on paratheatre facilitation
© 1977-2017 Antero Alli


The overall aim of facilitating groups in this paratheatre medium rests with
suggesting techniques and ritual designs that amplify and evoke the underlying dynamics
and existing conditions innate to each individual and the group as a whole.


I have discovered how effective facilitation in this paratheatre medium requires a breadth and depth of experience with its ritual structures, techniques, transformative processes, as well as knowledge of the various pitfalls and dangers that can arise doing this work. I have found that to effectively facilitate this work requires the completion of at least six Labs; each Lab running 7-12 weeks, once or twice a week for three-hour sessions. The role of facilitator is not the same as director, or teacher, or guru, or therapist. The facilitator is more like the group's "third eye” , capable of perceiving the innate dynamics of each and every session of work and then, suggesting directives based on these perceptions. - Antero Alli


Certain powers of observation are necessary to detect the present-time moods, needs, resistances, and overall spirit embodied by any given group during each session. These observations can begin the moment participants enter the space. Obvious properties such as gender balance, age, energy levels, skill, and talent should also be noted.

The first attention is that awareness linked to language, thinking and the assignment of meaning (labels); the first attention allows for interpretation. The second attention is that awareness linked to presence, energy, and phenomena without assigning interpretation or labels; the second attention allows for direct perception of the existing energetic dynamics and phenomena. The knowledge and use of these two attentions is necessary for effective facilitation in this paratheatre medium.

Using the first attention alone means imposing a preconceived plan on the situation. The second attention has no plans and remains open to the uncertainties of the present time situation. If first attention can be trained to follow the dictates of the second attention, we can find words and language that serves the situation - rather than obscure the situation with first attention labels alone. When first attention dominates, second attention is inhibited. Without an active second attention, and a taming of the first attention to serve its perception, effective facilitation in this medium is not possible (also see "The First and Second Attentions").

The five-phase physical warm-up cycle provides time to observe the levels of commitment and energy, or lack thereof, in the group.
technique workafter the warm-up before introducing more charged sources and rituals.

It is useless to speak before observing. There are changes occurring out there on the floor, present-time group dynamics unfolding moment-to-moment before your eyes. You may need to continually adjust your suggestions to coincide with the influx of new information from the group. Stay flexible. Stay alert. When in doubt: do not speak.

During the rituals themselves, participants experience the facilitator as a disembodied voice. Certain vocal and tonal adjustments serve ritual facilitation better than others. Avoid suggestions that spell things out or define things too much or require any thought to understand them. Keep suggestions simple and open-ended. Participants want to experience forces and discover realities, not have them explained. Choose your words carefully; the less you say, the better.

Single words can often act like mantras; sometimes, one word can be enough. Speak to the body. Body wisdom resists over-definition. Allow your directions to remain somewhat incomplete. Participants need time to discover and evolve their own responses and processes. If you're tense, participants will hear it in your voice. If you experience tension before a session, find a way to get it out of your system before facilitating. Participants have enough of their own resistances to deal without also having to deal with yours.

Energetic dynamics percolating beneath the threshold of group and individual consciousness tend to be unpredictable. To remain receptive to these subterranean currents, learn to exercise a "lack of self-investment". If you become too personally involved or invested in an outcome, participants will pick up on it and may resist your suggestions. You are here to support their involvement, not yours. Create space for the participant's emotional involvement by removing your own. The facilitator is a ritual catalyst. A catalyst never undergoes the same changes as the catalyzed.

It is wiser to end cool than to end hot. This work activates the energetic body; the Central Nervous System is stimulated and "lit." At the end of each session, suggest a final ritual to serve a cooling off process, rather than one that leaves everyone hopped up and wired. Restoring balance and equilibrium is a good rule of thumb here. When these rituals end late at night, the activated energetic body can sometimes keep participants awake into the wee hours. In the event of insomnia and excessive charge in the nervous systems, epsom salt baths can help neutralize any excess electromagnetism (mix 1 cup per 100 pounds body in a full bath of hot water and then, soak for no more than thirty minutes; often times, 15 minutes soak can be enough). A longer, deeper No-Form practice helps diffuse the effects of the more charged rituals.

A group circle ends each session to provide an opportunity to check in, share notes and voice perceptions. After a particularly charged ritual, people may be silenced by what happened. The aim of the group circle is to simply report what happened, not what it might mean. If participants start espousing meaning or philosophical contexts to their experiences, gently nudge them back to their actual experience, i.e., "What happened to you ?" "How did you relate to what happened ?" Though philosophical discourse and psychoanalysis have their place, the purpose of the group circle is to report what happened in the session.


Abridged from material excerpted from
"Towards an Archeology of the Soul" by Antero Alli

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