International Class (IC) graduates are active in Europe introducing social therapeutics, performance, play and development at community workshops in London, Belgrade, Novi Sad and Thessaloniki.
Elena Boukouvala (IC, 2013/14) reports on four social therapeutic, performance workshops in July and September developed by herself and fellow alumni Helen Abel (IC, 2013/14), Jelena Aleksic (IC, 2013/14), Lea Cikos (IC, 2013/14), Tamara Nikolic Maksic (IC, 2010/11), and Performing the World presenter Dina Karagkiozi.
The format included introductory improvisation games and “life performances,” followed by conversation and more performances by the entire group that synthesized and advanced what each had contributed about their lives, passions and conflicts.
Those who attended the London workshop (led by Elena and Helen) came from the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Holland, Greece, India, Iraq and New Zealand; some had a therapy background and others were performance artists. “Many performed the difficulties of their lives,” said Elena. “It was interesting to see how the group made a comedy out of of it all. We experienced how humor can help us hold and transform pain. Some people were skeptical: After sharing our hearts and souls, they wondered whether we could do it justice with words. We explored how we can play with words rather than speaking the truth.”
In Thessaloniki (Elena’s home city in the north of Greece), she and Dina organized an event with participants who had no experience with social therapeutics. Some were reticent to perform their lives; others openly shared experiences of family life and the pain of unemployment and dreadful jobs. Says Elena, “Everyone participated in the group performance — even those who had been reluctant to perform on their own. They wove together the individual stories through the character of a woman whose identity kept morphing. They said they felt quite close in making the play. Someone asked how all of this was therapeutic, which led to a good discussion of how the focus had been on the therapeutic activity of building the ensemble rather than offering solutions.”
The Belgrade workshop organized by Elena, Tamara and Jelena attracted colleagues who had a background in education, pedagogy and therapy and were eager to incorporate the tools of improvisation. “We explored how we learn by playing with what we don’t know,” said Elena. “Participants were invited to improvise. They did not have to know. They had to perform. Our performed conversation introduced some social therapeutic concepts, such as ‘being-and-becoming.’ Building with the group’s words, we explored how through performance, we can perform differently in everyday life.”
Elena and Lea organized a fourth workshop at the Volunteer Centre of Vojvodina in Novi Sad, drawing participants from a diverse community of activists and volunteers. The group was playful — taking the games and performance suggestions and making something new out of each. “It was so fascinating for people to discover how one person’s problem can be the solution for another,” said Elena. “We could complete each other in sharing our lives.” As one participant commented, “It’s as if our lives had roads, and we were able to find the crossroads where our lives met.”
The Volunteer Centre of Vojvodina (where Lea works) recently issued a report on their successful flood relief program, a community development initiative in support of the elderly, poor and Roma (gypsy) populations who were devastated by the floods in the Balkans in 2014. While completing their residency in NYC, the IC 2013/14 initiated a fundraising effort, backed by Institute supporters, that helped fund the volunteer work camps. Says Lea, “The flood was an opportunity for us all — to rebuild homes, but also to rebuild connections among people, and between people and nature. We’ve been learning a lot during the flood relief activities, meeting many great people who trust each other without knowing each others’ names, this is what gives strength and inspiration for future activities…” Read the full report HERE.