British Columbia Teachers for Peace and Global Education
A Provincial Specialist Association of the BC Teachers' Federation


Theatre that is well worth your time  

For Details about the production visit Theatre for Living, Corporations in Our Heads.

On Thursday, October 10, I attended the first preview night of Theatre for Living's Corporations in Our Heads, a new, edgy production that is definitely worth taking in. But be warned, this is more than just theatre. I should explain that I am not entirely new to this kind of event. Years ago I did some work in developmental drama, and at the same time declared psychology as one of two specialties in my teacher education degree. David Diamond's Theatre for Living falls somewhere into that mix and I walked in believing that there is value in this kind of work. Indeed it is theatre, as it is entertainment, but it is also intelligent, provocative and important. It makes you think as you are being entertained but it doesn't easily let you off the hook.

I arrived early with one of my best friends in tow. I hadn't explained much to her in my invite. All she emailed back in reply was "I googled it. Participatory theatre. I could join you […]" and went on to clarify that she would come but may leave early. I read this as some discomfort on her part, perhaps with the whole notion of joining in and I had to admit that I certainly had my own trepidations about what I was setting us up for. In fact as the "play" started my discomfort rose when the houselights didn't go down. They may have even brightened, or was that my imagination as the lights focused in on the room full of potential participants? You see in Corporations in Our Heads David Diamond walks up on the stage not as the actor in the play but simply as the stage director. And at that he is a master. In his articulate, sincere opening he invites the room to join the play. He asks for storytellers to start, helps the participants choose the storyline that will fill the stage and then sets the scene using whoever is brave enough to volunteer right off. Throughout the next two and a half hours Diamond writes the script using words from the actors he commandeers and even from those of us still clinging to our chairs. But in his skilful way Diamond softens our resolve against joining in by creating a safe space and keeping a constant check on how each of the participants is fairing. His rapport with the audience is constant, respectful, encouraging and honest. It is in this way that Diamond is tackling issues that are important to the people in the room, issues that even more importantly, are crucial to us as community. 

The theme of this particular Theatre for Living production is how we as individuals and as communities are living and surviving alongside the Corporations amongst us. The underlying principle is that we won't change the Corporations but that we can and perhaps ought to change our own responses to them. Awareness is the first step and then we need some tools and strategies. So amongst our laughs, our tears, our cynicism and our disbelief there may well have been a shift in the room. It is hard to know for sure but I definitely walked out with ideas that were new to me. For example I hadn't thought about characterizing the messages that are all too familiar. "I need to buy that; in fact, I deserve it." chants my own personal Carly Creditcard voice. "That will definitely make me look sexy. All my other clothes/shoes/makeup/whatever are too drab and frumpy," taunts my personal Carol Clothing-brand shade. "I could do it better if I just had that newer/latest/greatest model," whispers Terry Technology intimately into my ear. Aha, but no more! Now perhaps the game is exposed and I can move on to using strategies such as this to help me respond more critically to those dialogues in my head, especially now that I'm hearing them a little more clearly. Throughout the production Diamond works skilfully through the "onion layers" of our thinking and our responses to mine the power that we may too easily hand over to the Corporations entangled in our daily lives.

All in all I was impressed by the "play." My friend told me after the event that she definitely had been drawn in but chose not to participate because she didn't feel confident enough to risk doing that, which of course is all ok with Diamond. Participating is always voluntary. I attended thinking I was there to observe. Initially I chose not to join in but eventually did volunteer for one shorter scene. It turned out to be harder than I expected but more worthwhile as well. It was one thing to watch Diamond from my chair but quite something different to have him working directly with me. He listens, responds and directs like a puppeteer in flow. To watch him work, that alone is worth the price of admission. 

Theatre for Living, known previously as Headlines Theatre, is launching their BC/ Alberta tour ofCorporations in Our Heads with the Vancouver kickoff that I attended. The show moves on to small communities throughout both provinces from October 16 through to November 30. The tour finale is back in Vancouver from Dec 4 to 8. Because it is participatory theatre it will have special and significant meaning in each community where it is performed. It is theatre that shouldn't be missed. You can find the dates for when they will be nearest you on the Theatre for Living website

Review by Betty Gilgoff   

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