Before our performance came to be, before The Boys Performative Group was formed, a bunch of men started meeting every week for a couple of hours. They would sit on the floor, in a circle and talk about manhood and its hardships. They shared their experiences of being socialized as boys. They talked about toxic masculinity. They wondered what it means to be a man in a semi-peripheral country. And soon... they would talk just about everything: their parents, sex, spirituality, relationships, work, and how much each of them earned. And it wasn't just talking – the men cried together, embraced each other, sat in silence, played basketball, improvised, sang, danced, lay on the floor, and ate, together.
And that is how the performance We wanted to talk about manhood, and we became friends was created.
I was one of those boys who had difficulties with their male identity. For a long time I’d rather speak of myself as “a person” rather than “a guy”. The identity of a guy didn’t sit well with me. This was changed by group therapy and by our guys' support group. Our empathetic men’s circle was full of emotional stories about repressed, cursed, stigmatized masculinity. These stories were also told through improvisations – with speaking, with movement, solo, and in groups. It was a months-long process of seeing one’s reflection in other guys and their lives. Of receiving and giving back.
The performance was built from our stories, our feelings, our beating hearts, and the tears we shed. We employed improvisation, free flow of ideas, and, finally, conversations where we shared how each of us felt about these artistic challenges. Three of us expressed a desire to be a director, but everyone was involved in the creative process. I remember these moments during rehearsals when the room was simply teeming with our collective creative energy. Everyone threw in ideas, comments, inspirations, solutions, and then all of a sudden we’d have created another scene. Nothing compares to my excitement and joy from this process. Here we were, a group of very different men who teamed up to create – often through heated debates – emotionally impactful scenes, joined in some sort of a frenetic dance. There was a fire burning inside of us that warmed the audience during the shows.
We didn’t expect the audience to react the way they did. Moments when we touched and embraced each other caused anxiety, even among seemingly “progressive” people. Somehow, radical leftists couldn’t bear this man-to-man tenderness, this tender masculinity, intimacy going beyond patriarchal norms. Each show ended with an hour-long conversation with the audience who finally had an opportunity – despite there being two interactive segments in the show – to share their feelings, opinions, and confessions about their male friends, fathers, and brothers.
We hang on what people say, and what they write in the chat – the performance takes place on Zoom, so everyone can share their admiration or disappointment about what's going on in real time. The last audience member says something to the camera and we say goodbye. But it isn’t over.
Our performance comes to life and brings hope.
It isn’t over, because there are two messages in our inbox: one person calls our performance vulgar, the other is outraged that nobody warned them about homosexual themes. We’re in this together. We support a queer person who is in our group and whose monologue about an unsupportive father was part of the show. We feel strong.
Joy. We feel joy. Satisfaction. Relief.
It’s time to rest. To dance. To lie down. Breathe. Robert. Tomek. Kamil. Paweł. Mateusz. Marcel. Grzesiek. Wojtek. Julian. Przemek. Mak.
Your names are those of feelings.
Text author: Tomasz Gromadka
Association of Theater Pedagogues
We are a living example that a theatre can be a place to explore and express views on a modern world. It can be a chance and opportunity for different people and groups to cooperate, to reflect, experiment and meet not only with others but also solely with one self.
Since 2010 we have been developing the idea of theatre pedagogy both in theory and in practice. We carry out original socio-artistic projects and cooperate with culture institutions and organizations in all regions of Poland.
We create and produce original pedagogical-theatrical projects, original theatrical projects and performances. Some of them may end up in a full theatrical production or performance, other may focus on the creation process itself. We design and conduct sets of workshops. We experiment with new forms. In all our actions we follow the following core principles: our desire to explore and use the potential of the whole group and experience of any individual we are currently working with; our faith in participants’ abilities, our need to strengthen and develop the construct of critical thinking. Our work is based on the use of modern theatrical and performative means, we work with physical training, acting techniques, we work with words, body, voice, group energy and space including public space, we also work with memory and social responsiveness. We induce critical thinking and keen sense of observation.
We train and inspire teachers, actors, activists, theatre instructors, culture animators. We conduct theatrical and pedagogical-theatrical workshops for schools, creative groups, families, children, young adults, seniors, institutions and theatres.
We work with local communities focusing on the attentive and appreciative observation of their culture and local specifics, coming up with theatrical forms of unanimous actions rooted in the indigenous potential.
We support theatre pedagogues in the whole area of Poland. We invite to cooperation theatres we regularly work with while developing the pedagogical-theatrical projects.
We write texts on the theatre pedagogy, about its values and the exemplary praxis. We publish, we perform during conferences. We initiate the exchange of experience among theatre pedagogues and practitioners. We create opportunities to reflect and talk about methodology, ideas, tools and all sorts of inspiration by inviting experience theorists, theatre artists and theatre pedagogues.
We believe that theatre is not only an aesthetic form of art expression but also a narrative about the world and society, about its problems, tensions, fantasies and desires.