This, indeed, has been a marvellous encounter, an interchange between theatre people and mental health professionals.
Having the opportunity to come in close contact with professionals from the mental health field in order to provide them with theatre techniques so that they will help their patients to deal with emotional violence, was an eye-opening experience. The 12 sessions, which were designed by the theatre companies IMPROVA (Spain) and Clamotta (Germany) and the Theatre Studies Department of the University of Athens, concentrate the essence of the theatre experience –practical as well as theoretical- that those three organisations possess. The support provided by the Psychology Department of the University of Maribor enabled us -the professionals of the theatre- to canonise and channel our knowledge and utilise it for the benefit of the ACTitude project. They also helped establish a viable form of communication which is vital, especially during the strenuous times we are all going through.
To apply the force of the sessions to people who have no, or limited, knowledge of improvisation techniques, on the one hand, made us realise the need for an alternate approach to mental health and, on the other, allowed us to see in praxis and practice how these techniques can help everyone and anyone to be able to express feelings within a secure environment. This security is what fosters creativity, peacefulness and an alternate approach to living. The ease and spontaneity with which the mental health professionals “dipped in” the numerous exercises, shared their emotions, relaxed and found new ways of expression assures us that these sessions can become a valuable tool. The participants’ smiles at the end of every session can only bring joy, enthusiasm and the certainty that we managed to create something positive.
The difficult conditions we are going through initially worried us that we would not be able to enjoy the therapeutic-mental and emotional- qualities with which theatre can “contaminate” us. But the will and persistence of all the participants in the project made it possible. The feedback clearly shows that we managed to have fun and, at the same time, learn ways to support ourselves and others from the strains of emotional violence.
It was, indeed, a marvellous encounter, an interchange between humans, who discovered a new way to lift the burden of emotional violence.
Michaela Antoniou and Clio Fanouraki Theatre Studies Department of the University of Athens