Use theater to challenge survivors to be more present and face their trauma.
Get participants to become more aware of the physical space around them.
To get the participants to feel more present, ask them to walk around the room. Give them instructions on where and how to walk, so they don’t wander aimlessly. Ask them to walk on their toes, heels, or backward as they gain awareness. Instruct them to scream and fall down if they bump into someone. They will gradually feel freer in their bodies and environment.
Make it safe for them to notice each other.
You can prompt them by saying, “Don’t make eye contact with anyone. Just look at the floor.” After a few minutes of walking around looking at the ground, ask them to notice the people around them without directly looking at them. Then prompt them to alternate between making and breaking eye contact. For example, “Make eye contact for a second…now, no eye contact…maintain eye contact but not too long.” You’re teaching them that it’s safe to be seen.
Use mirroring exercises to attune them to each other.
Ask the participants to partner up and mirror each other’s body movements and facial expressions. For example, when one moves their right arm up, their partner should mirror it. This will teach them that everyone’s body movements and expressions are different, so they don’t need to be anxious about what others think. They will also learn how to tune into other people’s experiences.
Use role-playing to get participants to act out their traumatic experiences.
During the first rehearsal session, establish some basic agreements for the group, i.e., respect, accountability, and responsibility. Then prompt them to sing and move together to get them to sync up. Once they are in sync, ask them to share their life stories. Give them the time they need to open up to each other comfortably.
Use the participants' stories to create a script for a play or musical.
Write down the participants’ stories of betrayal, abuse, and isolation. The production team can use their exact words to create a script for a play or musical.