June F. Dickie


Many children in South Africa grow up in townships, where they are exposed to violence, drugs, gangs, and poverty. Difficulties in their home situations result in many of them lacking soft skills that enable a person to thrive (such as self-esteem, self-confidence, and the ability to communicate well). This chronic deprivation is an ongoing trauma which requires intervention to promote healing. Using the arts and sport to provide such intervention has been found to be successful, but theorists posit that drama could have value for social and emotional learning. This study tests that hypothesis: two groups (a group of grade 7 learners and a group of adults from a Bible-study fellowship) participate in a dramatic presentation of the biblical story of Ruth. Over a period of six months, the participants meet weekly (in their respective groups) for an hour to learn the story and find their way of expressing it. Three performances before various audiences are presented.

To highlight emotional issues in the story, a jester is included in the cast, with the role of interrupting the story at appropriate places and asking the audience questions as to the motivations and moods of the characters. This prompts the audience to reflect on their own emotional responses to various difficult situations with which they readily identify. By considering their own viewpoints, and those of others, audience members are stretched in their social and emotional learning. Moreover, it is apparent that, through the drama experience, the actors gain significantly in self-esteem, self-confidence, and their ability to speak in public before an audience (even adult strangers). This article provides a stimulus for using performance of a biblical text to explore options for dealing with traumatic situations.


Trauma-healing; Book of Ruth; Performance; Community involvement

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

Attribution CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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