“Stop!” an audience member yells and the actor makes way for the spectator to come on stage and join the action.
This technique of active participation performance is called forum theatre, and it was used on Oct. 18 at Metro Hall on John Street where six residents of the Kingston, Galloway and Orton Park (KGO) neighbourhoods performed their show, And Here We Dwell.
This show is designed to explore community housing issues in these neighbourhoods and to promote participation. To get to that point, it is run through in its entirety the first time before being reenacted in a way that allows audience members to offer different solutions to the problems presented.
Naomi Tessler, 30, is the co-creator and artistic director of And Here We Dwell.
“We do the play a second time through and the audience says, ‘Stop,'” Tessler said. “Then, (the audience member) steps into the action of the play to make a change.”
The original actors can then decide how they will respond to the offered solution, and react accordingly.
Babli Nessa, 59, is one of the actors in the play. She says this type of interaction between the audience and the actors is important because it gives everyone the opportunity to see different perspectives on the same scene.
“The audience says, ‘Okay, if I am in a hard place, I would play this role differently’,” Nessa said. “I feel that this is the only platform where you can express your thoughts, your ideas about what you want to do, how you are looking at the problem, how you are going to solve the problem and how you are going to improve your community.”
This can include residents identifying problems, determining a solution and improving the community.
Some of the scenes looked at the lack of responsiveness from superintendents, the feeling of isolation among residents and the discrimination they face.
Tessler says these topics were chosen because they were relevant to both the audience and the actors.
Tessler found the group discussed their concerns on a weekly basis as they met to prepare for their upcoming performances.
“So those are the issues we’re tackling in the play in hopes that people will support us in exploring them and thinking about how we can make a change,” Tessler said.
And Here We Dwell will also be shown on Oct. 21 at the Leigha Lee Browne Theatre (1265 Military Trail).
For more information or to reserve tickets, visit https://sfc-utsc.eventbrite.ca/.