Adding drama into a crisis: Use these theatre tools to prompt self reflection
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Having spent a lifetime producing and performing in theatre (as well as doing the day job), I include elements of "drama" in much of what I do. Not only does it help me in terms of engagement and interest when it comes to presentation, but there are a number of drama techniques that are wonderful starting points for self reflection. Here are 5 of my favourites:
This is a Brechtian technique where the "4th wall" is broken and a character "leaves a scene" to explain their thoughts to the audience. As an exercise it can also be used to explore subtext and motivation, eg. what ISN'T being voiced but is actually driving the character. This gives the actor further insights into how to deliver the line.
Used in coaching, reflecting on your thinking behind what you are saying can give you huge insights, as well as possible ways to communicate your intentions more clearly. For example, saying "I'm Fine" may mean "I'm really suffering but I don't want to talk about it here/with you/right now"; it may mean "I'm testing you to see if you really care by asking more"; it may mean "I'm fine!" Direct communication is difficult, but in a social world, it can be both refreshing - and essential - for healthy relationships!
Actors find a point in the story where one of the characters makes a decision. They are then asked what they think might have happened if a different decision was made.
This can assist in reassuring us that although a decision may not have worked out, it was the best one in the given circumstances. This may stop us mentally beating ourselves up thus wasting the time and energy we had left to put it "right". With younger people, this can help children to think about consequences and taking responsibility for their actions.
The imaginary ball
Actors take it in turns throwing a "ball" to each other - and the ball, when it is thrown can be whatever the actor states it to be eg "I'm throwing you a cat". The recipient then acts as if s/he has caught a cat before changing the object to something else.
This is a wonderful exercise not just to return playfulness into creativity (because no idea is "silly") - but a great way to teach the importance of listening and acknowledgment before changing the idea. When participants are asked to acknowledge by saying (they don't need to act) the caught object BEFORE changing it to an idea of their own, they are able to recognise the importance of validating and holding all ideas for a moment, rather than just dismissing them and changing them to one's own thoughts.
Actors devise a story based around a photo or an object pulled out of a sack.
This can be used with personal effects. By looking at what you keep in your bag, or pocket, or on a keyring, you reflect on the people, things and experiences that are meaningful to you. Sharing this with others can provide them with insights without probing too deeply.
A commonly played partner game to encourage trust and team bonding where one person is led around blindfolded.
This can be extended to offer two different experiences: 1. The person who is guiding stands BEHIND the person who is blindfolded and walks them around the room with a gentle "push" (this is the most common way the game is played). 2. I extend the task by then having the guide stand IN FRONT of the person and walk backwards, guiding them by pulling gently. THEN ask players which one was most comfortable. For the person blindfolded, they will be more likely to say the second version! This is because the person guiding is walking backwards and is therefore slower, and more mindful themselves; AND because when one is being pulled, one feels a great sense of control than being pushed...and doesn't that open up an interesting discussion for leadership!!
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For coaching tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt