October 30, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 34  

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"Drama therapy" tried to ease Concordia tension

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

Concordia University, the site of riots surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last year, was the latest stop for California psychotherapist Armand Volkas' magical mystery cure: playback theatre.

Drama therapy was the latest installment in the Peace and Conflict Resolution Academic Series at the school, according to Stephen Snow, Concordia's graduate creative art therapy program co-ordinator.

"We were hoping that this could be one little step in the right direction towards healing the damage of last year's riots," Snow said, despite the smaller-than-expected turnout.

Volkas explained his program this way: "It's the use of acting, improvisation, psychodrama and other expressive art as therapeutic tools [used, in this case, for] inter-cultural conflict resolution."

"Playback theatre involves a trained group of actors and in a performance we invite members of the audience to come up on stage and tell a story. They then choose actors and the story is played back," he explained.

In an event Snow said received a great deal of press interest, the drama therapy group arrived in Montreal on Wednesday, trained volunteers to participate, then conducted two full-day workshops for Israeli and Palestinian students, culminating in a public performance Sunday.

"[The press interest] makes you kind of cynical, because it felt like [the media] were waiting for something bad to happen. I was very disappointed in the National Post coverage - they focused on the negatives, when a lot of positives actually occurred," Snow noted.

Art therapy is a relatively new way of dealing with emotional problems and Western's art therapy program is currently under review.

"We work very closely with the Art Therapy Association of Ontario and they'd really like to see a master's [degree] in art therapy program developed," said Sharon Collins from the Centre for Continuing Studies, which offers the program. "The program is not currently accepting new students, because the existing program may not continue in its current form."



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