MEETING THE PRODIGAL SON - session organised as part of the pilot workshops run by Reykjavik Academy, Reykjavik, Iceland, September 2012

Coach: Björg Árnadóttir

Source Text: New Testament, Gospel of Luke (15, 11-32)

ENVY AND FORGIVENESS. White paper sheets, magazines, scissors, and glue, laid out on the table, are waiting for the participants. Our task is to create some posters – a collage illustrating the feeling of envy. We are working together, everyone adding their own graphic element to the collective picture. Faces cut out of the magazines, words, shapes, and fragments of landscapes are developing into symbolic compositions revealing different ways of thinking, and various directions of interpretation. A physical exercise helps us to delve more deeply into the topic, introducing us to the realm of two feelings – next to envy, forgiveness appears. The room becomes symbolically divided into two areas. At first, we're all moving around in the envy zone, looking for some ways to express it, interacting with each other; we're communicating with gestures and facial expressions, without any words. We're also using scarves as props, garments, and instruments for communication. After going to the other side of the room, the one of forgiveness, our behaviour changes radically, the body language is different, and so are our mutual relations. Afterwards, we are allowed to move freely between the two sides, deciding for ourselves in which one we'd like to be at the moment, looking for new ways of expressing contradicting emotions. At the end, divided into two groups, we transform ourselves into sculptures symbolising forgiveness and present them to each other. Each group, looking at the propositions presented by the other team, can ask five questions, addressing individual participants. To summarise this part of the meeting we talk about the emotions which we were experiencing on both sides of the room. The question "Which feelings could be contrasted with forgiveness?” arises. Anger, fear, wrath, obstinacy? In the atmosphere we had created with our real emotions and metaphorical signs, we began reading the biblical texts.

FATHER AND SONS. Sitting in the circle, we're reading The Parable of the Prodigal Son out loud; consecutively, each of us is reading out a few sentences. We're considering which roles to choose, we're using scarves as elements of our costumes, we're preparing to act out the biblical story which we are reading out loud once again, everyone at the same time, wandering around the room. The play starts with a clear definition of the three main characters. Instead of the father, there is a mother in the centre of the family circle; she's focused on the reading-matter, but at the same time – ready for conversation. One of the sons is busy, constantly on the go, nervous; the other one – lost in thoughts, visibly struggling with a problem. After a few minutes of action, the leader brings everyone to a halt and carries out interviews with actors. She's asking about their names, the feelings associated with the depicted situation, the motivation behind the choices they made. In this way the context of the collective play gains a deepened, personal perspective, and the biblical characters become more real. The prodigal son is convincingly justifying his decision to leave home. "I'm going to waste here. I have multiple talents which I'd like to develop. I need books, some personal space to study; I need to find my own place in this world.” Next parts of the play become more comical, when the participants start to impersonate animals. This joyous situation is interrupted by the return of the prodigal son. The mood changes drastically, tension and uncertainty are in the air. The final scene of forgiveness and the family reconciliation ends the play. Some personal interpretations of the biblical situation arise during the summarising conversation at the end of the session: "I was overwhelmed by the excess of care and love; I wanted to break free. I understood the decision to leave, it seemed natural.” The participants emphasised that embodying literary characters enables us to discover their personalities and the complexity of circumstances shaping people's lives; it brings us closer to fictional personas.

The workshops have been clearly directed towards the domain of feelings which may be treated as a key to the bibliodramatic method. Putting the biblical text in the context of personal experiences and the participants' emotions helps them to relate to the reality presented in the story. The ambiguous sense hidden in the words and the course of events in the story reaches them through the deepened reflection on their own experiences, and specific family and social situations. The cross-cultural issues become apparent as the participants emphasise openness to other people, their views, needs, limitations and choices – their otherness.