26 October 2010

Is the King wearing a coat?

I like being in conferences where people share ideas, where dialogues generate insights, and where our brains are bombarded with many different ideas.

I am taking part in the Critical Studies in Drama in Education International Symposium organised by Peter O'Connor at the University of Auckland. Today I was listening to a presentation that mentioned how drama tell truth through lies, and how important it is that we help people find truth through the medium of drama, when the image of a recent incident appeared in my mind.

It was a trial teaching session where one of my master students was testing out a segment of her process drama which she was going to teach in her practicum. She was doing The King's New Clothes. She put everybody in role as different characters in the story, and one of the participants was in role as the King. He mimed putting on the "coat" the deceitful tailors made for him, sat there in his throne, and there came the difficult question.

"Is he wearing any clothes?" the facilitator asked.

No one was able to answer that question.

There we saw him, the participant, definitely wearing clothes. And we had seen him, as someone doing drama, miming to put on a coat, which nobody could see for real since he was miming. And yet we were also seeing him, as the King in the drama, wearing a coat that nobody was supposed to be able to see – but God knows if any "wise" people in the drama were actually able to "see" the coat?

The image came to me as I was pondering on the questions of "Whose truth are we talking about?" and "Whose lenses are we using when we talk about truth?"

And the whole notion of truth becomes even more complicated when socio-political issues are taken into account, isn't it? Consider talking about truth in a political system where the name of an awardee of Nobel Peace Prize just never comes up in any internet search? And how about the different "truths" people hold about the benefits of economic development, say in a city like Hong Kong where the "grand narratives" on the importance of economic advancement are so strongly instilled in people that those who try to uncover the "truth" are so much marginalised and seen as deviants?

Some good food for thought indeed…

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