I Be You Be Me

Participatory Performance, each session 2-3 hours, 2018

Maximum 10 participants each session

This participatory performance is an experiment on healing through the cultivation of awareness and empathy.

Many of us have experienced contentious situations that evoke such intense emotions that we mostly behave on a reactive impulse. We don’t think as straight, sometimes are blind sighted to what other people are feeling and lose sight of the larger picture. When this happens often enough to affect our personal life, we see a therapist. This project tries to explore a way to cultivate certain awareness in our own behaviors and how they affect other people. Also, it creates situations that allows us to be in touch with and embrace our vulnerabilities and empathy so that it can lead to healing.

The idea for the project came from the experience of meditation where one could observe one’s own mind and thought processes in action. The project is also informed by a mode of therapy called Family Constellation; as well as Theater of the Oppressed.

Specifically, the participants are asked to each write down a story in their life, for which they wish they could have behaved in a different way. These stories are then all mixed up in a bowl so it’s not clear who has written what. Then a story is randomly picked from the bowl and the people in the group are invited to reenact it. A white box is drawn on the ground for whoever wishes to change the narrative of the story being enacted. This device allows the original story to be fleshed out in many possible ways, to allow for a full spectrum of possible outcomes and range of emotions. It seems that people are quite easily engaged in acting out other people's stories perhaps because there is a sense that we are helping other people in distress, and also most of the stories feel like they could have happened to any of us. And it's a comforting opportunity to put ourselves in the acting while it's someone else' story.

Each participant is by turn the author of a story, an actor of another person's story and the observer of how their own story is like when enacted by other people, with many different perspectives.

Here are some clips from the past performances:

Office Episode

Herb Episode

Father/daughter sexual harrasement Episode


Participant testimonies:

12/18/2017 Greg:

It was fun, and a pleasure. I really enjoyed the concept - to see a personal, tangled memory played out before you, in some cases introducing humor to the situation in way that could change perspectives and resolve bad feelings. I think there's a very interesting conversation here about both memory and one's concept of self, in addition to anger and reactivity. Since I don't have much acting experience I could imagine the acting portion being a little uncomfortable for some people. Maybe make the form and extent of participation more clear. It might be interesting to see multiple sets of people play out the same scene and see what different iterations emerge. But if you did that, you would have to manage time carefully. I didn't notice the Hitler image earlier, and now that I'm seeing it I don't have a problem with it. Since it's in a meditative setting it's clearly parody or something less than literal. Thank you for putting this together and for asking for my feedback. Hope to run into you again.

12/18/2017 Tracy:

I was thinking about what worked for me. I wasn’t sure what I would get out of the event, but I had some pretty cool insights. The one about cleaning up the office, where all of a sudden the boss changed his tone of voice. It made me realize how much changing my tone of voice in the classroom affects everyone. So in other words what I’m saying is this type of project brings about a lot of self reflection. I think that has a huge effect on the participants. I like that it was small, because that made it easier for people to feel comfortable, and share what they were thinking. I think if it were a much bigger group then it might not flow as well. I think scenarios with sexual harassment can be quite touchy, so I knew that would be a tricky one. But even the one or two minutes that you guys spent on it was pretty valuable.