My next ritual theatre workshop
A workshop exploring the inspiring film of Avatar taking you on a journey of empowerment and transformation – helping you to deal with the difficult people in your life.
In Avatar Jake, a paraplegic veteran ex-marine takes the place of his twin brother in a scientific/military operation to obtain/”steal” the precious resources of Pandora which lie underneath the homeland of the Na’vi tribe – in exchange for the promise of surgery to restore the use of his legs. Because Jake shares the same genetic make-up as his brother he is able to inhabit the “avatar” made for his brother enabling him infiltrate the Na’vi.
At the beginning of the film he is constantly being told he is not good enough, and all he is seen as is as a “useless cripple” yet as he is exposed to the magical ways of Na’vi and captivated by Neytiri, the warrior princess, he re-discovers the heroic spirit that lives within him and has been deadened by his unfortunate circumstances.
In this inspiring workshop we will be exploring, the film Avatar – to activate the vital, alive and magical energy that lives within you that so easily gets lost or suppressed in the course of our daily lives.
By the end of the film, Jake says good bye to his human state to live permanently in his avatar body – and you too will have the opportunity to symbolically release the experiences, situations and memories that are holding you back from fulfilling your potential.
AVATAR WORKSHOP: DETAILS AND BOOKING
DATE: 26th/27th Jull 2013
LOCATION: tbc Helios Centre, 116 Judd Street, London WC1
TUBES: King Cross, Russel Square, Euston
Limited spaces. Book early to reserve your place.
More information about the workshop and booking
Here at last are the videos from the Ritual Theatre Celebration that took place in London on June 29th 2012.
Of special interest is Sue Jennings’ talk on the Healing Practice of the Senoi Temiar, based on her experiences of living with the Temiar when she was doing her anthropological research. Her talk mesmerised her audience and of great interest for those interested in ritual, anthropology, tribal medicine, dramatherapy or shamanism. Sue also describes the healing of her youngest son by the Temiar shaman and the verification by a western doctor that he had been very sick indeed and was now fully recovered.
The videos are in chronological order.
Introduction and Welcome
Claire Schrader (dramatherapist, playwright, editor)
Invocation – Ritual Drumming
Tom Morley and Dawn Ellis of Instant Teamwork
Ritual Theatre Origins
Claire Schrader (dramatherapist, playwright, editor)
Anthropology and the Roots of Ritual Theatre. Plus a demonstration of the healing practices of the Senoi Temiar people of Malaysia.
Dr Sue Jennings (dramatherapy pioneer, actor, anthropologist and author)
Ritual Theatre in Personal Development and Society
Claire Schrader (dramatherapist, playwright, editor)
Connecting with the Divine Feminine – Ritual Theatre with women diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder
Debra Colkett (dramatherapist, actor)
Metamyth – Ritual Theatre and the treatment of Epilepsy
Thalia Valeta (dramatherapist, actor, and founder of metamyth)
Ritual Theatre Performance
The “suicide scene” from a ritual theatre exploration of King Lear
Catherine Casolani (coach) Thelma Sharma (performer, dramatherapist)
video to follow
Ritual Theatre Journey
narrated by Claire Schrader(dramatherapist, playwright, editor) with drumming by Tom Morley (trainer, drummer)
Do you have a wild side that you have hidden away?
Do you want to have more fun, feel more alive and express yourself in a more potent way?
Come and join us in this liberating workshop freeing up the Wild Spirit in you working through creativity, self expression, movement, dramatic enactment and personal ritual.
Cast off niceness and conformity and awaken the alive spirit within you exploring the story of the Wild Man.
The Wild Man lived at the bottom of a deep pool, deep in the forest. Whenever anyone came near, the wild man devoured it and soon it came known that the pool and the forest was a very dangerous place.
Until one day a mysterious huntsman came along and drained the pool – and there at the bottom he found the Wild Man whose body “was brown like rusty iron, and whose hair hung over his face down to his knees.”
The huntsman and his men bound the Wild Man and took him back to the King who imprisoned him.
This is what we do the Wild Spirit in us. We hide it in a deep pool where it poses a deep threat to us in our civilised world or we imprison it, believing at last we are safe from the Wild Man.
But of course the “Wild Man in us” does get out. It gets out in all the wrong places. We find we are sabotaging our best best efforts, we over-react to situations or we feel deadened or lacking in energy.
In this workshop we will be exploring this mysterious tale and the journey of the young prince who releases the Wild Man and must go through banishment and a series of trials until the Wild Man is finally restored to his rightful place.
Working with the story of the Wild Man is powerful way to transform inner blockages, get to the heart of the patterns that have kept you stuck in old roles and modes of behaviour.
What you might get out of it:
CALL TO THE WILD WORKSHOP: DETAILS AND BOOKING
YOUR INVESTMENT: £150
DATE: 3rd/4th November 2013
LOCATION: Helios Centre, 116 Judd Street, London WC1
TUBES: King Cross, Russel Square, Euston
Click here to book now
Workshops are limited to eight people, and this means that you will build up a strong level of trust with a small group of people who are 100% in support of you making a significant shift in an important area of your life. This makes the workshop a very safe place to explore any area where you are stuck. And you will also be able to work much more deeply and at an individual level.
The Sesame Institute, is offering a two year continuing professional development course in London beginning in December 2012. Linked to the work of James Hillman this Jungian programme is open to registered counsellors, psychotherapists, all health professionals, teachers and clergy wishing to discover how embodied imagination and movement offer an image language for the Soul, when words cannot do justice to the presence of the numinous teacher and inner healer.
The course places high value on experiential work having its own potency in therapy, and honours symbol based language as the prime energy in any healing work. Please see
The inclusive fee is £2500. Successful graduates will be awarded a Sesame Institute Certificate in the Use of drama and movement in therapy.
AUTUMN INTRODUCTORY COURSE – 17,18,19 October 2012
Three day introduction to Drama and Movement Therapy – The Sesame Approach
Each course has a practical and experiential emphasis exploring how drama, movement, creative voice and sound, movement with touch and story enactment can be used as therapeutic resources. The training is an intensive professional course, and is not personal therapy. It offers an opportunity to experience components of the Sesame Approach, and then explore their practical application. The emphasis is on learning through personal experience rather than prescribed teaching of set models.
Course Leader: Mary Smail, the Director of the Sesame Institute.
The Sesame Studio, 27 Blackfriars Road
London SE1 8NY
More information: If you would like further details of this or any of the other courses Sesame runs please contact Christine Hanfrey at the Sesame Institute.
27 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NY Tel: 020 7633 9690
The Sesame Institute
Drama and movement in Therapy
My deepest thanks to all those who attended the Ritual Theatre Celebration with took place at the Spectator Pub Downstairs just a stone’s throw from St Paul’s. Your presence made it what it was: a deep, moving and celebratory evening.
If you didn’t make it these photographs will give you a flavour of what it was like to be there.
My deepest thanks to Dr Sue Jennings (without whom this work would not exist) who came all the way from Glastonbury and gave us such a fascinating talk and demonstration of the healing practices of the Senoi Temiar. We all could have listened to her for hours.
I cannot thank Debra Colkett enough, who has been my right hand man/woman throughout and has helped me to envision and create this event. She graced us too with her inspiring talk about the ritual theatre project she did with women with borderline personality disorder. All around the space hang the saris that Debra used to work with these women.
My gratitude too to Tom Morley and Dawn Ellis of Instant Team Work for the incredible way in which they opened the event and raised the spirits of everyone; to Thalia Valeta for making it back from Greece in spite of many challenges and for her interesting talk about “Metamyth”; to Graham Swain who took the photographs and to Kathy Hill who filmed the event. My gratitude to Catherine Casolani and Thelma Sharma for their moving performance of the scene from King Lear demonstrating so superbly the healing power of ritual theatre. And thanks to the wonderful audience of therapists, actors, healers, clients and friends who endured the heat and participated so fully and enthusiastically.
It was my intention with this event not just to launch the book but to honour the spirit of ritual theatre – the spirit that is in ritual theatre – and a topic that is very close to my heart. I am grateful for all those that rallied round to support this event – which was truly a co-collaboration.
The audience getting into the spirit of it.
DR SUE JENNINGS AND THE HEALING PRACTICES OF THE TEMIAR SENOI
Sue Jennings demonstrating the healing practices of the Temiar. Many of us were effected by her account of the healing of her son by the Temiar shaman, of the bird who followed the boat taking her son to the hospital – and the doctor’s verification that her son had been very ill but was now on the mend and needed no further treatment. This was a testament to the power of tribal (and ritual) healing.
CLAIRE, DEBRA AND THAILIA SPEAK ABOUT THEIR CHAPTERS IN THE BOOK
Here is a link to a video that was shot by Graham Swain (Graham took all these photos) of me introducing the topic of ritual theatre and explaining the ancient healing power of theatre.
There will be more video’s to follow of video shot by Kathy Hill of the other presenters. You may also be interested in a couple of interviews with me in the run-up to the launch of the book.
See interviews with Claire Schrader
RITUAL THEATRE PERFORMANCE
Enough talk. You cannot really grasp ritual theatre until you’ve experienced it for yourself. Catherine Casolani and Thelma Sharma performed an improvised scene from King Lear in which the blind Gloucester attempts to get help to throw himself off the cliffs of Dover, little knowing that his guide is his beloved son Edgar who he had banished. Edgar makes his father believe that he has fallen to his death and been reborn. At the end of the scene we decided to bring in the reconciliation between father and son, as Gloucester recognised.
Afterward Thelma and Catherine spoke about the power of ritual theatre as they had experienced it and the impact of creating and performing this scene on their personal lives.
RITUAL THEATRE JOURNEY
The photographs below show Ritual Theatre Journey in which members of the audience moved around the space with their eyes as “glass cobra” connected to one another – this was an expression of our original connection with Source in which we move through the world with little understanding of why we are here. Other audience members became “guardians”, making sure that the “glass cobra” came to no harm as it journeyed through the universe, guided by unseen hands.
Until the moment came in which the “glass cobra’ shattered into thousands of pieces and wandered aimlessly in the void, unable to connect with one another. This represented Separation which most experience at some time or other when we become disconnected from Spirit. (In tribal societies this is not experienced in the same way as we do, because they educated from an early age to be connected with Spirit. See Chapter 4 in the Ritual Theatre book in which I talk about Maildoma Some’s work or even better read one of his books.)
The Journey was completed when it became possible for the “glass cobra” to reform as an expression of the unity of the human spirit. In these photos you will see the glass cobra in its original formation to the sensitive drumming of Tom Morley, and the times when participants wandered in the void, concluding with our closing circle where participants shared their experience of the Journey which was profound and affirming for many.
Perhaps it should be mentioned that the books disappeared liked lightning – Sue, Debra, Thalia and I were all kept busy with signing! Thanks to all those who purchased a book and I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed writing it.
And especial thanks to Lisa and the staff at The Spectator who were so accommodating, helpful and made everyone feel so welcome.
photographs by Graham Swain
29th June 2012
To celebrate the publication of the new book:
Ritual Theatre: the power of dramatic ritual in personal development groups and clinical practice published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2012.
The intention of this unique event is to inspire, enlighten and entertain about the power of ritual theatre and why its currently going through a rebirth in theatre and society.
The evening will consist of presentations, performances and ritual theatre experiences focusing on the important role ritual theatre once played and its relevance to contemporary life.
We will also be sharing about the work being done in hospitals, prisons, schools etc and will be giving you a taste of what ritual theatre can achieve – with an opportunity to experience some for yourself.
The Celebration will include:
Drumming by Tom Morley (founder of Instant Team Work)
Presentations by the book’s UK contributors:
Dr Sue Jennings (founder of dramatherapy, performer, anthropologist and author): Anthropology and the Roots of Ritual Theatre
Claire Schrader (editor, dramatherapist, playwright and founder of myth-a-drama ) : The Rebirth of Ritual Theatre in Society
Roger Grainger (dramatherapist, actor, chaplain and author) : Ritual Theatre and Existential Change working with Schizophrenia
Debra Colket (dramatherapist, actor) : Connecting with the Divine Feminine – Ritual theatre in Forensic Psychiatry
Thalia Valeta (dramatherapist and founder of metamyth) : Metamyth – Ritual theatre in Epilepsy
“The Cosmic Celebration”, a ritual theatre performance performed world-wide, directed by Saphira Linden et al (see Chapter 18)
Sue Jennings will be demonstrating the healing practices of the Senoi Temiar people of Malaysia as well as describing the remarkable healing of her younger son by one of the great Temiar shamans.
King Lear In Real Life – performance from a ritual theatre performance of King Lear.
A Ritual Theatre Journey (you will be invited to participate in a short ritual theatre journey) with drumming by Tom Morley
This event would be of especial interest to you if you’re interested in healing, theatre, the arts, creativity or self-expression, or are a therapist, drama therapist, counselor, performer, director, theatre practitioner or student.
Where: The Spectator (Downstairs)
6 Little Britain,
Date: 29th June
Tube: St Paul’s
Entrance: £10 (includes a £4.99 voucher towards purchasing a book at the event)
I am delighted to announce Ritual Theatre, The Power of Dramatic Ritual in Personal Development Groups and Clinical Practice is now published in the UK and is on sale through the Jessica Kingsley website. It is due to be published in the US on 15th December.
You may also like to view this interview with me on the publishers blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
JKP Can you talk about the book, and its underlying thesis?
CS Ritual theatre is one of the most ancient form of healing that is still practiced in tribal societies today. As Sue Jennings points out, from earliest times ancient people healed themselves and explored what they couldn’t understand about the world through dramatic ritual. The book is saying that this is still relevant today, in fact it’s never been more important. The faster our world becomes, the further advances we make in science and technology, the more we need to return to our essential roots.
Malidoma Somé says it very forcefully: “the Western Machine Technology is the spirit of death made to look like life”. He says we need to return to our spiritual roots and this is achieved most effectively through ritual. So it’s no surprise that in this modern age people are returning to ritual and to tribalism and this is being expressed most potently in youth culture.
So the book is about how ritual theatre can be expressed in a contemporary way that fits in with the way our lives are. People are hungering for this because the technological age is making us more and more disconnected, more in our heads and this is producing tremendous suffering under the labels of stress, fatigue and health problems.
Ritual theatre along with the Arts Therapies counteract this. So the book includes ways in which ritual theatre is being brought into hospitals, institutions and work with marginal groups as well as to the general public. For the full interview
I feel the book itself to be a major landmark in our understanding of the things which really matter.
I am deeply touched by Roger’s comment – and if there is anything has struck me as the book has come together, is the way in which ritual theatre brings us into awareness of the important things in life.
Here’s some useful links if you want to investigate more:
The book’s page, where you can buy the book directly from JKP:
The reviews page:
The table of contents:
The preview of the book:
If you’ve come across this blog and are wondering what on earth is ritual theatre, and how come it’s so marvelous. What makes it different from a classic theatre experience?
Here’s one explanation……
Ritual theatre quite simply is the enactment of a myth or archetypal story with the intention of bringing about healing– usually to resolve an issue, to deal with a difficult life experience, to restore depleted energies or to ease a transition.
Anyone can participate in a ritual theatre and it requires no particular ability or talent other than an open heart and a willingness to allow the journey unfold. The kind of ritual theatre that I am mostly talking about occurs behind closed doors of a workshop room or a private space where participants are also witnesses and onlookers of the ritual drama.
It can also take place in a hospital, a school, or in the community enabling marginalized groups to reintegrate into society.
THE COSMIC CELEBRATION
However it can equally be a ritual performance before an audience involving large numbers of people. An example of such an event was the Cosmic Celebration, a vast mythic pageant, “celebrating the unity of all religious paths and the human family” which was initiated in the seventies by Pir Vilayat, a Sufi Master and was performed worldwide, including St James Church in London (see picture below). (A chapter on this ritual theatre production features in the book.)
This is a very different kind of experience to a normal theatre performance.
A MYTHIC JOURNEY
Ritual Theatre takes participants on a mythic journey through which they can experience and explore the many parts of themselves diving into mythic adventure, of monsters and heroes.
It follows the patterns of the Hero’s Journey uncovered by Joseph Campbell, based on Carl Jung’s discoveries of how myth expressed the collective unconscious through which powerful healing of the psyche and soul could take place.
Ritual theatre brings the theatre element to Jung and Campbell’s discoveries enabling participants to express the collective unconscious through playing out powerful archetypal stories. This is potent facilitating the healing of psyche and soul and much closer to the kind of ritual healing ceremonies that took place in ancient times and in tribal societies.
In fact ritual theatre is one of the most ancient forms of healing that is still practiced in tribal societies today. Since the earliest times ancient people healed themselves and explored what they couldn’t understand about the world through dramatic ritual. Such were the beginnings of ritual theatre.Much later the Ancient Greeks developed these into Dionysinian rites which eventually evolved into theatre because the Greeks very clearly saw that it was necessary and healthy for the wellbeing of their society for emotions to be released. This was the sole/soul purpose of the performance. Theatre has developed considerably from these origins so that nowadays we equate theatre more often with being entertained. It is unlikely that we will associate theatre with healing or being changed ourselves.
This is why ritual theatre, is even more important and relevant in contemporary life – and why I and the contributors of this book believe that ritual theatre is coming back!
I hope this answers some of your questions and will inspire you to want to know more…..
You eat your five a day, take your vitamins, avoid junk food, exercise rigorously – but have you had your daily dose of Tragedy?
I am grateful for the inspiration and title for this article to Oliver Taplin, a well-known Classics scholar, author of numerous books, and the presenter of a number of TV programmes including Greek Fire – a powerful documentary about the “fire” that Ancient Greek culture and drama has brought to the civilised world. (Oliver has kindly endorsed my book on Ritual Theatre – to be published in 6 weeks.)
So I hope you quickly realise that I am not talking about the meaningless and gratuitous tragedy that devastates lives. I’m talking about Tragedy with a capital “T”. Tragedy as a dramatic form that was conceived by the Greeks and was popular in Shakespeare’s day and beyond.
I hope in this article to show you that taking your periodic dose of Tragedy is excellent for your health and well-being. It is essential for a robust sense of humour which is the cornerstone of emotional/physical and spiritual health. This also ensures a balanced life – where laughter is balanced against serious things such as paying the bills, pursuing your goals, meeting your commitments etc.
Tragedy will give you much better energy levels; your skin will look alive and fresh – men will look more handsome and women more beautiful. You will feel quite simply wonderful.
And yet if you are like most humans, you probably avoid situations and experiences where there is an opportunity to engage with pain and suffering. You shrink away from reading a heavy book, or seeing a heavy film or play when you’re feeling down because you fear it’s going to make you feel worse. You pursue lighter experiences and events that are going to lift you out of your low mood (you hope) or keep you in a happy state.
And yet you may too find yourself in situations and around people that are far from desirable, or you find yourself exhausted most of the time, or horrible things keep happening to you.
You too may find yourself unable to stop yourself from doing things that you know perfectly well are going to turn out badly and yet a little voice inside eggs you on to do them – believing that it will all work out OK – beating yourself up when they don’t.
So, on the one hand, you avoid things that may lead to suffering and pain, AND ON THE OTHER you also pursue them.
This is part of being human.
The Greeks very clearly saw that it was necessary and healthy for the well-being of their society for emotions to be expressed and released.
In other words, suffering was not to be avoided but to be embraced. This is how Greek Theatre evolved which had its beginnings in Dionysian rites:
“In Dionysian rites, participants reached an altered state known as ecstasis (from which the word ecstasy is derived), which enabled the release of powerful emotions through wild ecstatic expression. This was developed by Aristotle into the theory of catharsis in which the dramatic action of the play events climaxed into a release of emotion which had a purging effect and brought about transformation.” (See my article Marrying Theatre with Personal Transformation)
Thousands of years later, we believe the opposite – that it is bad to express emotions. Malidoma Somé, the African initiated elder, compares the healthy expression of emotion within his tribe to the “emotional poverty” of the West. He is puzzled how people going through terrible tragedies in their lives, sweep everything under the carpet, put on a false smile and pretend everything is “all right”.
Most people have been trained to suppress their feelings from an early age.
Or perhaps you are someone who was brought up in a family where everyone screams and shouts, and so you scream and shout – but never feel that it does you any good. You don’t experience what the Greeks and Malidoma Somé is talking about – the peace that comes when your negative emotions have been cleansed – and the emotional richness that is a direct result of this.
Emotional Richness is the state when your emotions are a source of richness, fulfilment and well-being. This is a state where you won’t need to seek after happiness through pleasurable pursuits and events because happiness will be with you. You will feel it as a warmth in your belly that goes with you wherever you go, whether you are stuck in traffic or on top of a mountain.
You will feel joy all the deeper. You will feel more alive to all your emotions and more clear about what you are feeling. Your anger will be clean and clear – and you will be able to express it without causing distress to other people. And you will not find yourself unconsciously expressing passive anger – this is anger that is so suppressed that it is expressed in covert ways. (This is an article in itself – so I won’t explain further here!)
Tragedy is a celebration of suffering through a dramatic form – in which the universal suffering that is part of the human condition is enacted to an audience, to bring about ecstasis (ecstasy) and catharsis (emotional cleansing). This is why the Greeks and Shakespeare wrote plays about mega suffering that is out of proportion to the suffering that most people experience.They wrote about mothers who tear their sons apart (The Bacchae), where wives murder their husbands on return from the war (Agamemnon), where sons go mad and kill their mothers (Orestes), where ambitious tyrants murder the king and their best friends (Macbeth) or where Kings give away their power and then go mad (Lear).
Did you know that in the acting profession that the cast of one of the really gruelling tragedies are more likely to be happier; laugh more; get on better with each other and generally have a good time during the production? By contrast, in a comedy the cast are generally unhappier; get into petty fights with each other; enjoy the process less, and are often drowning their sorrows before and after the performance. For the same reason comedians are often depressives.
The casts of tragedies feel better because they are experiencing this ecstasis and catharsis on a daily basis – and it is good for them.
The Law of Attraction teaches that if you participate in negative experiences, you will draw more negative experiences to you. Yet the opposite is true – if you don’t cleanse yourself of the negative experiences that are making you unhappy, you will draw negative experiences to you like filings to a magnet.
Tragedy allows you to journey through the deepest pain that is part of the human condition without it tearing you apart. This is because you are doing it in aesthetic form – through acting; through pretending you are a tragic character; through playing out the big human emotions that are in everybody, and cleansing yourself of their negative effects while at the same time giving pleasure to other people.
This why the audience is so important. The audience enjoys watching this suffering because they don’t have to suffer. They marvel at your skill in expressing emotions that terrify them. You heal them, and you heal yourself without needing to suffer. Through this process, both are liberated.
Yesterday I went to a dramatherapy workshop where I got to play out many negative and positive emotions and experiences through the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. And I feel simply amazing today – much better than if I had gone to a party or other event where I would have expected to have a “good time”.
I feel calmer, as if something has resolved in me, without really knowing what has happened. At the same was able to receive some insight/guidance around an important area of my life. I feel so good today because at the same time I have washed away/cleansing myself of unexpressed or suppressed emotion that builds up as a result of our so-called civilised life. This I why I say having your daily/weekly or monthly dose of Tragedy is a vital part of a healthy life. it will keep you free of depression and low feelings and will also enable you to occupy a bigger space in the world.
Lear, the tragic old king who goes mad and rails against his ungrateful daughters, Goneril and Reagan (Lear’s scheming daughters) and the illegitimate Edmund who are all opportunities play out the darker aspects of human nature.
And then there are the innocent characters – Cordelia and the Fool – who eventually bring healing and redemption. This is a space to play out the many parts of yourself and bring healing and redemption.
We will be working differently to working on a normal play so as to intensify the healing effects of Tragedy. This will enable the ecstasis/ catharsis to take place – and thus free yourself of suffering; reclaim your life energy; feel happier; feel more alive; and all the things I have discussed in this article.
Such is the power of Tragedy and why it is so terribly good for you.
If you cannot join this experience, I suggest you look for opportunities to engage with Tragedy and to play out your real feelings in a similar way. Or go to a good production of a Tragedy or a film where you will get to experience the thrill of catharsis. I hope you will begin to see Tragedy in a new light and find a way of including more Tragedy in your life and as a result experience greater health and well-being and the emotional richness that naturally follows from that.
If this article has spoken to you, or if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share please do leave a comment. I love to hear from you.
If you would like less suffering and more emotional richness, then I suggest you check out my upcoming events.