A Trauma Informed Studioh
What Does it Mean? Why Do We Do It? And How Do We Practice?
Before we go on it is important to acknowledge where this information is coming from. All of the information below was learned from the incredible organization Theatrical Intimacy Education (TIE). To learn more about them, click here!
What is Trauma Informed:
A trauma informed practice takes into consideration that due to the deeply nuanced, far reaching, and all too common experience that is trauma, we specifically facilitate our environment with the assumption that everyone in that room has some sort of relationship or familiarity with trauma. Because we come in with, and never release this assumption, we intentionally curate our language and behavior to minimize the potentiality for trauma to be triggered.
Why Is Broken Mirror Trauma Informed:
The theatre industrial complex (to borrow a phrase from Nicole Brewer) has an irrefutable history of maintaining an abusive power dynamic in theatre and casting. A business model that historically has tolerated racism, misogyny, sexual harassment, ableism, and unjust wages has led to generations of actors adopting a “scarcity mindset.” Meaning actors will compromise their mental health, boundaries, and personal safety in order to get cast in a project. They are often willing to do this because they have been led to believe that, “they should be grateful to even have work.” For an aspiring, or even deeply committed artist, it is an industry that is absolutely antithetical to self love, mental health, and emotional and economic well being. Broken Mirror Studio was formed partly in hopes of serving as an antidote to the hurt that the industry, as well as many traditional training programs inflicts on its artists. We want to offer an alternative approach to what an acting studio can be. Rather than focusing our efforts and intentions towards "preparing you for the industry" we want to offer an artistic sanctuary dedicated simply to the continued development of craft, the exploration of ideas, and the building of a diverse, inclusive, and supportive community
Brave Space vs Safe Space:
Merriam Webster defines a safe space to be, "a place intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations."
And while this is absolutely a lovely intention, it is difficult to guarantee in practice. Because of this, the term "safe space" is starting to be replaced with a new term and slightly different approach.
A Brave Space acknowledges that despite even the best of efforts, things can sometimes get uncomfortable. It encourages its participants to be "willing to consider stepping into discomfort." This way when the uncommon but not impossible situation arises where a difficult moment occurs, rather than feeling betrayed, uncomfortable, or stuck, the room will be knowledgeable and prepared to navigate this experience as a respectful, informed, and supportive community.
Of course in order to do this, tools, practices, and language must be learned and incorporated in order for that willingness to be made possible.
Consent. Boundaries. And Self Care Cues:
Everything Broken Mirror does is grounded in consent. From who is putting up work, to how we engage in exercises, consent is the foundation of how Broken Mirror navigates space. But what does consent mean if we break it down?
F.reely Given. Consent is given without pressure, coercion, bullying, or manipulation. Its given freely and honestly
R.evocable. Consent is always revocable. No question. Circumstances can change and it is always one's right to take care of themselves when they do.
I.nformed. Informed consent means that individuals are equipped with as much detail as possible before engaging in a proposed activity in order so they can make the best decisions for their personal wellness. In practice this looks like: When introducing an exercise we go over its purpose and intended benefits before hopping in, rather than teaching by surprise. Giving trigger warnings before engaging in scene work in regard to sensitive material covered in the piece.
E.nthusiastic. This one, while always ideal is not actually mandatory. Sometimes consent can check all the other boxes without needing to be a "hell yeah!"
S.pecific. This has to do with language. Vagueness is not a welcome guest when we are being asked to consider discomfort. We try to be as specific as possible in order for folks to respond from a knowledgeable and informed perspective.
Everyone has boundaries. However many folks are unaware of how to articulate them. Boundaries can be understood as Personal, Physical, Professional, and Cultural. Everyone has a right to all four of these boundaries. As well as the right to speak up and advocate for them before they are crossed.
Note: One can always elaborate on a boundary if they wish, but no one will ever be asked to justify why they are setting one.
Self Care Cues:
A self care cue is a tool (either an agreed upon word or gesture) used to protect one's boundaries and wellness. The self care cues removes the pressure and power from having to say "NO" to another presence in the room, be it authoritative or peer.
What It Looks Like In Practice:
Any time an individual uses a self care cue - (we use the word "button") - the entire room will pause, take a collective breath in to show acknowledgement and support, and a dialogue will occur between the speaker and the facilitator. that will almost always look something like this:
Facilitator: "I see you "name of person." What do you need right now?"
Speaker: "I need blank" (insert immediate need of speaker. - space, leave the room, no physical contact, etc)
Facilitator: "Ok, you need blank (recites back exact need) How do you wish to proceed?"
Speaker: "I'm going to blank. Example: "take a few minutes and come back when I feel ready"
Facilitator: "Okay. Thank you for bringing us in and taking care of yourself"
The class moves on.