The Bonfire Theatre Project is an innovative, improvisatory theatre company that uses aspects of Playback Theatre, Systemic Constellations, Psychodrama, Theatre of the Oppressed, traditional storytelling and Dramatherapy to celebrate real life stories in a powerful and accessible way to facilitate the transformation of people’s attitudes towards one another.
The vision of the project is to continually be developing a theatre company that is fully representative and whose central purpose is the telling of stories that emerge from the daily lives of ordinary South Africans. Bonfire was established in October 2005 and aims to contribute towards creating a space where a new South African dialogue can take place.
The project was co-founded by Dramatherapist Paula Kingwill who directed the company until 2010. Clinical Psychologist and Dramatherapist Heather Schiff is the current director. The company is a diverse group of performers including music therapists, dramatherapists, musicians and actors.
By using a range of theatrical forms in its own unique blend, the Bonfire Theatre Project aims to:
- Enable and facilitate the healing of splits and artificial divides in our country by creating a space where people can find their common humanity.
- Create a space that supports community building through the sharing of a resource that is common to all of us – our stories.
- Bring theatre and the creative arts into people's lives.
- Create a space for healing of painful memories through sharing them with one’s community.
- Produce theatre of a high aesthetic and entertainment value.
- Celebrate the value of the stories of our lives.
During a Bonfire ‘Performance’, participants are invited to tell real life stories from their lives. Audience members are invited to tell stories on an established and community appropriate theme (which could range from diversity, xenophobia, loss and letting go, celebration to name but some). A series of warm up exercises will involve the audience and prepare them to tell stories from their lives. The telling of these stories are facilitated by an experienced conductor who will support the storyteller to tell the story that both reflects their truth and contributes to the theme of the session.
Professional actors and a musician then play the stories back in improvisation. The stories are performed using a range of theatrical techniques and this dynamic visual experience has a powerful effect on its audience towards developing understanding and mutual respect. The interactive, improvised show is one hour long.