Participatory Theatre for Conflict Transformation: Training Manual

Search for Common Ground

Created 09/13/2012



Participatory theatre

As people of the theatre, we know that just as conflict is a natural part of life it is a critical ingredient of drama. From the ancient Greeks to modern day playwrights, from the comedic to the tragic, the theatre has long served as a place for a society to gather, witness their own conflicts, and reflect upon possible solutions. This has served diverse purposes for different communities from entertainment to eulogy to celebration to group healing.

When each of these forms is performed successfully, they elicit the audience’s identification with the characters onstage. Theatre gives spectators the opportunity to stand outside a conflict, watch each adversary in action, and empathize to a degree with each side. Audiences have the chance to witness real people in the process of encountering these challenges in one another. As a result, audience members are better able to connect with the deeper wants and needs that motivate the core conflict of the play. Theatre, in fact, embodies many of the key techniques and tenets of the “ common ground ” approach, whereby deeper understanding can promote more effective solutions for resolving conflict.

Participatory theatre is even more effective in serving this mission. It not only encourages the spectator to identify with characters in conflict and then asks audience members to step onto the stage and literally fill a character’s shoes. The act of empathizing is taken one step further as the public attempts to find novel and positive solutions to the conflict. Participatory theatre productions offer communities the opportunity to actively reflect together by using the stage as a place to explore new ways of living and to express new visions of the future.

Table of Contents

1) Participatory Theatre

  • Definition
  • History of participatory theatre
  • Participatory theatre: different types

2) Conflict transformation

  • What is a conflict?
  • Causes of conflicts
  • Conflict analysis
  • Positions and interests
  • Conflict scenarios
  • Conflict transformation
  • Types of behaviour during conflicts
  • How to transform conflict
  • Collaboration

3) Participative theatre for conflict transformation

  • Information collection
  • Compiling information
  • Scene development
  • Character development
  • Preparation of the performance location
  • Interaction with spectators
  • Role of the director
  • Ingredients of success for your theatre
  • Risks of participative theatre for conflict transformation
  • How can theatre contribute to peace?
  • Theatre exercises

This resource was created by Search for Common Ground

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