Headlines Theatre -
Theatre for Living
by Krys Scriberras, Tofino
What are the Human factors that lead people into addictive relationships with drugs? Are the headlines in newspapers today about methamphetamine the current manifestation of the larger issue of drug addiction in our society?
Headlines Theatre, in partnership with many native and non-native community organizations will create an interactive forum theatre production to explore the human factors and root causes that lead to addiction. Meth will be created and preformed by people who have struggled with Meth addiction.
Forum theatre is an opportunity for creative, community-based dialogue. The theatre is created and preformed by community members who are living the issues under investigation. Each play is performed once, all the way through, so the audience can see the situation and the problems presented. The story builds to a crisis and stops there, offering no solutions. Each play is then run again, with audience members able to 'freeze' the action at any point where they see a character engaged in a struggle. An audience member yells 'stop'! comes into the playing area, replaces the character s/he sees struggling with the problem, and tries an idea. This is called an 'intervention' the process is fun, profound, entertaining and full of surprises and learning.
The Meth project will be powerful in the community because it will have the ability to dig down underneath the symptoms and get to the root causes. It will investigate family and relationships and the tiny moments in life that lead us to addictive behavior. Because it is theatre it does this at a symbolic, metaphoric level-the level at which humans articulate thought and feeling which lead to action.
Because the actual content of a project like this must come from the workshop participants who are living the issues, it is impossible to be absolutely specific about what exactly will be addressed in the play, but you can be certain that the story will somehow deal with the complexity of human relationships that lead to addiction. Addiction will be approached as a health issue not a justice issue.
Headlines knows from years of experience that the project can and will function as a true voice of people who have themselves struggled with the issues. Because the play creators carry this expertise the play will certainly help communities seeking grassroots solutions.
The workshop participants and cast will need to be people who are not currently Meth (or other drug) users. Headlines theatre will have to draw from a community of people who have been addicted but are no longer in the throes of addiction. Being in the play is not a healing opportunity--it is employment in a project for the purpose of which is to create an artistic focal point for community discussion and transformation.
The cast and workshop participants will be a mix of recovered addicts and people who have struggled with the addictions of family members and friends. Having a living knowledge of the issue will be one of the essential criteria for participation.
Although Meth will be the focus of the workshop investigation and the resulting play, the interactive Forum Theatre events will have the effect of creating grassroots dialogue about the larger issues of addiction.
Although performances will be booked in partnership with many First Nations communities, it is important that this touring production feature a Native and non-Native cast. Discussions with various people involved in the issue, both Native and non-Native, and also many of the statements made at the January 25, 2006 Vancouver Crystal Meth Consultation sponsored by the bc Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, indicate that dealing with the Meth issue is impossible for any community if they attempt solutions in isolation. Addiction in general and Meth addiction in particular is a cross-cultural and inter-generational issue.
It also seems to Headlines that the project presents an opportunity for communities throughout the cultural spectrum in Vancouver and across bc to come together, sometimes across cultural divides, and to work together on a shared problem. Headlines has been very successful for many years at drawing out a broadly diverse audience. The audience's engagement in the Forum Theatre process will build cross-cultural understanding and also help investigate solutions to the issues that are relevant to all audience members, in the communities in which they reside.
A community is a living organism. In the same way that our bodies are comprised of cells that make up the living organism of our bodies, a community is comprised of people that make up the living organism of the community. The way communities used to express themselves was once through song, dance, drama etc. Today, these activities have become commodified; we buy movies, books, dance, theatre, tv - we pay strangers to tell us stories about strangers.
If an individual doesn't express herself, she gets sick. In the exact same way, if a community loses the ability to express itself, it gets sick. The violence and various forms of addiction all around us are a sign of dysfunction at a deep level in all of our communities.
The use of primal language (in this case the theatre) to tell collective stories (in this case about the community's struggle with Meth addiction) and then the resulting community dialogue through Forum Theatre cannot help but be very healthy for the living community.
The public aspect of these performances will bring various communities who share similar issues together and encourage them to problem solve collectively. In the process, they will recognize their differences and their similarities. They will engage in real dialogue, which breeds understanding. This level of the project is anti-racism work in a very subtle but effective way.
Krys Sciberras is the West Coast Youth Advocate, her role focuses on the needs of youth in the central west coast Vancouver Island communities. She works with west coast youth, service providers, parents, elders and community leaders to bring youth's voices to service planning and policy making. Phone 726 2343.
Tofino theatre with Headlines Theatre - Theatre for Living presents: Meth at the Clayoquot Community Theatre.