on facilitating group
paratheatre work

© 1977-2017 Antero Alli


The overall aim of facilitating groups in this paratheatre medium:
to suggest objectives, methods, 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 depth of experience with its ritual structures, techniques, transformative processes, as well as knowledge of the various pitfalls and dangers that can arise during this work. Effective facilitation in this work requires the completion of at least five 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 a group's "third eye” , 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 both attentions is necessary for facilitating this paratheatre work.

Using the first attention alone means imposing a preconceived plan or idea on the situation. The second attention remains open to the uncertainties of the present time situation; the situation as the "boss". If first attention can be trained to follow the dictates of the second attention, we can find words and language that more truthfully serve the situation itself - rather than impose first attention labels and plans. When first attention dominates, second attention is inhibited. Without an active second attention, 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.
It's also a good time to determine which methods to introduce after the warm-up -- based on the comitment levels demonstrated in the warm-up; the higher the commitment shown, the more conducive the group becomes to engaging ritual sources of greater charge and depth.

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.

The paratheatrical process, of accessing vital sources in the Body/Psyche towards their expression, starts with suggesting specific objectives without explaining how to achieve them - that process belongs to the participants. For example. Designate one side of the workspace to "Spirit" and the other side to "Creature". Ask participants to line up in No-Form on either side of the workspace with the intention of stepping into the source before them and making their way across the workspace to the other side into the other source. Once they step into a source from No-Form, they are on their own.

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 said, the better.

Single words can often act like mantras; sometimes, one word can be enough. Speak to the body. Allow your directions to remain somewhat incomplete. Participants need time to discover 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 already have enough resistance to deal with - without also having to deal with yours.

Energetic dynamics percolating beneath the threshold of group and individual consciousness informs ritual direction. To remain receptive to these subterranean currents, learn to relax "self-investment". If you become too personally involved or invested in an outcome, participants will pick up on it and they may resist your suggestions. You are there 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 true 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 engage 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 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 highly 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 simply 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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