I'm a senior at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA and I'm in a "playing for change" theatre class. The idea behind the class is to use theatre as an avenue to enact social change. This past week we started studying forum theatre. Let me explain--Essentially, a group formulates a scene based on real social issues with a protagonist and an antagonist. The antagonist must inflict some sort of oppression on the protagonist. As the group performs the scene for an audience, any member of the audience may call out "stop" and sub-in for the protagonist with a different solution. The whole point is to brainstorm many solutions to difficult situations and to stimulate discussion for issues that real people may be facing in their lives.
One of our assignments in class was to create our own scenes in small groups based on experiences we've had in our own lives. I shared one particular experience with my group and they were so moved that they all agreed we should base our scene off my story. It was surreal to replay the experience with my class but it was also inspiring to see so many people sympathize with what I went through. This class has helped me see how important it is to share your experiences and to have real discussions with people about the struggle you faced. I wish I could hold a forum theatre with a room full of diabetics. That would be truly inspiring.
You're probably screaming at me to tell you the story already so here goes...Just after I was diagnosed at 10 years old (eleven years ago), I returned to school and had to explain to my class that I had diabetes. I will never forget the conversation that I had with one of the girls in my class. She told me that her grandma also had diabetes but that she had gotten it from eating too much pie. She then proceeded to tell me that I probably ate too much pie and that it was my fault that I was diagnosed. No matter what I said, she wouldn't back down. I didn't realize at the time that in that moment I was being oppressed and bullied. This girl was only ten years old but she made me feel powerless and terrible about myself. I've carried this story around for a decade and I will carry it for the rest of my life. That's how I know that this issue is real.
In our scene, I played the protagonist so I got to see other members of my class act out their solutions after subbing in. I experienced a great sense of release in this exercise. It was surreal but I'm so happy that I was brave enough to share my story with my group and then with my class. I don't have to keep it bottled up inside me anymore! Forum theatre rocks!