Webpage Supplement to

Chapter 4:Healing the Wounds of History

Ronald Miller & Armand Volkas

September 29, 2006

History: Since Volkas is a drama therapist and the director of a playback theatre company, this work has naturally drawn from these dramatic modes. But it has also been influenced in important ways by the experimental theatre movement of the 1970s, with its emphasis on the ritual significance of the theatrical event, and on the connections between theatre and social change. Volkas himself was influenced by Joseph Chaikin and the Open Theater.

About “Identity.” The sense of self arises out of an aggregated of numerous types of input, ranging from body tone to the amount and type of validation or criticism received from others. An important element has to do with the sense of being the same as or part of other larger groups: This may have to do with one’s gender, age, race, ethnic background, extended family, religion, nationality, occupation, hobby, and sometimes even state, region, or favorite sports team, as well as including many other components. It deals with the sense of “I am....” and how one might answer that question–what the social philosopher George Herbert Mead referred to as the “me.” One’s identity might also be considered the set of roles that one plays with a little more consciousness.

In contrast, one’s identity does not include what Carl Jung called the “shadow” complex, those qualities that one feels ashamed of, frightened by, or in other ways wants to disown. These are the “not-me” elements in the psyche. Indeed, they may be projected on to others–the proverbial “pot calling the kettle black,” accusing others of feelings, desires, and attitudes that one unconsciously feels oneself but cannot admit–even to oneself–i.e., they are “repressed.”

The idea that one’s identity may be associated with a heritage of having been either the perpetrator or sometimes also the victim of harm may be laced with shame and guilt. However, unless these toxic emotions are addressed, they tend to fester and generate secondary complications in the psychosomatic, interpersonal, and even political sphere. –AB (editor)

Grief: See notes on www.blatner.com/adam/papers.html about principles of grief work – AB

About the workshops: Different techniques are associated with each phase. It is important to remember, however, that these phases are affective, corresponding to shifts in feeling and understanding that occur within the participants. Certain phases may occur with relative ease, while others may take a significant commitment of time, or indeed not be fully achieved within a given workshop. In other words, the process is not formal, but spontaneous.

Regarding owning one’s own perpetrator: Though desirable overall, in short workshops, it may not be possible to enter this phase, because enough trust has not yet been created.


In Healing the Wounds of History workshops, where people from two cultures in historical conflict come together, the breaking of the taboo against speaking to one another often plays out prior to the beginning of the program’s formal commencement. It is often difficult to recruit participants, especially where there have been provocative actions in the recent past. For example, in one workshop in Montreal in 2003, the planning took place in the aftermath of a riot that occurred some months earlier at Concordia University, on the occasion of a scheduled speech by former Israeli premier Netanyahu. These circumstances contributed to difficulties in recruiting Palestinian participants in general, and college-age participants of either culture.

In a previous workshop with Palestinian and Israeli University students in the early 1990’s in Berkeley, California, the encounters had to be held in secrecy. The Palestinian participants feared that their families back home would be physically harmed if it were learned that they were in dialogue with Israelis. It would be seen as a betrayal. In recruiting Japanese, Chinese and Koreans for workshops on their legacy of World War II, the facilitator encountered the strong cultural injunction about “losing face” when confronted with historical legacies of victimization or perpetration. Conversely, other participants who attend these workshops will have already prepared themselves emotionally for the step of encountering the ‘other’ or might be peaceworkers already in contact with persons of the conflicting culture.

Re preparation: To this end, participants are generally asked to pre-register for the workshops, and to commit to attend every day. This is intended to facilitate self-disclosure, safety and a commitment to personal growth.

Warm-up:   sociodramatic, p4 Participants can also be directed playfully to explore the relationship of ‘cocaine and a cocaine addict’, ‘a writer with writer’s block and a blank page’, for example, or ‘an ocean wave and the shore’.

Even in this playful warm-up phase a seemingly benign exercise can trigger a powerful emotional reaction based on the tension in the room. For example, in a Palestinian and Israeli workshop in 2004 in Berkeley, California, first the group passed an imaginary lit match around as a symbol of hope; then an imagined ladybug beetle; then a thread, as in a “thread of hope.” There had been another bus bombing in Jerusalem the day of the workshop and the group immediately tapped into the pain and grief about the event that was right under the surface. This exercise provoked a Palestinian and Israeli woman to physically struggle with each other, in a playful way, over the tiny and elusive thread of hope that kept escaping both of them. The playful laughter of the group response to this spectacle evolved into the anguished sobs of the Palestinian woman who expressed her feelings of hopelessness about the Middle East conflict. The Israeli woman comforted her in her pain and despair. This moving scene occurred in the first thirty minutes of the workshop and set the course of the work together. Even though there is often a taboo and resistance to encountering the “enemy”, there is also a strong drive and spiritual need and desire to transform the pain. The facilitator must capitalize on this need and draw it out.

These dramatic games can explore power relationships, as in the example above, where participants of different backgrounds experience their responses in roles both of power and powerlessness.

Interactive Drama for Intercultural Communication, Compassion and Conflict Resolution (Some other examples of warm-ups may be found to the webpage that supplements this chapter: http://www.blatner.com/adam/drambk/woundshx.html)

A fluid sculpture is a playback theatre technique where actors respond spontaneously to an image or story presented by a member of the audience, using voice, speech and an affective physical movement. Several actors (four or five) step forward, one at a time, each actor responding in turn to the story presented, either echoing a reaction already put forward or introducing a new image. What emerges is a montage of voiced physicalizations which together represent a spontaneous imaged response to the story, a collective reaction which is sometimes realistic and other times abstract in nature. In a workshop setting, participants can use this exercise to represent the voice of the storyteller, and also those of perpetrators and racists, or of positive role models in the community. Inner voices are also represented: those of the teller’s inner critics and of ancestors, the voices of political correctness and ethnic solidarity. (Salas, Improvising Real Life, 31-3.)

Like other forms of drama therapy (and indeed most forms of applied theatre described in this book), while this general method has a formal superstructure, it evolves in the present as a response to the given circumstances.

Re the example on pg 4-3 Netanyahu around this time was a politician who some perceived as being too rigidly right-wing.

Recruiting Germans and Jews for still other workshops required the facilitator to spend many hours on the phone earning the trust of the potential participants who were fearful of the potential explosiveness of the encounter.

In this sense, the process is quite distinct from forum theatre, and other forms of Theatre of the Oppressed, which tend to be public and transparently sociopolitical in nature (See Chapter __). P4-2

Other very useful exercises are sociometric ones (see glossary).These are embodied ways of measuring connections and divisions within a group, usually by placing one’s body in proximity, or at distance, from others Examples in the glossary include, locograms, spectograms and step-in sociometry, so as to create connections which transcend cultural identification, or divisions which work across group identity. P5.2

P 6.2At one weekend workshop involving Israelis and Palestinians, a Palestinian woman told the first story. It was a childhood (i.e., formative) story set in Lebanon, in which she was recognized by Lebanese villagers as being a foreigner, an identification based solely on her parents’ names. (The unspoken issue had to do with the reasons for her family’s displacement into Lebanon.) In this case, she was the only Palestinian present in the room, and her story was enacted by Israelis and co-facilitators.

7.7 Often participants are ready for transformations, in which sound-and-movement improvisations are carried into the center of standing circle, changed once or twice, and then ‘given’ to another participant, who first mirrors, and then transforms the sound-and-movement, before giving it to yet another participant. This is a very embodied, spontaneous and emotionally expressive exercise which depends on a participant’s ability to be present with himself as well as others. Another exercise is The Rant, in which four or five participants create one spontaneous, intense monologue about the events of the previous day, with only one speaking at any given time, then dropping out immediately when interrupted. The objective is to create one soliloquy which represents the experience of the group as a whole.