Community theatre with imprisoned people

The game from behind the bars
Recordings from work on #weave performance
on the themes of a drama
by Ivan Vyrypaiev Oxygen and personal histories of the inmates
in Warsaw Służewiec Investigative Detention Center

February-May 2017

February 2017 Meeting and Understanding
The first three attempts are the hardest. I do not know who and with what motivation, openness, and potential will be waiting for me in the prison room. I always try to avoid uncertainty and accept unpredictability - this is the basic feature of an instructor with intercultural competence.
34 imprisoned people applied to participate in the show, and the services chose 16.
I introduce myself, I always talk about myself enough to dare to express myself. I have little time - rehearsals in the first phase of the project last only two hours and if we deduct the time for the discharge and bringing the prisoners, real work is always just over an hour.
I invite them to speak - stories about themselves. So it will be easier to work. Strangely enough, they all open up, telling the story of their mistake that caused them to be right behind the bars.
Many of them have life imprisonment, some ruined family relationships, and we have an honest and open talk. Then they write on my pages their dreams and describe one day that would be their best day in their lives. First meetings I consider to be successful, we are on the right track, I trust them and I believe that they will open so much that further work will allow them to have a dialogue with each other, will make a real change, will prompt reflection.

March April
Workshops - methods - games

In my work on the shows with the inmates I use a lot of methods, motives, games, but the closest is to me the concept of Community Theatre - Theatre of the Community - one of the trends of the Theatre Committed Socially.
The idea of this method is primarily to stimulate the community to create an original and unique theater that arises from their story. When working on this spectacle, the main theme was the title of a tangle, understood as a combination of events, unexpected solutions, erroneous decisions, the inability to master emotions.
The combination of life situations that led my actors behind the bars removed from them freedom, dignity, joy, normality. I make a test record, try to make micro images, scenes, symbolic characters. I try to use the language of my actors, and their style of communication is very subtle in the language of the theater.
Inspired by the concept of the Theatre of the Community, I try to use dramatic and theatrical plays in the first phase to inspire creativity and inspire them to become emotionally engaged in the process of creating the play. In addition to the Community Theatre idea, I use pure drama in workshop work as one of the most effective methods of working with a group. Unfortunately, it is difficult to carry it out on the potential of the detainees, they have problems with improvisation, initially difficult to enter the other roles. So I try to manipulate the world of fiction in the drama a little - I choose it to refer to the world of real participants in the workshop. Drama primarily has a key influence on building relationships within the group. This is a difficult process because the laws of prison casts are governed here, the divisions are flattering and uncritical. For me, this is a very interesting experience. When one of the exercises was to build a child's world of games and play, one of the inmates (reflexive) refused to take part in "playing the paw" because he would have to collide with the hands of the unspoken ones. Of course I accepted his decision. Dramatic exercises are extremely important to me, because they allow my actors to see emotions, problems, and solutions.
In the concept of the Theatre of the Community space is important, the place where the stories are played, and it should also create a narration. We play our spectacle in the space of arrest - but not raw, not everyday, not ordinary one. We will arrange the prison corridor to the theater room, build the stage, and make it a professional stage light. For if in the Theatre of the Community - the space of play is both for the viewers and actors very important, filling in personal stories, so for my actors prison is an unwanted space. That is why we are theatrical, creating the illusion of unreality, "another world."
The idea of the Theatre Committed Socially is the possibility of change that creates this kind of theater. In my opinion, theatrical activities with people who are isolated and excluded from not only the cultural world, help to find ways to meet individual needs, to experience difficult transitional periods, to appreciate, to play a different role. They improve social functioning, allow you to renew authentic dialogue with yourself, activate, stimulate thinking.

May 2017
Actors - premiere - emotions

Last phase of rehearsals - general rehearsals, changes, hurried learning of the text, mutual improvement.
Always at such moments emerges a leader, sometimes two. In this work I have two leaders. Zbyszek - he takes the natural function of the assistant director and Pridoni, who in the final phase of the test is the main role. He is an actor - a character around us - our world.
This is a very interesting phenomenon, because Zbyszek, though he told me his whole life, is the only one who does not speak to me by name and does not trust me.
Pridoni is a great discovery of this performance. He is Georgian, he speaks Polish very well but he is very shy. He has enormous potential but is extremely hidden. This is his first performance in life, his first role. In the final phase loses 3 kilos of weight, comes to rehearsals with the text perfectly memorized. Like a professional actor from rehearsal - creates a character, although he plays himself, loses the man with great dreams.
Huge emotion always accompanies costumes - always when I bring my actors, jackets, shirts, trousers - it is like a ritual for them. They choose, they choose, the "best" for themselves. They wash the things and iron.

During the final phase of preparation for the premiere, the most visible change is in them. The body's moves change primarily. They are more active, move faster, their movements are dynamic, energetic.
They begin to perceive themselves. They see how much they care about them. How important it is to stand here, go out or get down on an arranged musical accent, pick up a prop.
The final phase of the rehearsals is always the grinding of collective scenes. I always try to have in the spectacle two - three of such scenes. Group action based on rhythms, sounds, common choreography. It teaches group activities, partnership, responsibility.
Me, as an instructor, at this stage I primarily learn patience, social and creative flexibility. Premiere in a professional theater is always an effect, action for a quick result. Working with inmates is a goal we all share in learning the community, the sensitivity to others, acceptance and tolerance for failure, clumsiness, difference.
I deeply believe that theater is a change tool that implies development, and its impact is needed to build bridges between isolated, disadvantaged, excluded groups.
on the motifs of Ivan Vyrypayev's drama Oxygen and personal histories of prisoners detained in Warsaw Służewiec Investigative Detention Centre.
premiere 13.05.2017

dir. Iwona Mirosław - Dolecka