One of the most challenging forms of creative expression is the self-portrait. The self-portrait can cause one to feel simultaneously exposed yet empowered; with each new portrait conveying a different “flavor” of your identity. In this directive we will use drama therapy techniques to join these “flavors” together into a unique self-portrait.
Setting up the drama
After the warm up, (see psychodrama:Trust) write the words “I am…” on a piece of paper, then underneath it write 4-5 of your personality traits/characteristics. For example: I am… Creative, strong, loving, fearless.
Next, stand in a circle and think about what title you would give this list if it were a movie or a book? After you have read your titles, you will count to three, and on three you will either step in or step out of the circle. Step in if you wish to explore your story further, or step out if you wish to observe for today.
After you have a small group of people in the center circle, have them re-read their titles and put a hand on the shoulder of the person whose story they feel most connected to. Ask the rest of the group to put a hand on the shoulder of those in the middle as well. This is called a Sociogram. Sociometry is the quantitative method for measuring social relationships. Now, you can count and see who has the most hands on their shoulder. While the hands are on the shoulders ask each person to briefly explain why they made that choice. Whoever has the most “votes” is who will do their drama.
Let the group sit down, and ask the chosen person (protagonist) to look at their piece of paper and pick a person to play each one of their “characteristics”. Once these actors have been selected, let them stand in a row and have the protagonist name what characteristic they represent and assign them one word/phrase. For example, if I picked someone to play my “creativity”, I would have them say “it’s ok to get messy”.
After each “characteristic” has their catch phrase, arrange them in a sculpt. In drama therapy a sculpt refers to a physical sculpture made out of the people participating in your drama.
This is where it starts to become a self-portrait. As the protagonist arranges each actor, you start to see an image emerging. The image is an interactive self-portrait made up of other people playing parts of you. Did your mind just explode? Good. Sometimes we think that we are an island, that we operate independently from the people around us. And though it’s true we need healthy boundaries, we also need to be aware of the commonality and the ubiquitous nature of all human relationships.
Next, have the protagonist look at this sculpt (confronting ones identity), one by one then all together have each “characteristic” say their catch phrase. Ask the protagonist, “what do you see?”
Allow the protagonist to enter into the sculpt placing themselves wherever they want. Ask them how it feels to be there, and have them say a word or phrase to describe that place. Finally, allow the protagonist to make any changes to the sculpt, and if they are finished have everyone sit down.
One of my favorite ways to end a drama therapy group is to do the “take home”. The “take home” is where everyone stands in a circle, and thinks about one thing they experienced in this group that they want to take with them. So for example, I would reach my hand into the center of the circle and take out “vulnerability”.