8/22/2014 (11:00am) 1 note

Processing and Reflecting on Favouritism

Living and working with children from different backgrounds is something one should do with an open heart willing not only to teach but to learn also from the behavioural traits of the children as well as the manifestations of the issues they carry from home.


Almost all institutions one way or the other are guilty of failure to treat children equally and bring them up to be fair and accommodative of everyone rewarding based on merit and correcting not out of malice but out of the desire to bring about correct behaviour. 

We explained to our children at the beginning of the year that if there will be any trips we will select those going based on attendance. During the course of the year some children’s attendance is scanty and some stop coming due to various reasons and are replaced by others. So when the time came for us to go to Johannesburg for the DFL Sex Actually Festival all children got wind that there was a trip at Dramatic Need and even those who had not said goodbye but just disappeared suddenly reappeared. Being children and coming from institutions such as family and school where favouritism is rife they expected to be part of the group going. Seeing an opportunity to share an important value I decided to create workshops to deal with the vice of favouritism.

The first step was to create a scale of between 1 and 10 and say the children were to rate themselves in fairness and equal treatment of people. In some groups some children who have grown in emotional literacy were fair enough to themselves and rated themselves below 5 meaning that they had some work to do to practise that important value fair and equal treatment of people in groups

We then created stickers and placed then in different places and asked the children to read them and stay with the one that appealed to them the most. The first round had these 1. Favouritism is not an issue in our communities. 2. Favouritism is partly to blame for the problems in our communities. 3. Favouritism is big problem in our communities. This first round of activities was meant to make the children engage this issue from a distance and indeed they did, freely condemning what they believed to be perpetration of a vice.

The second round had these. 1. Have you witnessed cases of unfairness and favouritism? 2. Have you watched and done nothing when favouritism was practised against someone or some people? This round was meant to bring it closer home but not to the whole extent and so the children began to feel and think about their part in all this.

The third round had the following statements. 1. Have you benefited from favouritism? 2. Have you been a victim of favouritism? 3. have you been unfair to someone or some people or shown favouritism where someone deserved something by merit but you gave it to someone else that you favour for some reason? This was now making it personal and yes some children used it as a self realisation exercise and saw themselves in the mirror and wept as we reflected on our roles in favouritism. This was to help them see that we will try to be fair in all our dealings here at Dramatic Need. We are not perfect but we always try to do right. We permitted the children to tell us when we treat them unfairly so that we may learn and see if we can also change and grow.

What is disheartening was the talk about the vice of favouritism in other institutions being rife and really hurting the children and affecting their self esteem. They spoke about family, church and the classroom. Sad things happen in these institutions some of which are meant to hold traumatised and battered children.  

We took the opportunity to reconnect after the deep and emotional process

8/21/2014 (12:45pm) 1 note

DN Children Prepare to Attend the DFL Sex Actually Festival

The week ending on the 22nd of August has been one hectic one for us at Dramatic Need as we have had to work hard to prepare for the Drama For Life Sex Actually Festival. We have had to select those going based on attendance since January 2014 and of course discipline.

We encourage our children to use their hands to do things that are believed to be things to buy or get given by someone. This is to inculcate a sense of self reliance and hard work. So instead of buying brand new printed T-shirts for them to wear to Johannesburg for the festival we bought plain white T-shirts and the children spray painted them themselves.

Three of the children were lucky to get the last three branded T-shirts in our store room. 

I would say to any artist, “You are gifted in this very particular, unusual, interesting way. Your role is absolutely important and integral to your community.” I honestly believe that artists have an enormous responsibility to be the voices of the people that they live amongst. They need to speak up and say things that aren’t popular, that aren’t what everyone wants to hear…It is our responsibility to say those things and to say them in interesting and beautiful ways.

Internationally acclaimed artist Wangechi Mutu quoted in the New Yorker, September 23, 2013

British Drama volunteer Olivia Gentile’s stay with us in South Africa - in pictures.

8/16/2014 (11:00am) 3 notes

Bye Dramatic Need: Olivia Gentile

Performance is not something that has to be rehearsed and confined to the stage. The people in South Africa have demonstrated that to me and have confirmed my belief better than anyone before.

During my three weeks in South Africa I have witnessed members of the public dancing along to singing street performers, a group of children sing without pre­thought to welcome me as a teacher and the students of Dramatic Need burst randomly into beautiful harmonisation. It is exciting to see so many people be so freely and fearlessly creative. It is no wonder therefore that I have experienced so much creativity within my lessons.

The groups have thrown themselves into exercises with enjoyment and enthusiasm and as a result their performances have been big and expressive. This is nothing however compared to the appreciation they have given each other for their performances. Forget polite English applause or even standing ovations; I am appreciating more and more the ways South African audiences express their delight, through enthusiastically calling out to the characters the ways they wish the storyline to go, through singing, dancing and playing along. I cannot describe the pride I felt when some of my participants physically threw themselves at their fellow classmates after watching them perform, intent on embracing them as tightly as possible and showering them with praise. As much of my work here has been focussed on creating a bond within the groups in order to best enable them to work as a team, this reaction to each other’s work was fantastic to see.

Another beautiful moment that I have witnessed whilst teaching here was when I set one of my groups a task in creating music. Their ability to experiment with sound and rhythm was extraordinary and in seconds the participants were filling the room with beautiful music. This they did without pre­thought or the need for discussion, just listening and working absolutely with the group.

But the real beauty came when the groups were performing their creations to the rest of the class. One of the girls got stage fright and so, to help her along, another group began to harmonise a backing rhythm for her to sing to. This shows just how much of a bond this group has and how supportive they are of each other.

 My time in South Africa has been packed with both cultural and human educations. From the food I have tasted to the living conditions I have seen. From my experiences of the unnerving Johannesburg nightlife to riding elephants and playing with lion cubs. The wonderful friends I have made, the warnings I have been given about this country. The apparent worldwide delight of children when they first discover loom bands, and my groups performing to unrivalled appreciation from their peers.

 My time in South Africa has definitely been too short. I would have liked to have taken the groups further and given them the chance to perform in front of a proper audience. Nothing compares to this feeling and I know that the participants I have worked with are not only capable of this, but would also greatly enjoy such an experience.

I also realise that I have only scraped the surface of experiencing the South African culture, the South African lifestyle and the countless opportunities this country provides. I hope to form some links between the South African organisations I have worked with and the English organisations I work with at home, so that my experiences can continue and so that others can also experience different cultures.

My time in South Africa has been extraordinary and eye opening. I came here to teach but I have learnt so much

8/15/2014 (11:00am) 1 note

Artists from Fezile Dabi Arts and Culture Centre visit DN

On the 13th of August 2014 we got a group of artistes from Fezile Dabi Arts and Culture Centre. This Centre has in house artistes who work children from Fezile Dabi District. 

They were impressed by our work and asked us to visit them to see how we could share ideas and human resources. They immediately recommended one of their artistes to help us in the formation of the DN Marimba Band and we are already excited about the idea of having someone come to continue teaching our children marimba after the volunteer we are expecting to come and lay the foundation.


8/14/2014 (11:00am)

Fascinated by difference!

Our children always find it fascinating to meet people from other parts of the world. In some parts of the world  difference has been used to cause conflict, oppression and discrimination but our children and their volunteers always marvel to see the physical and cultural differences that we have as human beings.

After her sessions with our children, Olivia sometimes takes sometime to chat with the children and also enjoy touching and weaving each other’s different hairs.

8/13/2014 (2:05pm)

Dramatic Need abounds with acting talent

It became clear yesterday that Dramatic Need abounds with talent when the current volunteer, Olivia Gentile had our children take part in scripted plays. The children were divided into smaller groups and given some time to learn their lines and rehearse. They were a marvel to watch as they took turns to show what they had prepared. 

8/12/2014 (8:09pm)

Olivia does some character work with the DN children

Yesterday, Olivia took our children through some characterisation work. Everyone had to think of any funny or scary character they could imagine and thereafter each one had to characterise that while moving around in a group.

The next step was to divide the children into two groups where one group had to wear masks while the other group was in their earlier characters they created. The mask group invaded the other group and took over their village.

The session was closed with small performances with the different characters interacting

8/8/2014 (12:35pm)

Cycling to town

Dramatic Need is an after school programme and during the day before the children come, Olivia takes some time to cycle to town and explore the paths on her own. 

8/8/2014 (12:30pm)

Olivia Gentile: A Volunteer’s Reflections

My interest in working with underprivileged children came about when I was seventeen and I was performing in The Gambia but playing drama games with the local children in my free time. Since then I have wanted to teach drama to children in similar situations and that’s when I found Dramatic Need. I realise that drama cannot solve all their problems but what it does provide is fun and enjoyment, a chance to socialise and play with others, a chance to be creative and let the imagination run wild without any fear of being wrong, because the more unique and playful the imagination is allowed to be, the more interesting and enjoyable the drama will become.

The young people I have been working with in South Africa are creative in a way I have never seen before. Their different environments and circumstances have resulted in the development of what for me is new and exciting theatre. And in this way the young people I am working with have taught me as much as I am teaching them. About their culture and lifestyles and the way they view the world.

I am encouraging the young people to take the lead on the performance work they are creating and as a result I am witnessing their individual passions and skills. It is exhilarating to see so much passion amongst young people, how much pride they have in their work and how much they want to share it with others.

The young people have made me feel very welcome with lots of hugs and photos and teaching me little rhythms. We’ve spoken a lot about our cultures and their similarities and differences. There appears to be a lot more freedom for expression in South Africa.

This is exciting to see but it does make me think twice sometimes while I am teaching. In England, classes are expected to be silent whilst others are performing, to undertake exercises and then talk about their experience of the exercise afterwards. The groups I am teaching in South Africa are very vocal about their experiences throughout the exercises and almost join in with each other’s performances sometimes by reacting very vocally to what they are seeing, more so than in an English Pantomime. My first instinct was to encourage my English version of respect but I stopped myself when I thought that their vocalisation might be a demonstration of the South African culture and about how much pleasure there was in just experiencing this difference in culture and how much enjoyment they were expressing in theirs and other’s work.

There is a primary school next to the Dramatic Need Arts Centre and the teachers at the school have welcomed me warmly. They have asked me to come and teach some drama next week and I am very much looking forward to working with some younger children. The children at the school have already been a great addition to my experience here. Every morning they knock on my door to ask if I’ll come and play with them and not only have they delighted in some of the games and dancing that I have taught them during their breaks but they have also taught me some of their language and games and shared with me their musical and artistic talents. I always love how open children are about their every thought and it was enjoyable to see their amazement at the colour of my feet, the dried apricots I was eating and the bicycle I used to cycle into town.

Next week is my last week volunteering for Dramatic Need and I hope each group finish by feeling ownership over the work they have created and are proud of what they have achieved.

8/8/2014 (11:01am)

DN Children to take part in the Drama For Life Festival

Dramatic Need children are part of this year’s Drama for Life Sex Actually Festival.Drama for Life is an independent academic, research and community engagement programme based at the Wits School of Arts.

Drama for Life is about the creation of critical reflexive pedagogies, therapeutic spaces and aesthetic forms that give rise to alternative ways of ‘being’ in the world. Our interest is in how drama can become an effective process that moves beyond a dialogue of binaries; how drama can engage the whole person as an agent of his or her own destiny within a social context driven by cultural, national and global forces; how drama can enhance intrapersonal and interpersonal  awareness about critical health, human rights, social justice and environmental issues; how drama can develop a reflective practitioner who isn’t afraid to ‘look from the outside’ and to simultaneously ‘look from the inside’; and how drama can foster a humanity that is founded in principles of service to community, empathic leadership and creative and compassionate engagement in learning.

The Sex Actually Festival: Heart to Heart
Festival Dates: 19-30th August 2014

Love, intimacy and human connection are at the forefront of the seventh annual Sex Actually Festival: Heart to Heart. Bold and passionate, this celebration will explore human connection in all its shapes and forms.
Sex Actually is a multi-disciplinary public festival that engages and promotes dialogues around sex, relationships and HIV/AIDS. Drama for Life’s annual and largest festival is in its seventh year with our 2014 programme highlighting the theme of  Human Connection:

 About the DFL Festival - Celebrating Seven Years of Sex Actually!

The Sex Actually Festival is a unique cross-community project that advocates applied, therapeutic and educative models to engage conscious understandings of sex through public intervention. The DFL Festival is a unique response to major health, social and cultural issues faced by Africa, with particular emphasis on HIV/AIDS and healthy sexual practice. The DFL Festival is exceptional in its methodology, implementation and strategy in addressing HIV/AIDS and its surrounding themes – sex, sexuality, relationships, culture, gender, human rights and social issues.

The festival is curated in a way that allows arts practitioners and audience members to holistically engage with the thematic focus of the public intervention, to interrogate the complexities of HIV/AIDS, and to promote healthy understandings of safe sexual practice. The target audiences are youth, parents, and communities. These communities vary from the Northern suburbs to the Southern, form the East of Johannesburg to the West. The festival crosses the boundaries of these communities and moves people out of their familiar places into uncommon spaces. This utilizes performing arts in a variety of ways, from inside the theatre, cutting edge street performances, site-specific works, facilitated processes and workshops, to film, music, as well as practical access to information and testing.

These performance interventions are curated with audience, artists and communities in careful consideration. Understanding the diversity which exists in urban landscapes, and speaking to these varying needs, is what makes Sex Actually so unique and successful in its approach. The use of the arts as a tool for the intervention allows for a creative way to approach a challenging topic. It creates an opportunity for open discussion which is not censored, prescriptive or didactic. A place in which humanness and vulnerability is acknowledged and supported by trained facilitators. Stories become about the collective and communities cross boundaries which are both actual and subversive. It is at this point that change can and does occur. This is change that is needed to shift the relationship we have to this disease, to shift perception, stigma, and complacency. The Drama for Life Festival ultimately creates an opportunity to confront that which is feared, to understand it, and thus to respect those who are affected and infected by AIDS.

Twenty of Dramatic Need’s children will be going to Johannesburg to take part in this exciting festival

8/1/2014 (1:59pm)

Taking part in The Daedalus Red Ribbon Project

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s annual AIDS benefit, the Daedalus Project raises money for charities helping fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. This year’s reading is Dramatic Need’s very own The Children’s Monologues and at the end of the performance the organisers have  planned a special video collage, which will join the voices of the American and international theatre community, far and wide.

 A little context: Daedalus 2014 is being called ACT 5: THE END OF AIDS.  At the beginning of the AIDS crisis—Act 1, if you will—this disease was almost universally fatal; today, thanks to medical advances, people with strong medical care can live with HIV/AIDS for decades. If they get access to one pill a day, HIV-positive mothers can now give birth to children who are free of the disease.

These advances came about thanks to decades of work from doctors, researchers, advocates, care workers and many more.  Thanks to their efforts, we are entering what we are calling “Act 5” of this pandemic. So, it is time for a new goal: to end the spread of HIV/AIDS and ultimately eradicate this disease from the planet.

 The annual Daedalus Project variety show will occur this year on August 18, 2014. To celebrate progress and inspire the work of the coming years, the show will be closed with a choral recitation of the “St Crispian’s Day” speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V.  For the video portion of that recitation the project is reaching out to OSF alumni and to the American theater community at large to stand with them and voice their commitment to ending the spread of HIV/AIDS.

To participate in the “St Crispian’s Day” chorus Dramatic Need children were to record themselves speaking the “St. Crispin’s Day” speech and upload their contribution using cellphones.

In joining our voices, the project hopes to lift up those still living with this disease and to express our collective commitment to creating a completely AIDS-free generation. The children of Dramatic need are proud to be part of the Daedalus Project.