One of the challenges to be faced in my work with the patients of the Day Care Department is constant rotation of workshop participants. They suffer from severe mental disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, dementia. People leave after completing therapy or because they feel worse. The disease may flare at any time. Sometimes someone loses interest (or courage?) in theatrical actions. New patients come. This phenomenon illustrates the life situation and a variety of problems the participants have to deal with. For me, the rotation of participants means that I never know who will attend the next session. Flexibility and open attitude to change are the only solution. It is not good to get too attached to our brilliant ideas and breathtaking visions. They may prove to be completely useless. The workshop process is like a battlefield – one has to be constantly alert.
After the first public presentation we got a new “weapon” for our CC battle in the hospital. I am using the word “public” deliberately. Two or three people from outside the Department came and also the patients who have not participated in the workshops were present. And of course, the medical staff, including the Head of the Department, joined us! We gained some kind of recognition and visibility. Something to build on. I think that performing is really important, if we decide to use theatre as an educational or therapy tool. Some people feel that they would never be able to face the audience. Some of them give up and this is fine. But the others, totally scared and almost paralyzed, join us on stage. The winners.
No matter if our performance is long or short, simple or complicated. It is always difficult to fight for the good artistic level. Workshop participants are usually not very happy about rehearsing. Still, this is the essence of the process. To proceed and to get somewhere.
I always try to convince the participants, our actors, that the less they do on stage, the better. Because “less” means in fact more precise, more clear and more understandable. However, the natural tendency, while being on stage, is to ACT. To be expressive, mobile, visible. On the other hand, working with puppets requires most of all increased focus on the animated object. Cooperation skills are also very important, since usually two or more people are needed to bring a puppet to life. Many different tasks have to be considered simultaneously. And this is also the essence of the process. To control what we do and what the audience will see.
First, we need to agree on the structure which means eliminating. Even though everything seems important. Every little detail. Necessary. But the choices have to be made. We must learn how to give up. Our key focus is to see “the big picture”. Then, we can appreciate the details. The puppet will be traveling on a road full of broken glass. It has to be done with a great care, patience and attention. When he steps on a piece of glass, his whole body reacts. How to show this great pain and suffering? Less means more. The ability to change the perspective seems crucial for our theatrical battle. Moving from the big picture to a small gesture. Both are needed in everyday life.
Now we are (almost) ready to perform. The process is about to end…