ROLE OF THE FACILITATOR IN BIBLIOLOG-BASED BIBLIODRAMA
The Bibliolog facilitator (or director, as Peter Pitzele calls the experienced facilitator) requires a number of different skill sets and entails a number of different activities.
1) Choosing. The facilitator needs to be able to choose a text that will work Bibliodramatically. Not all texts are suitable, the best ones being those containing profound human dynamics (which can include spiritual dynamics or even theological questions), encounters and conflicts, and with elements that are a bit mysterious or at least make us curious.
It is true that the good Bibliodrama facilitator can make even less suitable texts – or even non-narrative material – come alive, but that is challenging.
In selecting texts, it is important that the facilitator keeps in mind the objectives of the group that has formed for Bibliodrama, over the long term, (in this case, interreligious dialogue and increased understanding of the other) as well as the objectives of each particular meeting.
Interfaith or multicultural work might invite texts about encounters between people of different nationalities, or conflictual encounters.
If the facilitator is at liberty to choose any text, she can choose a text that makes her curious and wanting to know more.
2) Limiting. The facilitator needs to work out at which point in the text to begin the Bibliolog and (ideally, if time allows) to end it.
3) Preparing. The facilitator needs to decide what techniques will work well with the text chosen as well as with the people in the group. Should it be conducted with more text-based and sitting down techniques or is there room for looser, more liberated and theatrical ones (closer to Bibliodrama)? What combination of techniques will create an enjoyable experience for the group, while building upon each other?
The questions asked by the facilitator during a Bibliolog are crucial and they should be prepared, although she may also trust her instincts to ask new questions that come to her spontaneously during the session itself.
The facilitator also prepares any poem or other text for teaching at the end.
4) Introducing Bibliodrama. In the first few sessions, the facilitator should explain to and then remind the group of what we are doing here. She should remind the group of the need for safe space and protecting our own boundaries, and create a relaxed yet stimulating atmosphere.
The introduction to a Bibliolog session might include, “Don’t be afraid to get the ‘wrong answer’ – we’re just playing here and exploring. The point is not to show off our knowledge or to stick with what we learned in school. Everyone can do this. If you’re shy – wait till you’re ready. You don’t have to participate, but will get much more out of it if you do. And if you do speak – you must speak as a character. Don’t analyse the text, become the character. Your sentences must be phrased using the word ‘I’ and not he and she. But most of all, lets have fun.”
5) Introducing the story. It is important that the facilitator explain and provide sufficient background to the text so that people understand what the story is about and the basic historical facts. Although Bibliodrama is not a history lesson, leaving people to play stories in a factually inaccurate manner is not educational.
6) During a Bibliolog, the facilitor does a number of things:
I. Invites people to read verses
II. Asks questions to the characters
III. Reflects back what people reply, by echoing what they said, in first person, but in different words. For example:
The facilitator has asked, “Cain, why did you decide to bring an offering to God?”
One participant answered “I had heard my parents talking about God and I wanted to speak to God also.”
The facilitator echoes, “I am very curious, who is this God my parents have mentioned? So I bring an offering to open a channel of communication, to say ‘Hello God, are You out there?’”
Such echoing serves four purposes: a) It gives the participant who spoke a feeling of validation; (b) it checks to see if the facilitator has truly understood what the participant said. If they echo wrong, the participant can say “Well that’s not exactly what I meant...” (c) If members of the group weren’t listening when their fellow participant spoke, or did not understand what s/he said, they can come back into the loop when the facilitator repeats it (d) the facilitator can echo in a manner that is more dramatic than the participant, thus raising the level of drama in the room (for example, when echoing the sentence above, the facilitator can raise her voice or even change her voice while saying Hello God, are You out there?)
IV. Prompts. When a participant says something, the facilitator does not suffice with that, but encourages him or her to say more, by prompting with words like “Because...” “So...” “And this makes me feel...”
V. Notices if something one participant said dialogues with or contradicts in something another participant said – weaves together an interesting way the different narratives the participants are building in their fleshing out of characters, to help them grasp what is going on during this Bibliolog.
7) Leading the sharing process at the end, creating space for people to open up and be personal.
8) Challenging and educating. In Bibliolog, it is not sufficient to allow participants to draw their own lessons from the text and to sit with their spontaneous emotional responses. The skilled facilitator can direct discussion so that participants LEARN from the text and from each other.
9). Teaching any further poem or text that can enrich our understanding.
9) Discussing what we went through today and how we feel as a group.
NOTE: Within Bibliolog, to a greater degree than in Bibliodrama, the facilitator gets to choose how much of a facilitator (i.e. sitting back and allowing the group to lead) she wants to be, and how much of a director or teacher (leading the group, setting boundaries, moving the process forward, directing the stage and teaching texts). This will vary at different times and with different techniques and will also partly depend on the leader’s own personality and desires. The use of Bibliodrama and Biblilog together create an incredibly flexible set of techniques, and can range from being a very group-led process, involving only exercises and feedback and barely any input from the facilitator, to a facilitator-led process in which the facilitator even becomes a teacher for a while.