Catherine uses the visceral art of theatre to mobilize and powerfully communicate the authority of the lived experience.
However, one might wonder: “What’s theatre got to do with it?”
Firstly, there is a community and the issues affecting that community, then the question of how to engage the community and this is where Catherine as facilitator and artistic director steps in. Participation is not premised on the notion of talent. Rather people from marginalized societies come to these creative workshops through referrals from workers and peers. Her method is unique, a deeply consultative and creative workshop process that eventuates in people’s ability to act the lead role in their own story. “The methods are there for the people not the inverse. "I lead workshops and make theatre with communities. I’m not a therapist, but the journey is therapeutic”.
Drama is based on human struggle be it internal or external. In literature, film and theatre characters classically venture through darkness to light. There is no process of audition, rather inclusion that seeks to discover each persons unique character and story. Frequently people come to workshops with feelings of isolation, defensiveness, low self-esteem and inner turmoil. The process is playful and interactive, building trust between participants, who creatively transform these feelings, learning they’re not ‘so alone’.
Through a dynamic process engaging body voice and mind, participants explore their own and each other’s stories, in turn building peer connection and other ways of seeing. Pluralizing the personal story through the stories and images of a group helps to hold the personal story in a wider social context. Participants get in small groups and share their experiences in relation to questions asked. Catherine does not direct the scenes in this phase of the project, rather facilitates the games, methods and questions that build connection and generate content. Embodying one’s story and collaborating with others is a space in which connection and confidence can grow.
Of equal importance to the group workshops are the individual sessions with Catherine in which people articulate their story in more detail, identifying their struggles, strengths and what it is they want to say or change. Catherine asks the question: “If you thought someone would listen what would you say?” This question invites self-determination and activates the idea that there may be a listener (an audience) and so the journey of a life creatively examined begins.
The theatre work gives respect and dignity to people and is transformative especially when the audience truly applauds because they are genuinely moved and the work has created empathy.
Participants describe their journey as life-saving, connected, bonding. Performers are empowered through the workshops to resolve and be comfortable with their situation so that they achieve tremendous growth, and connection to others. Through this process the personal always becomes political bringing real change.
Transformation happens from the personal, to the collective, to the social-political. Catherine’s work is a creative investigation and an act of transformation as people who are not actors take center stage in the ‘lead role’ of their own stories. People who never intended to inhabit such a role become the accidental activists of the issues their stories reveal.
Art invites us to observe, and furthermore challenges the actual ways that we see. This work provides a unique point of access for community and it is generating the voice of the people as advocates and educators. The sectors of education, health, community, service providers, general public and government are their audience.