Introductory TECHNIQUE: Empty Chair with Scarves: Who chose not to come?


SUMMARY: A Bibliodramatic technique that helps participants get in touch with their fears around interfaith Bibliodrama.


Leader/author: Yael Unterman with Peta Pellach

Workshop venue: Yedidya Synagogue, Jerusalem

Date: 27/11/11

Number of hours: 20-30 mins

Number of participants: 10

Recommended Place Within Long-Term Time Frame: First or second session.


Objectives of Technique:

- To allow people to express their fears and difficulties in a safe space, through a Bibliodramatic mask (playing another person).

- To enhance group cohesion and enable participants to see that they have a lot in common, including facing similar difficulties

- To increase participants’ commitment to their own Bibliodrama process, by means of the facilitator’s explicit (verbal) reflection to them that despite many possible reservations, everyone in the room nonetheless chose to come.

- To allow the facilitator to validate the fears, thus creating a feeling of safety for participants and a space for negative emotion.

- To allow the facilitator to develop strategies to address the fears that are expressed


How Technique Addresses Specific Problems:

This exercise breaks the ice in a deeper way than warm-up exercises, and gives participants a chance to experience what they have in common and to prepare themselves for the journey they are entering upon. Also creates trust in facilitator.


Course of Technique:

Part I:

An empty chair is placed in the middle of the room, with scarves on it. The facilitator asks people to speak as “the person who chose not to join the workshop.” What reasons, feelings and motivations might cause someone not to come.

Participants mention reasons that they can think of. Each person who speaks is asked to pick a scarf from the chair that seems to reflect that reason or feeling. The scarves are placed in a circle around the chairs.

Part II:

Facilitator points to each scarf on the floor, one by one, and recaps what emotion it represents (with the help of the group, if facilitator has forgotten).

Then s/he invites participants to, one by one, come pick up a scarf that reflects a genuine emotion or fear inside them. If someone has picked up a scarf that another person wants, they can just point to it or take it from them.



Comments / Recommendations

- This clearly can be an opening exercise for right at the beginning. But if done in the second session, when people have tasted Bibliodrama, they can also express their fears around that.

- Examples of fears/difficulties that come up around interfaith Bibliodrama:

1.    Fear of personal exposure

2.    Fear of religious conflict that can get very heated

3.    I don’t know if I can represent my own religion well enough

4.    Bibliodrama is too emotional and creative – I want to relate intellectually

5.    I am too busy to make time for this

6.    Waste of time, all this interfaith talk does not lead anywhere

7.    I want to invest in my own community

8.    I do not want to go beyond my boundaries/ walls and meet the other

9.    Fear of having to use language that is not the mother tongue – both speaking, and also for reading texts (especially when the person understands Hebrew, the language of the Bible text better, with all of its nuances.)


The facilitator could also share his or her own fears at this point – within appropriate boundaries.



Should not require more than twenty to thirty minutes