does starting with gratitude mean in a public creative action? It could mean giving thanks for the gifts we receive from Mother Earth and its unconditional love. Everything we hold and give life to comes from the Earth, and it asks nothing in return. We could hold hands in silence and say a heartfelt thank you to all the abundance we receive. We could give small gifts, such as leaves and branches, to people in the street to show the generosity of nature. We could sing and dance while giving thanks, as we have done for millennia, bringing balance and harmony to our communities. Urbanization and modern lifestyles have pushed aside the rituals of gratitude, play, song, and dance. Our first action would be to reclaim these joyfully and with open hearts, inviting others to join our circle. This might make a huge difference and open the way for the next steps
“Not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city.” – Khalil Gibran
How might we express our pain for the world in the streets of a city or town? We could express it through images, sounds, and words. We could create a human tableau (Image theatre) that portrays the suffering of the earth and the people of this time. We could also read texts and perform interpretations of them (Newspaper theatre), share stories that present the problems we face (Forum Theatre), or simply sing songs and read poems that express the depth of our disconnection from nature and the pain it creates.
“Initiation remains at the stage of ordeal unless I find a way to share the gift of medicine I found with my wound.” – Hector Aristizabal
How can we, through creative actions in public spaces, see and make others see, with new eyes, the reality of what needs to be changed in regards to climate change or other interconnected subjects? One way is to move from the image of pain to an ideal or emerging image. We could use Image Theatre to explore the necessary and possible transformation that wants to emerge from our wounds. It could be by opening a dialogue through Forum Theatre or sharing our feelings and thoughts on the wound of pain we feel for the world through Playback Theatre with people we encounter on the streets. It’s about seeking and sharing the medicines that we all carry next to our wounds, singing, dancing, and expressing to be the change we want to see in the world. These actions invite others to co-create the future with us.
“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.” – Victor Hugo
How can we move forward with the people we interact with when we take the streets of Paris or any other city with collective creative actions? We could harness the power of dreams and intentions and collect the hopes and future aspirations of those who interact with us. We could use techniques from Dragon Dreaming to create a collective dream for the street, town, city, and world. A collective dream that gives birth to new energies and projects that foster true community and heal our communities and the earth. We could recover what was lost and build a better world for future generations. We could hold hands and express our hopes and dreams through song and dance, or tell a story together, an old-new story. These times may be desperate, but it is precisely in these moments that hope is most needed and created for.