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Role plays/drama

"In a world of cooperation and peace, we seek not to stifle inevitable change, but to influence its course in helpful and constructive ways."

Jimmy Carter

Role play is a spontaneous hands-on method for simulating a real life situation. As a training method, it is excellent for providing Trainees with an opportunity to involve themselves and to be active in their learning. Role plays permit participants to act out a relevant scenario, giving them a chance to examine their personal reactions and behaviors to the circumstances presented. This is a method that not only allows participants the opportunity to examine their personal reactions to a problem situation, but gives them the chance, in a safe environment, to experiment with different reactions or new behaviors. Role play is an animation technique that draws upon the past experience of participants and requires them to apply theory to actual hands-on practice.

Role plays come in many formats:


A few players act out a stated scenario or problem situation. A group of observers watch closely and give feedback on what they saw and heard. The players, as well as observers, critique the role play and comment on how they felt in the roles they presented.


Each player has an alter ego who stands behind them to prompt with comments or questions they may not be thinking to ask. The feedback session is the same as above.


During the role play, the trainer asks the players to switch roles. This promotes empathy with the other's viewpoint and provides an alternative reaction to the situation. Trainers should be sensitive to the timing of a reversal, looking for the opportune moment to make the switch. Feedback session is the same as above.


During the role play, the trainer asks new participants to continue the dialogue already in progress. This method increases participation by Trainees and provides more and different viewpoints during the presentation. Choose carefully the moment to rotate players. Conduct feedback session same as above.


Players are given a problem situation to act out in two parts: the obviously wrong way to approach the problem and then a possible correct way to deal with the same problem. Feedback is given by observers and players after each presentation.

"We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it."

James Baldwin


A few considerations for using role play:

· Use the role play method a little later in your training when participants are more at ease with one another.

· Set ground rules so that players feel safe and protected from inappropriate feedback during the discussion phase.

· Choose (or write) a role play that directly relates to a problem you want the Trainees to address. Be as concise as possible in its description so that the role play does not become complicated.

· Provide instructions-either oral or written-for the role players and for the observers.

· Give role players enough time to think through their roles (maybe 10 minutes) before asking them to present to a group.

· Arrange the room so that everyone can see and hear the presentation.

· Allow for hesitations or "fumbling" on the part of actors but know when to stop a role play before it gets too far off track. You can usually wait until the second lull in action before ending the role play.

· Conduct a feedback session that analyzes what happened in the role play. Never rush the processing. Allow at least as much time for processing as it took to do the role play itself.

Drama presentations are a very powerful tool for communicating with and mobilizing a community around particular issues. Drama is rooted in the oral traditions found in many developing nations where literacy rates are varied and often limited.

Drama is similar to role play in many ways but requires more time, organization, planning, and commitment by the players. A more formal script needs to be developed for actors to memorize or use as a guide for their own words. Props and scenery will be needed to set the stage. Rehearsals for the actors and publicity for the event will need to be organized to assure attendance by the community.

But do not be discouraged, village drama (or theater) can be very effective for not only getting your main points across, but, for encouraging team work and community involvement. The entire process can be a great deal of fun, too. Remember that some of the best village drama presentations have grown from role plays that first took place in other settings. Keep a record or start a collection of role plays that have worked well and then, given the time and resources, turn them into drama productions.

"Human beings are perhaps never more frightened than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right."

Laurens Van der Post

Role play/drama

A few considerations for using drama:

· The people presenting a play will learn twice as much if they also take part in creating or writing it.

· Encourage people to speak in their own words. Have actors memorize key ideas and sequence, but let them express themselves spontaneously.

· Conduct the drama where the audience can see and hear easily. Some sort of a raised stage is a good idea if possible.

· Insist that actors speak in a "shout" so that people the farthest away can hear.

· A few good simple props can be very useful for stimulating the imagination and holding the audience's attention. Make them colorful and imaginative. Otherwise, the actors should help the audience to imagine that things are there.

· A play or drama will hold people's attention best if it has lots of action, movement, emotion, and surprises. Try for a balance of serious, sad, light and funny.

· You can include the audience with songs during the drama or by pulling up one or two people to take part in a "village meeting" for example.

· Leave time for discussion afterwards for people who want to make comments or ask questions.


· To provide Trainees an opportunity to develop role play and drama skills as animation techniques.

· To increase Trainees' sensitivity toward people in problem situations that they might encounter in the field as PCVs.

· To provide information about cause and prevention of guinea worm.


· Trainees will have learned about and participated in the technique of role play as a tool to assess a problem situation.

· Trainees will have examined their own and others' reactions to a particular problem situation.

· Trainees will be able to identify at least three high risk situations for contracting guinea worm and three ways to avoid contracting guinea worm.



1. Begin by reviewing basic knowledge concerning guinea worm disease. (Trainees should have read the fact sheet on guinea worm by now.) Lead a brief discussion about the causes, prevention, and treatment of the disease.


2. Ask Trainees to tell you what a role play is. Make sure their responses include the concepts of simulation, animation technique for educating the audience, examining theirs and others' reactions to a particular incident, and emphathizing with another's point of view.

Explain that there are several different role play formats. (You might want to take time afterwards to describe some of the other formats.) In this exercise, a simple, single role play format will be used with feedback by both players and observers. State that the purpose of this role play is to recognize misconceptions about guinea worm disease and its prevention and how the Trainees might react in situations presenting those circumstances.

Ask Trainees to set ground rules for the feedback session. Write key words from their responses on flip chart paper. They should include the rule that comments will not be made about individual performances, but rather about the content of the role play and how it made observers and players feel.


3. Ask for volunteers to play the five roles involved and distribute the printed role descriptions. Before having players leave the room to prepare, ask the entire large group if there are any questions. Give players 10 minutes to prepare.

Arrange the room so that everyone can see and participate fully.

Ask observers the following questions to think about during the role play and for discussion afterwards:

· In your opinion, what were the problems in this situation?
· Were the problems resolved? How? Or why not?
· What lessons did you draw from this role play?


4. Call players in and conduct the role play. As the trainer, only intervene if the players are having difficulty. Wait until at least the second lull in action occurs before stopping it. The presentation should last between 5 and 10 minutes only.


5. Allow actors to respond first to the following questions:

· What problems were you facing?
· How did you feel in your role?
· Were there any surprises for you?
· What did you learn from this situation?


6. Now allow observers a chance to respond to the questions stated in step 3.

Ask if there are any other general questions or remarks about what happened in this role play.

Ask if Trainees learned anything new about guinea worm during the presentation. Did they learn anything about how they might deal with a similar situation in the field?

7. If time permits, and interest continues among participants, you can conduct a second role play or repeat the same one using a different format and different players.

8. Thank all players and observers for their participation.

Role play/drama 1