Facilitator, Director, Theatre Maker

2018: The power of the community cast.........

Shared Experience: To come together with others and do the same activity..... but its way more than that. Its a physical and emotional journey which each individual goes on. These journeys vary from individual to whole group and everything in-between. The shared experience enables us to get insight into our own lives as well as others, to better understand the world in which we live, build confidence, create friendships and lasting memories  - to be honest it can be quite magical.

Over the past few months I've had the privilege to work on 2 very different projects; Memory Spinners and SHIFT. Both projects brought together a community cast who at the start of the process were complete strangers. Both projects had the same end goal; to create a performance for the public to come and see. Both projects were successful in achieving the end goal but what I am reflecting on is the process.

Because I meet many different people in my day to day working life it doesn't faze me. I sometimes don't even think about it - its just what I do. But to put myself in the shoes of some of the community cast members I have recently worked with, I realise meeting 40 odd new people all at the one time can be a huge deal. To even pluck up the courage to come along on the first day can be taking many of these people out of their comfort zones.

Working towards a performance together allows people to push boundaries and take risks. For some that may be learning choreography, singing in front of others or delivering lines on their own. The team of professionals are on hand to support, collaborate and encourage ensuring all participants feel empowered. Alongside the performance risks I have witnessed people making friends, growing in confidence, gaining a better understanding of others living in their local community, developing greater tolerance and appreciation for one another. During the rehearsals they share their lives and find common ground. They tell stories and allow complete strangers into their world. 

Before they know it they are no longer strangers but friends who meet regularly and are excited to see one another. The shared experience becomes part of their weekly schedule and they can't imagine what they done with their time before this. It is fascinating to witness this and experience it alongside them all. I truly feel enriched after the past few months. The people I have met, the stories they have shared and the warmth and willingness to go on a journey together has been so life affirming. 

Some of these people felt left out, over looked, forgotten about within their communities. Others wanted to get back to hobbies they used to do many years ago and some were looking for something new but just hadn't found it yet. These projects have lifted spirits, ignited imaginations and brought joy to all involved.

On concluding the projects people were taking photos of each other, exchanging phone numbers and emails and swapping social media details. The shared experience will live on, I am sure of that. I am extremely grateful to have met these people and I am thankfull they trusted us and were willing to take a risk. I am constantly amazed at the power of people and their willingness to open up and let others in. Sometimes the world in which we live can be scary and overwhelming and it can be hard to look out from our own bubble. But sometimes what we need to do is look out and I would encourage everyone to be brave and take the risk of joining a new group. You will treasure this time  - I certainly have!! 


Deborah McArthur