Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Play's the Thing

Hello all -- been gone a little while. Had a loverly MemDay Weekend -- birthday barbeque for my wife, and a lumberjack afternoon on Monday with my friend Eric and three chainsaws, making firewood for this coming winter. As you can see I am still typing nicely, and therefore rest assured Eric and I didn't lose any fingers while chopping down an old juniper or two.

One of the richest dreamcrafting techniques taught by Robert Moss is Dream Theater. In dream theater, a dreamer invites the gathered circle to enact one of her dreams. She chooses a director, who helps her choose members of the circle to play roles from the dream. The dreamer casts someone to play herself, and then the other persons/characters in the dream. Any element of the dream that might be significant can be portrayed by an actor, if you have a large group to draw upon. I've seen people play eagles, walls, fires, and the Great Storm Wind (the latter was played by a group of five, whirling and dancing around the room). Once all the roles have been cast, the dreamer -- with the help of the director -- describes the action of the dream and slowly the actors walk through the events as they're told. This continues until the end of the dream is reached. Often, the portrayers are encouraged to improvise if they feel moved to do so (without derailing the overall arc of the dream). Once the first enactment of the dream is complete, the director asks the dreamer for feedback for the players, to sharpen the overall resonance of the play. Then, the dreamer takes their place in their own dream and plays themselves in a second enactment. If the dream ended inconclusively or in an unsatisfying way for the dreamer, we then resolve to "dream it forward" during the second portrayal, continuing the enactment until a conclusion is reached or improvising a new ending entirely. Once the second enactment is finished, the director then helps the dreamer engage the players in a Q&A session, allowing the actors to give feedback to the dreamer ("As I was playing the Great Storm Wind, I realized I wasn't here to destroy anything really, but only to sweep the slate clean to make for a new beginning.").

Being cast to play a role in someone else's dream means stepping out of our own skins to play any number of delightful characters -- and often during dream theater the most amazing serendipitous moments of healing and understanding occur. Certainly it is therapeutic for the dreamer, but it is also juicy for the actors as well.

During my first excursion into dream theater I was cast to play the role of the father of the dreamer -- a man who had only recently passed away. In the dream, I was hidden from my son by the veil of death, although he was haunted by the sound of my dead heart beating. In the hushed, darkened room, as other participants drummed on the floor with their hands to portray the heartbeats, my "son" gathered his courage and opened the veil of death to speak with me. In the ensuing conversation, he learned that the heartbeats were mine and his -- as I figuratively lived on in my descendant. More was discussed but in the interest of privacy I musn't divulge all (after all, part of the magic of a dream circle is its familial confidentiality -- what happens in Dream Vegas, stays in Dream Vegas, if you will). I can say that by the time he and I embraced and the enactment came to a close there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

As part of me recovered from the experience, another part of me marveled "whoa, this is *strong* stuff!"

I have played Orpheus in a re-enactment of the journey of the Argo (improvising a soundtrack for the dream as I went), played a hunter feared by a village whose deepest wish is to leave the forest and rejoin civilization, a cantankerous bus driver busily throwing everyone off his bus, and was also one of the dervishes blowing about the room as the Great Storm Wind.

In the circles I lead, we nearly always make time for dream theater. In gets energy flowing and provides it with a meaningful path of action. And isn't that a pretty good description of time well spent? And if we, as a group, can help a dreamer reach understanding or find healing, then we have honored the dream itself...and each other. To mangle Willy S: "The play's the thing / where we'll catch the essence of the dream!"

No comments: