The working process described below was part of the International ARTES conference held in Florence on 14-15 November 2014.
The workshop led by Maria Schejbal on 15 November was a follow-up to the LLP Grundtvig project titled “Bibliodrama as a way of intercultural learning for adults” completed in 2013: http://www.basicsproject.eu/index.php?lang=en
The session was meant for introducing participants to the specific use of Bibliodrama in touching upon issues connected with intercultural dialogue. It triggered opposing reactions and feelings expressed in the final evaluation questionnaire filled in by all the participants. It is worth to quote the extreme opinions:
I got discouraged, I felt sad and very angry, and still I am angry because in a few minutes you cut the head of my sheep and you killed it. I don`t see where is the real cross-cultural aspect.
I did no understand how that could work in the activities around religious diversity. I found the workshop very violent. The good energy provided by the act of creating something was cut. It is opposite to the idea of “Art as a vehicle for education and social inclusion”.
I am very inspired by this method. I would not know about the power of Bibliodrama, if I did not have personal experience. Maria created safe environment for me what is very important.
I find the workshop very interesting and inspiring. The question about loosing something hit me, it was not expected but I found it important.
I learned – it works! I got inspired to go on and dig deeper in the future.
I want to use this technique.
At the beginning of the workshop I was wondering: “What can we do with all this stuff?” because we had a very short time. At the end I got inspired and I found my way. We can accomplish amazing things with so different materials.
The essence of Bibliodrama is role playing, which makes it possible to identify with the reality presented in the source text. For some people such experience can be disturbing and confusing. For the others it works as a revealing and enriching process. However, it seems impossible to avoid personal and emotional involvement of Bibliodrama workshop participants, if we really want them to understand how the method works. Therefore, every Bibliodrama experience is a risky venture. Nine participants out of eleven members of the workshop group in Florence expressed positive (and some of them even enthusiastic) opinions about the session. However, two participants considered the workshop to be completely pointless and inappropriate.
The exercise “You are a sheet of paper” allows participants to discover the diversity of ideas and behaviors in a group, so it is a good introduction to the leading workshop theme. It also helps to get participants moving (a perfect “physical starter”), and motivates them to take an active part in the workshop. The game serves as an effective ice-breaker as well.
All participants stand in front of the trainer, each with some space around them. The trainer is holding a piece of paper – in an upright position, and performs different movements, like bending a corner, turning it in the air, folding it in half, shaking it, holding it in a horizontal position, etc. The task of the participants is to find a body movement which corresponds to the movement of the paper. The exercise involves not only the body but also the imagination of the participants – each one reacts differently, which stimulates reflection.
BIBLIODRAMA – READING
This part of the workshop is meant for developing a personal relationship with the written Word in which unconventional activities and multiple referrals to significant parts of the text may help. Next to traditional reading – individually in silence, or by reading out a given excerpt by one of the members of the group – Bibliodrama uses physical activities, reading out with participants divided into roles, interactions with other participants, and artistic expression. Creating surprising and unique circumstances for the readings promotes the discovery of hidden and ambiguous meanings, and encourages the effort of creative interpretation and to ‘look inside of words, outside of the text’.
The leader hands out a printed fragment of text to participants which will become the subject of analysis (New Testament, Luke 15:1-7). The participants are asked to sit down in a circle and study the text quietly, marking out three issues that they find the most important or significant to themselves. Next, the leader reads out the whole text and the rest comes in when it’s time for the fragments they previously marked. At the end everybody shares impressions.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Scripture: Luke 15:1-7)
1. Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3. Then Jesus told them this parable: 4. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5. And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6. and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7. I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
BIBLIODRAMA – ENACTING
This part of the workshop is the core activity of every Bibliodrama session. The reading of the text is just a starting point for analysing the depicted world – being immersed in its structure and symbolic space by role playing. Being someone or something else on the stage always requires a change in behaviour and submission to the imposed rules. It takes effort to understand the played characters and to identify with their feelings, which makes a unique exercise of intercultural skills. It is based, firstly, on an emotional experience which is only later subjected to intellectual analysis, and finally translates into behaviours and attitudes assumed in everyday life. This unique aspect of educational experience distinguishes Bibliodrama from traditional forms of studying texts related to different faiths and cultures. Thanks to its influence on the participants of the workshop process, it verifies the preserved stereotypical beliefs, and breaks one away from indifference and passiveness.
The facilitator invites the group to create some little art works. A collection of materials and tools are available – brown paper, old newspapers, string, scissors, sticky tape, cardboard piled in the middle of the room. Everyone is supposed to make his/her own representation of the flock of sheep. Of course, the task is not to reach the number of one hundred elements in the created image but to find a symbolic way of depicting the biblical example of something complex and complete. The group has some time (20-30 minutes) to construct their works. When they are ready they should come back to the circle and place all the works in front of them. Then, they are invited to take a walk around the space and look at each other images. When everybody is back to their seats, the leader asks the group to think back about the biblical story, especially about the moment when one sheep is leaving. This particular situation will happen now and here. The leader takes a big paper bag and the scissors, visits each flock and cuts away one little piece. All those cut elements – “lost sheep” are then thrown away outside the circle. The participants are encouraged to go and look for their lost sheep. They need to leave their flocks first and then try to reconstruct the broken image, if they wish.
CLOSING THE PROCESS
The last phase of the workshop is meant for reflecting on the group experience and on individual feelings of each participant. Since every Bibliodrama session is emotionally involving, it is important to discuss the working process and its effects. Confrontation of one’s opinions with the views of other participants creates a rich and diverse background for seeking answers to the problematic questions and issues.
Everybody gathers in a circle and the reading routine (Second Module) is repeated in the same way. The participants again mark the words which now seem the most important and meaningful to them and when the leader reads the whole text out, they come in, when it`s time for “their” parts. Next, all the works – “flocks” are placed in the middle of the circle and participants are invited to share any thoughts and feelings before they part.
The workshop proved to be a challenging experience for both the group and the leader. Its main aim was to explore a very well-known Christian parable with a view to reflect on own readiness for entering any kind of a dialogue. The rationale behind the act of destroying symbolic works created by participants was to make them answer difficult personal questions: How much am I attached to my convictions and views? What happens if they break or fall apart? Am I really ready to leave my safe and familiar environment to set out on a journey and to explore the unknown?
The answers seem crucial for acquiring intercultural competence.