What a day! Heather here on Monday evening, writing just after a full and lovely dinner. My heart is so overwhelmed with joy, love, and excitement. I will hardly be able to sleep tonight. Today was our first day working with the drama students at the KIE, which has left me incredibly excited to continue the work over the next two weeks. I am incredibly proud of what my cohort has achieved in just this short amount of time.
After a brisk morning walk we arrived at the KIE campus. With views of the rolling hills and city below, the KIE campus is gorgeous. Quite a different classroom view than we are used to in New York. We were lucky enough to meet with the Deans of KIE, who warmly welcomed us to their campus. After this, we were greeted by a throng of excited students, thrilled to be reunited with Helen, Chris, and Linda. They were equally as thrilled to be meeting us all in person. “So nice to see you not just on Facebook” many of the students said.
The day began with several getting to know you activities, where we all had a chance to learn names, mingle, and begin to get a sense of who was in the room. It was wonderful to see so many of the students excited to be in the room participating in the games. The most moving part of the day for me happened at the end of the getting to know you session. We broke off into small groups and were asked to share why we do drama. It was incredible to see how similar the responses of the KIE students were to my own reasons for creating theatre. Ideas like, “theatre is freedom” and “drama is the best factory to begin to understand our world and ourselves” hit a special chord with me.
We then broke into small session groups, each being lead by different members of our CUNY cohort. The groups included: a session using fabric to create short pieces of theatre lead by Yvonne and Margo; a “concrete mime” session where actors use pantomime to become concrete objects lead by Linda; a poetry workshop using drama conventions lead by Dorcas and Dianna and; a forum theatre piece created by Ariyan, Brooke, Eva and myself. Our session went incredibly well for a first run with participants. We started off by playing several forum games which explored trust and power dynamics. The participants made many insightful comments about how the games connected to the outside world. We then moved into the actual forum piece, where we played through a story about sexual harassment in the work place. We replayed the play and gave the audience an opportunity to step in for the main character when they thought that she could have made a different choice. The participants were eager to get up on stage and try out their ideas. One participant commented that in a traditional play “the actors think they know everything, but in forum theatre the actors take on the ideas of the participants”. During the reflection part of our session, the participants began to make connections on how they would use this model in Rwanda. They noted that forum helps give the audience problem solving skills, providing them with different ideas of how they would handle situations in their own lives. It was exciting to hear the participants make connections that directly cut to the core of why we do forum theatre.
I walked away from today’s session not just feeling proud and excited, but also reflecting on the great deal of work we still need to do. Clarifying the story telling and directions will help the participants gain deeper understanding. I cannot wait to continue the work and see how our facilitation develops over the next few sessions.
Good Night from Kigali!