Theatre for Living header

Photo: David Diamond

 

THEATRE FOR LIVING has evolved from Augusto Boal's "Theatre of the Oppressed" and David Diamond's interest in and commitment to a 'systems view' of the world. If we embrace the idea that a community is a living organism, how do we work with that larger consciousness, using a primal language (the theatre) to help it tell its stories? How do we do this without polarizing the living community into 'us' and 'them'? Once the story is acted on the stage, the living community engages in interactive, Forum Theatre - a creative, community-based dialogue.

THEATRE FOR LIVING is about empowerment - about people being the experts in their own lives and being able to use theatre to make change. The process gives a community the opportunity to develop 'emotional intelligence' - using a symbolic language to investigate alternative approaches to hard-to-talk-about issues. This is a first step towards dealing with difficult topics - moving towards open communication and realities that living communities want in an active and entertaining way.

"...in terms of Forum Theatre practice, Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) sets the standard in Canada."
The Canada Council"

"I greatly admire the achievements of David Diamond and his Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre). He is following his own path, doing extraordinary and groundbreaking work in several fields, like his work with many First Nations communities in Canada and the US. For what he has already done, is doing, and certainly will do, David Diamond deserves all our support."
Augusto Boal, Brazilian Theatre Director and founder of the Theatre of the Oppressed

About Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre)

Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) is a professional theatre company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It was founded in 1981 by a group of politically active artists: (Beth Kaplan, Anne Hungerford, Suzie Payne, Jay Samwald, Nettie Wild, David Diamond, Heidi Archibald, Colin Thomas, Barbara Clayden and Phillip Tidd). David Diamond became Artistic Director in 1984.

Since its founding, Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) has been working in the area of community-based, issue-oriented theatre. We have performed extensively throughout B.C., Canada and internationally with traditional style plays such as Buy, Buy, Vancouver, Under the Gun, The Enemy Within, NO` XYA` (Our Footprints), Mamu: the currency of life and THIR$TY as well as mainstage Forum Theatre (audience-interactive) productions such as ¿Sanctuary?, Out of the Silence, The Dying Game, Squeegee, Corporate U, Don't Say a Word, Practicing Democracy, Here and Now, and Meth, which was renamed Shattering for a western Canada tour, after homelessness… , Us and Them and maladjusted.

Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) has produced many hundreds of projects and has become recognized as a world leader in community specific, issue-oriented theatre, winning numerous awards. While we call our community work THEATRE FOR LIVING, it is based on Brazilian Director Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed.

Since 1985 Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) has facilitated over 500 Theatre for Living projects! Theatre by the community for the community. The company has worked with many groups around the world including First Nations, refugees, women's groups, environmentalists, street youth, health practitioners, and people who are homeless. Communities have invited us to work on subjects such as racism, violence in the home, school and workplace, the legacy of Residential Schools, language reclamation, harassment, suicide, gangs, sustainability issues, and many others. We were also commissioned by the Federal Government to work in School Districts across Canada doing Power Plays around issues of racism and violence. In 1996/97 the Company toured into eleven First Nations communities throughout BC (in partnership with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and Native Families in Crisis) training counselors in Theatre for Living techniques and creating community-specific plays on issues arising out of Residential School issues. This project was called Reclaiming Our Spirits. In 2004 Practicing Democracy was used to put over 90 recommendations forward to Vancouver City Council that dealt with issues of chronic poverty.

THEATRE FOR LIVING gives workshop participants the opportunity to experience theatre in a different way - not as something mysterious and inaccessible that is outside their lives, but as a natural language. Culture, after all, used to be ordinary people singing, dancing, painting, carving, and telling stories. If we can reclaim cultural expression as part of our everyday vocabulary - a common language that we use to tell our own collective stories - we are one step closer to being balanced as individuals and as communities.

"The unique dimension added by David Diamond's THEATRE FOR LIVING to the University of Alberta's 2009 International Week cannot be understated. It is one thing to be intellectually convinced to make change, it is another to be empowered to do it by understanding what it is that limits our ability to take those actions, and then to face those fears and limitations, and grow as global citizens and unique people within families and societies. The material is also very practical to employ in circumstances where deeper understanding of our relationship to such issues is unclear, blocked or limited. Thank you for this profound experience."
Feedback quoted from a letter from Eilis Pourbaix, Coordinator, Global Education, U of A

I would like to thank you for changing my life. Yes, changing my life. I only wish I would have gone through this as a teen. I was so shy, timid, low self-esteem, just waiting and hoping to change and I did by taking risks throughout your Theatre for Living training . You made me realize I can act and have fun without making a fool of myself and feeling stupid. Everyone else in that hall did the same as me, we were as one."
Bev Stacey, workshop participant

"Being trained in the Theatre for Living work has opened the world to me. As a Child and Youth Programmer and a group facilitator, with TFL Training I have been able to work with youth and use these techniques to help youth explore their own struggles and find ways of defeating them. TFL techniques empower youth to see how they can achieve success or simply stand their ground. I have seen youth come together to brainstorm, find solutions and even just better understand their surroundings. All of which are important to the growth and development of any teen."
Nicole McRae, Youth Worker

To find more quotes from people about Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) work, click on this link (PDF).

↑ top of page


Components of Theatre for Living

Rainbow of Desire (three hour conference or one day)

As a one-day workshop, after a half-day of warm ups and group building work, the Rainbow of Desire explores our own internal voices that complicate our relationships with other people and stop us from achieving our goals. This series of transformative techniques allows us to see how we contain many different desires and fears at any one time. The exercise is not a psychoanalysis of an individual, but rather an exploration of a metaphor that reflects the group consciousness as the particular relationship offered becomes a symbol for the entire workshop group to investigate blockages around a certain issue. By learning to identify these internal voices, we begin the process of understanding ourselves and each other. We learn how to navigate multi-layered moments in complex relationships. Both 'sides' of a conflict are honoured in order to get beyond symptoms (the fact that a conflict is occurring) and into root causes.

Rainbow of Desire is also available as a three hour event. In this case an audience of up to 300 comes into a performance space. The Rainbow comes from them.

Us and Them (the inquiry) was a large scale project that used the Rainbow of Desire technique.

"I am someone with training and experience using theatre within communities (particularly those "at risk"). Us and Them (the inquiry), that used the Rainbow of Desire technique, was one of the most insightful and inspiring performances I have been to and left me more aware of people around me, how we interact and the possible reasons for the ways we perceive each other (and The Other). It made me want to discuss these ideas and characteristics of human behaviour with the people around me, to share Us and Them with others."
Amy Bradney-George, Vancouver BC

"It was amazing and I did not expect it to be like this. It was very interesting and I liked it a lot particularly the Rainbow of Desire. We learned to listen to each other and to support each other. Hope we can do it all over again."
Alice, student at University of Bethlehem, Palestine

 

Cops in the Head - and their Anti-bodies
(three hour conference or one day)

As a one-day workshop, after a half-day of group building work, Cops in the Head addresses those internal voices that have embedded themselves in our psyche. It is not always external forces that we struggle against - sometimes internalized voices that originate from other people are equally powerful. Cops in the Head are the voices of people who put up stop-signs and say, "you can’t do that", "you're stupid", "no good" etc. People who have somehow blocked us and over time have taken up residence inside us, affecting the way each of us listens, sees and acts. This workshop helps participants and living communities identify these voices and liberate themselves in a creative and entertaining way.

Cops in the Head is also available as a three hour event. In this case an audience of up to 300 comes into a performance space. The Cops comes from them.

2º of Fear and Desire was a large scale project that used the Cops in the Head technique.

"I attended 2º of Fear and Desire last Saturday and was completely blown away by the experience. As a sustainability educator, I have been attending numerous conferences and meetings to gather a reading on what people are actually doing to make effective action and changes regarding climate change. I always leave such events saddened because they usually simply add to the ever-growing grave database about the severity of the matter, but fall short of analyzing why our society has become the way it is in order to break free from it and create the drive and motivation to change. Experiencing was so refreshing because it went straight to the source, the human psyche, and examined it with honesty, respect, and witty humour. Furthermore, the performance was strikingly tangible and personal to the audience members and participants. The show helped each of us understand our mental processes a bit better, and develop a sort of solidarity with each other in recognizing and processing through our common struggles. Thank you so much for the wonderfully deep work you have done."
Elisa Lee, Vancouver BC

"The work that Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) accomplishes, not only in Vancouver but all over our province, restores my own faith that change for the better can happen for youth who, at the moment, feel there is no future for them. The work done here with Cops in the Head will substantially effect how these young people will deal with confrontation in their futures. New ways to deal with their anger and frustration can lead them toward of feelings of success rather than failure, power rather than powerlessness and "I have a choice" rather than reacting with rage. It is hard to find the brilliant words I need in order to express my thanks enough."
Wendy Wood, Youth Programmer, The Gathering Place

Rainbow of Desire or the Cops in the Head are included as part of a full Power Play session (see below) on the second or third day of the workshop.

↑ top of page

Image Theatre (1 - 3 days)

Image Theatre uses image-making to help the group analyze where solutions exist and ways to manifest them. This workshop will not go to public performance, but will use the games and exercises of THEATRE FOR LIVING to explore moments of struggle out of workshop participants' lives. The depth of exploration depends on the duration of the workshop and the willingness of the group. Especially in instances where there is not enough time or interest for performance, an Image Theatre workshop is a good way to introduce a community to THEATRE FOR LIVING.

"David really knows what he's doing from years of practice with many kinds and sizes of groups. He swept the rest of us into a form that was not familiar to most of us. I was so overjoyed to watch the wisdom and brilliance of previously unconnected individuals made available so fast and so deeply."
Anonymous participant quoted from a letter from
Wendy Ceccherelli, Executive Director, Seattle Arts Commission

 

Your Wildest Dream (2 - 3 days)

This innovative community visioning technique uses Image Theatre and Polaroid photos. Each day starts with group building work.

Day 1 focuses on how the community may manifest dysfunction. What does this look like? A distilled image of the dysfunctional community is photographed and put on the wall. Day 2 distills the wildest dream of the community. What does this look like? This image is photographed and put on the wall, far away from the first image. Now the group creates images that exist somewhere between the image of dysfunction and the dream. Each image is photographed and then a discussion ensues about where it fits between the first two images. A natural analysis takes place; as images move around, the symbolic journey of both the living community and the individual participants becomes apparent. The community is then left with this highly symbolic "map" that leads from the image of dysfunction to the wildest dream.

Your Wildest Dream workshops have been conducted with a group from the Nuxalk Nation in Canada, the Passamaquoddy Nation in the US and the Uniting Church in Australia.

↑ top of page

Power Play including Forum Theatre (6 days)

A POWER PLAY incorporates Image Theatre and either Rainbow of Desire or Cops in the Head and play creation to explore issues and create community-specific theatre. The product is an audience-interactive Forum Theatre event.

Through various theatre games and exercises a POWER PLAY builds trust and understanding within the workshop group. To a large extent these games and exercises are non-verbal. Using Image Theatre, we ask participants to look into moments of struggle in their own lives. Having asked the community-based sponsor organization to pre-determine general subject matter (violence, racism, gender roles, etc.), the participants make their play(s) about issues they have identified as most important to them and their community, within the subject matter under investigation.

We do not define the content for the participants; they are the experts in their own lives. We provide investigative theatre tools and help them make the clearest and most theatrically effective plays possible. The participants do the work, empowering themselves and finding both an individual and group voice in the process - often identifying issues that restrict the development of both themselves as individuals and the living community.

Participants also learn some basic acting skills for the Forum Theatre (audience interactive) event which takes place at the end of the workshop.

Forum Theatre is a unique type of participatory theatre. The plays that develop out of the six-day process are usually quite short, perhaps 3 - 5 minutes in duration. A play is performed once, all the way through, so the audience can see the situation and the problems presented. The play builds to a crisis and stops there, offering no solutions. The play is then performed again, with audience members able to "freeze" the action at any point where they see a character struggling with a problem. An audience member yells "stop!", comes into the playing area, replaces the character s/he recognizes is in a moment of struggle, and tries out his/her idea. We call this an 'intervention'. The Forum Theatre event is vibrant and empowering for all concerned. From a group of 20 participants there will usually be 3 short plays. The entire community event is, ideally, 2 - 2.5 hours long.

↑ top of page

"I am writing to thank you for the experience to participate in the "Seniors Speak Out"Power Play. My gratefulness and appreciation goes to David Diamond, through whose firm but kind guidance, we where encouraged to submerge deep into our stories, fears and souls. Because he encouraged us to speak from that place of true knowing, that joined a group of strangers into companions on the same journey - one of understanding abuse. David Diamond's expertise in understanding the human soul made it possible to be sincerely working toward the best outcome of performance. I am grateful and amazed by the possibilities THEATRE FOR LIVING can provide."
Monika Koernig, workshop participant, cast member

" Practicing Democracy provided its audiences and workshop participants with lived experience of democratic process linked to fierce, compassionate art practice, and that's the sort of experience that can be habit forming. Once again this courageous theatre company has expanded the boundaries of what we can expect from theatre and from our political masters. Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) continues to be one of the nation's hidden cultural treasures."
Tom Sandborn, Columbia Journal

 

Theatre for Living Training including Forum Theatre (6 days)

We offer two 6 day intensive training workshops, valuable for anyone who is interested in using the language of the theatre as a part of our everyday vocabulary - artists, activists, social workers, educators, etc.

(We offer these workshops in Vancouver each August and also offer them as trainings in your community.)

Level One 6 days, 8 hours/day. 30 participants maximum
This initial level of training will delve into Group Building, Image Theatre, and either Rainbow of Desire or Cops in the Head. We will also prepare short plays for a non-public Forum Theatre event. Level One training is open to anyone who is interested in using THEATRE FOR LIVING techniques, regardless of their experience with theatre. Level 1 follows a Power Play format, but does not build to public performance. Starting on Day 2, the first hour of each day is set aside for objective process questions/discussion.

Level Two 6 days, 8 hours/day. 30 participants maximum
The Level Two workshop is open to people who have taken a Level One training. In the Level Two, participants facilitate games, image animations and Joke Forum Theatre with feedback.

"It is wonderful to be in the presence of a teacher who has worked with the same set of techniques for decades, and honed them sharper and sharper. David's work is inspiring because it is both great theatre and great activism, and comes from a deeply thought out philosophical position."
Robin Davidson, workshop participant, Brisbane, Australia

"I feel like I have been saturated in the best possible way by the language of Theatre. This THEATRE FOR LIVING training workshop has given me many real life skills, some of which resonate on an emotional level, and others on more of a practical level. I can't wait to begin applying them to my community."
Krista Lynch, THEATRE FOR LIVING trainee


To learn more about our workshops, and how you can bring Theatre for Living to your community, please contact our Outreach Coordinator at 604.871.0508 or email info@theatreforliving.com