Stages of development Like any other small group, a children’s collective has several developmental stages. Although it was formed according to a preset
organizational structure, it has its own dynamic because children themselves are always changing. The same is true of their per-
sonal connections, relationships, psychological environment and so on. I decided not to plan anything ahead of time. Instead, I was
going to build the program according to group dynamics and children’s readiness to this or that topic. At one of our meetings, after
rehearsal, we were having some tea and discussing associations and metaphors – our topic for that day. Suddenly I was asked:
Nastya, what is it like what we’re doing? And why do we talk so much about mutual respect and other similar things? I paused for a moment and gave it a thought. How should I explain it to them? And then I said: You know, it's like building our own house, a house for a large family. You do your best and put all your heart in your work. And you'll never be able to build this house continued next page Page 9
Experimental Young Actor Playback Theatre,
cont from previous page alone; you need somebody to help you. Moreover, these helpers should be reliable and honest. So, would you like to build a nice house for all of us, where everybody will have enough space and feel comfortable and interested? So, we started to build that house.
I analyzed everything we had done within 8 months and divided the project into 3 stages. Each stage is characterized by specific
objectives, and now I’ll try to describe them in detail.
1. Group formation and initial consolidation of participants
2. Work in progress
3. Constructive cooperation
Group formation and initial consolidation of participants When you build a house, first of all you need a solid foundation. This stage took us about 2 months. During this period, while chil-
dren were getting to know each other, there was an overall emotional tension. And mostly because children were not clear about
group objectives, rules, norms, their possible role within the group and so on. Children were testing boundaries of the trainers
and other participants. So, when setting group tasks, I wanted to highlight the role of each participant, without regard to his or her
nationality, cultural and social background. What helped us to resolve these group tasks?
It was the rules. In children playback it's especially important to give young actors something to rely on. We tried to communicate
our rules in a playful manner, with the element of magic, so that our young actors could easily accept them and grasp their mean-
ing. At our first meeting we “invented” the following rules for group interaction: Magic of a Game, Treasury of Ideas, Invisible Mi- crophone and Magic Glass. For example, in Treasury of Ideas: each of us has an imaginary storage of ideas, where we can al-
ways find new and interesting things. Even if you partner has used your plan, don't worry - you can always draw something
equally interesting from that “secret place”.
The most important decision was to exclude formulas like YOU OUGHT TO! YOU HAVE TO! I tried to give our participants some
freedom of choice. If you don't want to do something, please, don't do that. Feel like jumping- jump! Feel like coming on stage -
do come! What about our specific actors’ tasks? We spent quite a lot of time on two important topics – active listening and active
attention. To continue with our “house” metaphor, we had to check our building tools, to “handle” them. We introduced our stu-
dents to a basic actor’s “toolkit”: voice, songs, speech, musical instruments, dance, fabrics, requisites, body language, facial ges-
ture, body mobility etc. We gave each of these tools a try through a set of amusing exercises.
From here, we focused on narrative practice and got acquainted with various archetypes. For that purpose we used a method of
story modeling. We started with role-playing of various models (fairy tale, heroic epic song and so on). Our students made up
their own stories on behalf of some well-known characters. They designed their temper and mood, as well as their social role in
the fairy tale. They also invented the plot of the story. Step by step we explored the role of objects, animals, observers, main and
minor characters of each story. Thus, there were stories told on behalf of trees, houses, main hero’s body parts and even hy-
giene items. This exercise allowed us to get to know main archetypes and to touch upon various theatrical genres. It also helped
children to immerse into narrative practice. In this stage children played the stories in free format. It was our original plan – to let
them come to the conclusion that they do need some framework. Eventually we moved to the next stage: