A Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, a Hindu, a Baha’i and an Atheist walk into a Synagogue
Author and playwright, Oscar Wilde once said, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”
It started out as a night of basic introductions, and trust building exercises, as a group of strangers gathered together in the name of interfaith dialogue and theatre. As I had anticipated, it took some time to throw caution to the wind and just be silly, but eventually several of the participants found themselves squealing with delight during a simple game of “the sun shines on.” It’s funny how that game can bring out so many similarities within people, just by shouting out eye colors or asking who loves coffee? After the first few rounds of the game I began to see a beautiful display of self expression, laughter and community as we ran around the room, hurrying to not find ourselves caught in the middle of the circle without a chair.
The night progressed from high energy warm up and storytelling games, to pair and mirroring work. One of my favorite drama exercises is one called “follow the follower.” The group was asked to find a partner and stand face to face while they looked into one another’s eyes and mirrored the movement of the other. After successfully combating the initial awkwardness of the activity, pairs quickly found themselves connecting and building trust with one another. After mirroring went on for a short time, they were asked to write a simple monologue from the prompt “I am…”. The result of the exercise were as profound as ‘I am wonderful and cherish life with all its energy and potential’ and as basic as ‘I am an African, an Arab, a Muslim…I am all of these things but at the end of the day I am a human being’.
By the end of the evening, the same group of strangers, who had just met less than two hours before had not only written their own monologues, but had also created short scenes that explored religion, community and difference. There was even a short scene that was a simple dialogue back and forth, saying hello in several different languages. They were brilliant and I think they surprised themselves a bit!
There are many times, as a drama facilitator and teacher, I hear people utter the words “I’m just not creative.” The honest truth of the matter is we’re all creative, and we all have a voice. It’s about being given the proper tools to confidently share that voice. Theatre is what I have to offer as the means for our group to express ideas of faith and community.
At the end of the evening we watched Miniature Earth, a short video that reduces the earth's population to 100 people.It makes us easily understand the differences in the world as it makes it relative to figures we can comprehend. Watching the video, we were reminded of why we had joined the group. It was not simply about exploring theatre, but it was about using theatre to educate our families, communities and friends on the importance of working together for the common good.
I can’t express the depths that we’ve already reached with this project, and it’s only week one. Where will we be in 12 weeks? The possibilities and creativity flowing in that small room are endless.
Alicia Bush is a volunteer for I.F Theatre, an interfaith theatre project ran by Faiths Act Fellows at Tzedek. Alicia is studying an MA in Applied Theatre at the Central School of Speech and Drama.