The Life Drama Project makes use of applied theatre & performance techniques to promote sexual health & wellbeing in Papua New Guinea, the Pacific and Northern Australia.

Training Program

2.2 Training Program

Life Drama is a workshop-based approach to HIV education. It combines techniques drawn primarily from drama-in-education and improvisational drama, with non-drama activities such as condom demonstrations and group discussions.

Basic training for Life Drama Trainers consists of two nine-hour units, divided into three-hour modules.

The first unit engages the training group in processes of working dramatically, including using role work and image theatre. The modules are Fundamentals of Life Drama, Introducing Role Play and Open Story, and Progressing the Open Story.

The second unit engages more directly with the HIV content material and “world of objective fact”. The modules are Bodies and Diseases, Negotiating Safer Sex, and Overcoming Stigma. Gender relations is a theme that permeates most modules, and is explicitly explored in the context of Negotiating Safer Sex.

The training is structured around an Open Story, which is tailored to the local context with the help of the local Research Advisory Group in each site. The characters in the story face the realities of HIV in this context. The pressures on the characters, the choices they make, and the consequences they experience, are shaped by the training participants, who bring to the story their knowledge and beliefs. The participants experience the story through a variety of drama forms, as main characters, additional characters, or observers. Through this experiential learning, the participants expand their knowledge and challenge those beliefs and attitudes which are not helpful to stopping the HIV epidemic. The training also aims to equip participants to pass on their new understandings to others, in a variety of ways.

Importantly, Life Drama seeks to enrich the performance forms “imported” or created by the Australian facilitators, by harnessing the power of cultural performativity within the workshop group. Performativity is a valued aspect of daily life in Papua New Guinean culture, from the rituals and individual “sung prayers” associated with cultivation and food gathering, to more communal and formal performances such as initiation rites, mourning rites, and public celebrations. By inviting the participants to tap into their cultural means of expression through body adornment, dance, oration, singing, and music, the Life Drama experience becomes more culturally relevant, meaningful and memorable, which in turn enhances learning.

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