Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building the World We Dream About for Young Adults: An Anti-racist Multicultural Program

Activity 4: Learning from the Other Within - Theater of Voices

Activity time: 55 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Work with your co-facilitator to select and arrange the material provided in Leader Resource 5. Choose the voices you wish to share with the group and arrange them for dramatic effect. For example, you might alternate affirming and marginalizing experiences, or group similar perspectives together. If you do not use all the voices, make sure your selections represent a diversity. You might number the experiences in the order in which they will be presented. Print two copies of your customized handout and cut one apart so you can provide individual voices to different volunteer readers.
  • Arrange for participant volunteers to read parts in the Theater of Voices, and give them the text well in advance, reserving the first reading for one of the facilitators in order to demonstrate dramatic reading. Note: it is possible that all, or most, workshop participants will be part of the theatre of voices and/or that some participants will read more than one piece.
  • Arrange to use a meeting room large enough to stage a reading with multiple participants.
  • Select music to open and close the reading. Possibilities include:
    • John Lennon's "Imagine," as sung by Eva Cassidy on the CD Imagine, Blix Street Records, 2002
    • David Wilcox, "The Inside of My Head" or "Step Inside Your Skin," from What You Whispered, Vanguard Records, 2000
    • "Somewhere," from the Broadway musical, West Side Story; recommended version, Aretha Franklin on the CD Songs of West Side Story (RCA/Victor, 1996)
  • Write on newsprint, and set aside:
    • How did it feel to be part of/observe this production?
    • Which voice do you identify with? Which voice makes you want to say, "I am exactly that" or "I've done/said that"?
    • Which voice do you recognize-as if to say, "I am not exactly like that, but I know someone who is"?
    • Which voice resonates with you, as if to say, "I don't know why, but that person awakens a strong feeling or memory in me?"

Description of Activity

Remind participants that the experience of being either an insider or outsider in a group is a universal human experience. Say:

You are invited to take part in and witness a Theater of Voices that will present real life experiences of contemporary Unitarian Universalists-some affirming and some marginalizing. If you are part of the audience, make yourself comfortable as you prepare to listen to stories from Unitarian Universalist persons who identify as People of Color and others marginalized by race or ethnicity and Unitarian Universalists who identify as White or of European ancestry. If you are one of the reader/actors, come on up!

Arrange the reader/actors. Make sure they know the order in which they will read. Tell them that one facilitator will play the role of director, assuring that each voice is respected by pausing the reading for seven to ten seconds between voices and starting the next actor/reader with a nonverbal cue. The other facilitator will act as the first reader, modeling dramatic reading. Invite reader/actors to read the name and ethnic or racial identity of the person before reading each narrative.

Depending on your group size, you may have actors and an audience, or you may have most, or all, workshop participants taking part in the dramatic production. Invite participants, whether or not they are part of the production, to listen to the voices being given life by actors and to note their responses to each person's story.

Open the theater with music you have selected. Enact your Theater of Voices. After the last statement/voice, close your theater with music you have selected or with another suitable closing, such as a time of silence.

If you choose not to do the Theater of Voices, co-facilitators can alternate reading the short narratives. Again, choose and order the voices to maximize their impact and pause seven to ten seconds after each reading.

Post the questions you have written on newsprint and read them aloud. Invite participants to turn to a partner and respond to the questions, telling them they have about 12 minutes for sharing. Let them know when six minutes have passed so both individuals have time to speak.

After 12 minutes, re-gather the group. Lead a discussion with these questions:

  • What did you find interesting about your partner's observations and reflections? Which were similar to yours? What was different?
  • What do these experiences say about the experience of People of Color and other people marginalized by race or ethnicity in a Unitarian Universalist setting? What do these experiences say about the experience of White people in a Unitarian Universalist setting?
  • How do the stories you've heard connect or disconnect with your own stories?

Including All Participants

Have large-print copies of the narratives on hand to offer anyone who is visually impaired.