How to Facilitate a Successful Workshop with Kane Husbands

Combine performing, directing and teaching successfully with these tips from Kane Husbands on facilitating workshops 

By Christina Care

If you’re as passionate about making great drama as you are in acting in it, facilitating workshops might be a great outlet! Perfect for anyone who wants to combine acting, teaching or directing, Spotlight sat in on a session with the PappyShows Artistic Director Kane Husbands to give you the best tips from the day:

Find ways to get the energy up

Keeping games physical and active helps all the attendees to open up and loosen up. Make openness the theme to explore. By creating opportunities for exchange in a nonverbal way, more meaningful and memorable information starts to shift between attendees than would be gleaned by simply talking. Games also allow for energy transformation - by creating a risk-free scenario in which people can make eye contact, you’re enabling eye-contact to happen without pressure. 

Make the rules as clear as possible

By having a clear set of rules in which to play, your attendees are given the space to freely and creatively explore within some clear objectives. The job of the actor isn’t just to spout clever words, “It’s to make me feel like I’m hearing the works for the first time, every time,” says Kane. In this way you can ensure that mistakes are fine to make; “You can make as many mistakes as you want because we’ve got each other’s backs.” Agree some rules from the outset for what is encouraged and discouraged in the time that you have - or allow the group to come up with rules they can agree to. having everyone come up with the parameters is a perfect way to ensure everyone buys in to the purpose of the session!

Remember to check in

Always bring each activity back to the key question you're aiming to explore in the workshop. What is the learning you’re trying to take from the exercise? By checking in regularly, you keep the focus on what is really going on, what is really being experienced and what is really being learned. So remember to check in with your attendees regularly. It will help your actors gain a greater sense of connection to their own motives for a story or character, as well as with their peers. “When an actor can articulate what they want, that’s when it gets interesting,” says Kane. Checking in after the fact is especially important, “The moments where the penny drops don’t happen in the play.” You can use workshops as an opportunity to reflect and get the most out of a performance that has already happened, not just as preparation or for devising a performance.

Encourage a feeling of safety and belonging

A big part of any workshop is going to be asking for personal responses - to movement, to ideas, a text, etc. Personality is something that will exert itself as a result, and emotions can get drawn out in unexpected ways when workshopping a sequence. This is where Kane advises to “separate facts from interpretation”. When asked to interpret an emotion or idea in physical form, individuals can take a million different approaches - and the work of a good workshop leader is to enable and encourage these.

Think about your responsibility as a leader - how do you make the space feel safe? How do you give feedback in an encouraging way? Part of this is about thinking over the language you use, and setting up the space from the outset with a positive vibe. If someone is having difficulty joining in, do your best to make the person comfortable and give them an opportunity to be listened to. If there’s a very serious issue here that requires external assistance, it is appropriate for you to say, “I’m going to have to tell someone, I have your best interests at heart,” and explain your responsibility of care for that person. Discussions should be had in a semi-public space, and it’s always okay to bring someone else who can help along, if needed. 

Deal with inappropriate behaviour

Hopefully, if the rules are clear enough, inappropriate behaviour can be avoided. But sometimes behaviour needs to be addressed, even if the discomfort is caused by accident. This might include inappropriate language, intimidation or outright bullying - it’s a spectrum, but the important thing is that your attendees feel safe in the space. If there is a problem, it’s up to you to use your discretion to either speak to the individual quietly, or to pause the action of the group and give a reminder of the agreed rules. But make sure to address these swiftly and clearly, before moving on to the fun stuff again! And if there is an issue, a great way to word the reminder might be to say, “I want us to check our behaviour/language.” In this way, you are the responsible party for pausing the action, rather than saying “someone in the room” or similar, which might feel like bullying or singling out an individual, and cause anxiety. It also encourages everyone to reflect, rather than one person.

Ultimately, compromise is very important, as well as open communication, and these key attitudes should be adopted to help make a workshop successful and fun for all participants. “It has to be more fun to join in than sit out,” Kane says. Make the most of a workshop environment and lead all participants in a fun, creative session!