Case Study: Youth Peer Educators

According to the new  Teen Theatre Coordinator, Nate Brown The PG-13 Players ” are a teen theatre troupe sponsored by Planned Parenthood.  They use improv theatre and theatre of the oppressed to engage their peers in discussions about human sexuality.  As peer educators, they perform for 2000-3000 young people each season.”  I was originally introduced to this group as a facilitator, by their previous coordinator and personal friend.  When Nate contacted me to facilitate a discussion on dating violence, I was happy to return to the group.

I decided to use a different set of activities than I had the year before.  During our initial conversation, a time when we set ground rules and get accustomed to mini-sessions, a few of the members from last year remembered the term “loving attention.”  At that point I settled in and relaxed, and felt like everything would come together.  If the only thing anyone ever remembers is how to give and receive loving attention, and how to use that in their active listening and non-judgmental social support, then our time together has been successful.

This year, I decided to use a group reading of “Why Won’t She Leave?” as a prompt for dialogue on dating violence.  Three troupe members volunteered to read the characters “Woman in White”, “ButWhyGirl”, and “White Collar.” I decided to read the part of the batterer “Some Truth”.   I wanted to help keep the pacing.  I also know that character has the strongest language, and wanted to be able to get through that with as little distress as possible.  I wanted to be able to fully process the instances and varieties of interpersonal violence, but I didn’t want it to make us fall into giggles during the read.

There never seems to be enough time to say all the things I want to say during a workshop.  Though, I have also learned that long lectures aren’t needed.  All of us have witnessed or experienced violence in some shape or form, so participants get it.  My job is to prompt the dialogue or bring up a related topic, and the group goes from there.  This is always a relief and delight for me, because I want people to recognize their power as citizens to talk about and take action around issues that are important.

Number in Attendance:  approx 19 teen participants, mostly African-American and female

A Sample of Participant Feedback:

How did the performance make you feel?

“It made me feel as if I were actually there with her and I was yelling at her, but she couldn’t hear me.”

“It made me [feel] pretty bad, because of the relationship they had.  I don’t think no one should have to go through that.”

“It made me feel sad. It made me think back on my own situation.”

“It made me think about women & men involved in these types of relationships all over. I felt like it would be really actually be kind of hard to walk away from love, but not that kind.”

“It made me feel thoughtful about those kinds of situations.  It’s really hard to be able to draw the line and say that you made a bad judgment about a partner and leave someone you love when you think you can get through it. “

What insight has this performance of “Why Won’t She Leave?” given you about Domestic Violence?

 “its real talk so it shows what actually happens, it hurts me to see this”

“It showed how men give their ‘reasons’ to hit some women”

“I appreciate the fact that the characters weren’t discriminated against and both male and female characters emotions were expressed to the fullest.”

“It often runs in the family, often the one being abused doesn’t fully realize the magnamity of the problem.”

In your opinion, why won’t she leave?

“she feels trapped — can’t see a happier future than the present )job, money, etc.) doesn’t want to ‘waste’ the time/effort already put into the relationship”

“She is attached to the man.  He gives her the attention, love and caring half the time, which blinds her from his abusive side the other half of the time.”

“She scared of being alone…she’s stuck in Houstatlantavegas”

Other Comments:

 “The end was unrealistic, he wouldn’t just walk out like that in real life.”

“This was the realest  sh-t I ever read.  I’m inspired to write.”

“The play was very good.  I felt like it was realistic, and people need to hear more thins like this.”

“I really enjoyed this piece and hope there is a part 2? I’d like to read this as a book.”

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