Theatre in Education (TIE) is often used as a tool to tackle difficult issues with young people. In the past TIE has explored issues such as drugs, death, drink driving, crime and homosexuality. I believe that TIE is a highly effective way of allowing young people to discuss and think about issues that are important to them and that sexual violence needs to be included in this. This section includes information on what TIE is, information about 'Unspeakable' - a TIE peice that myself and four others devised and toured as well as thoughts on the ways this subject could be tackled by educational theatre groups in the future.
WHAT IS TIE?
TIE is a broad term that applies to many different types of work although Jackson (1999) defines the TIE programme as:
"A coordinated and carefully structured pattern of activities , usually devised and researched by the company , around a topic of relevance both to the school curriculum and to the children's own lives, presented in school by the company and involving the children directly in an experience of the situations and problems that the topic throws up (Jackson, 1999, p.4). "
However as Jackson also points out "No simple watertight definition of TIE is possible, or desirable" (Jackson, 1999, p.15) and TIE is often closely linked with other forms of young people's theatre and that there are common characteristics found in each area of work. Probably the main trait of TIE is the "structured and active participation of the children in the drama" (Jackson, 1999, p.1).
'Unspeakable' involved the research, devising and design of a Theatre in Education piece and a follow on drama workshop on the issue of sexual violence, which toured schools and community groups. The project worked in triangulation with three groups of people involved. These were the group we collaborated with - Women Against Rape, our group who devised and performed the piece and workshop and the client group who received the final product. The client group consisted of young people aged between fourteen and seventeen both in schools and non-statutory settings.
The final product consisted of a thirty-minute play and an hour-long drama workshop. The play included several facts in the form of the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. We chose this television game show format as we felt that it would be one that the young people would be able to understand and relate to. There was also a scene about the difficulties women face trying to get justice in the style of a James Bond mission and the whole play opened with a song about the way society and the media view survivors of rape. This was all interspersed with true personal stories of rape survivors, including rape in marriage, date rape, child abuse and asylum seekers.
We titled the piece 'Unspeakable' because rape is a subject that is not spoken about in society and rape survivors' feel silenced by what has happened to them. From our research it was clear that "Many women are deeply affected by rape and sexual assault without anyone around them knowing what has happened" (Hall, 1985, p.142).
The responses to the performance and workshop were often surprising. Although we had anticipated some hostility to the subject we had assumed that this would come form the boys. It was the girls, however, who tended to react defensively to the issues raised and fell heavily into a victim blaming mentality. This was an understandable reaction as it allowed the girls to feel safe - by holding on to myths it meant that they could rule out the possibility of rape being an issue that could effect them. Although it was sometimes disheartening to hear people hold onto the myths that we were setting out to dispel, I also recognised that removing them completely was a task beyond the remit of the project that we were doing. I do believe that we were however, able to challenge some misconceptions surrounding sexual violence and most importantly of all we brought the subject out into the open and made it something that was acceptable to talk about - if only for an hour and a half.
The limitations of the project are very clear. Sexual violence is a massive issue and there was no way for us to include absolutely everything in the time we had. We were unable to include anything on drug rape or on the after-effects of sexual violence, which were both issues that the young people asked about during the workshop or wrote about in the evaluation forms. Ideally I would do a project like this as a residency as this would not only provide more time to cover these issues but would also allow us to build up a level of trust with the group we were working with.
For an example of student responses to 'Unspeakable' click here
After completing the project above I began work on an enquiry project for a theatre in education company who wanted to explore the possibility of creating work on unwanted sexual contact. The report covered:
- Previous dramatic representations
- Client Group Concerns and Pitfalls
- Avoidance of pitfalls
- Staff training Approaches to the work
In order to find out the viability of developing work on unwanted sexual contact the research had to cover a wide variety of areas. The research began with background reading into subjects such as child abuse, acquaintance rape, dramatherapy and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the identification of previous dramatic representations of sexual abuse. This reading was carried out with the aim of discovering statistics about abuse, approaches to working with survivors of abuse, long and short term effects of abuse as well as legal definitions about sexual abuse, rape and consent.
Research also included interviews with dramatherapists, teachers, social workers, counsellors, psychotherapists and charities including the NSPCC (National Society for the Protection against Cruelty to Children) and MOSAC (Mothers of Sexually Abused Children).
All the research indicated that there is a definite need for work to be done on the issue of unwanted sexual contact. Sexual abuse in its many different forms is an issue that affects many young people yet it has rarely been tackled by other TIE companies. Developing a programme of work on unwanted sexual contact is not only viable it is also possible that it could play an essential role in the lives of many young people.