North American Drama Therapy Association Annual Conference

November 2-5, 2012
New Haven, Connecticut

Witnesses to the Dark: the Absence, Emergence and Performance of Trauma

As drama therapists, we are often called upon to bear witness to narratives of trauma in our work and our studies. We engage with these stories: to explore and examine trauma’s boundaries and qualities, to bring fragmented and incomplete images to light, and to help clients and communities respond to frightening and traumatic experiences.

We navigate trauma narratives that are interpersonal, intergenerational and social. We encounter and evoke traumas experienced by individuals, groups, institutions, and communities. Societal traumas such as racism, homophobia, sexism, poverty and war are perpetuated on a generational stage throughout history and emerge in the present. Even those of us who do not engage explicitly with trauma in our work still negotiate its impact. We are subject to the absences it leaves in memory and narrative, spawning inquiry into its emergence as traumatic patterns in behaviors; or as feelings of confusion, grief, shame, and anger in the relationships and lives of our clients.

One lens through which drama therapists can explore trauma is by investigating its performance: how are the traces of trauma performed in our bodies, in the words and actions of our clients, in the politics of our nations? What sort of mindful and therapeutic performances and rituals can be brought to bear in the service of witnessing, of healing, and of change?

We also hope to explore as a community the role of the witness: how does our presence as observers and narrators affect and transform the experiences of those being witnessed? Can we journey with them from isolation and despair to connection and hope? As witnesses can we invoke the capacity to question, hold and engage with the multifaceted impact of trauma on our client’s lives? Furthermore, what is the effect on us in the role of witness? How do we attend to the effects of vicarious trauma in our own lives?

The image of a witness to the dark: attempting to discern the outline of a trauma that is obscured and incomplete, may seem daunting, even dangerous – our hope is that this call for proposals can bring together a multitude of such witnesses, to meet before the curtain rises and reveals the scope and extent of our therapeutic work.

 If you have any questions regarding the conference, please email the 2012 Conference Chair!