Dramas from the Marriage and Family Conference

01 Sep 2014

At the ‘Marriage at the Heart of the Family Conference’ hosted by the Council for Marriage and Family on 14 June, four dramas were presented to present some issues facing families and stimulate discussion. In this article from Intercom, Fr John Chester writes about the process and the scripts

It is said the audience is the other character in a performance of a Brian Friel play and this was also true at the Conference of the Council for Marriage and the Family on Saturday 14 June 2014 held in Holy Cross Diocesan Centre at Clonliffe College. Drama, a seldom used medium at conferences generally, provoked much stimulation and sharing at the Conference on Marriage and Family at the Heart of the Parish. The decision of the Council to use this medium at its conference was inspired and brave.

A preparatory meeting took place in March at which the decision was finally taken to go ahead with drama as a form of illustration. The Council requested four dramas, each five to seven minutes in length; two for Session I, the morning session, which was entitled The Pastoral Challenges to Family in the Context of Evangelisation, and two for Session II in the afternoon entitled Parents, Children and Sharing the Faith.

The dramas were intended as illustrations of some of the many challenges to transmitting values and faith in family life and the ways families respond successfully or otherwise to those challenges. Colette Furlong who was the conference moderator facilitated each of the two sessions and each drama was followed by a period of silent reflection and then a short plenary. Matters arising were collated and synthesised at a late afternoon session.

The seven actors, all from the Monaghan town area, were assembled after Easter, four adults, two men and two women to act in parental roles; and three teenagers to act in family roles; two girls and one boy, and at the first meeting we attempted to ingest and understand the aims and objectives set by the Council. Four separate story-lines emerged and each adult cast member agreed to write the first draft of a script on one of them. Two more meetings involved reading, amending, tweaking, and enhancing the scripts and from mid-May to the week of the conference the actors met twice weekly to rehearse. Colette and some members of the Council attended the second last rehearsal to appraise and offer recommendations.

The first drama of Session I concerned middle-class Catholic parents, John and Mary, who are pillars of the parish community, and John’s drink-driving conviction kept quiet from Mary and his daughter Stacy has just been published in the local newspaper. Alcohol- consumption in and outside the home, snobbery and hypocrisy surfaced as obstacles to the dissemination of values in the home. The second drama presented a meeting of parents Kevin and Maureen with the school principal Mr Brown on why their son James is not performing well at school. James attends school most mornings without having had breakfast and his grades are of increasing concern to his teachers. Kevin and Maureen’s careers and the demands of work are causing them to take their eye off relationships within the home but fortunately they are resolved to address their problems as best they can.

The first drama of Session II exposed Katie’s rejection of the religious values of Sarah, her mother, who has come to convalesce with her in the city due to recent hip-surgery. The social cement of Katie’s native rural community in north County Monaghan is not there in the big city. Sarah feels hurt at Katie’s negative attitude to Church, prayer and practice and Barry, Katie’s husband, wonders if Rosie, their daughter, has missed out on something significant by their not giving priority to faith and religious practice. He relies too heavily on the school to perform the role of faith formation for his daughter. This drama resonated very strongly with the conference.

The participants at the conference picked up on many elements not originally intended by the cast. The medium of drama kept the conference engaged and energised. Drama is a seldom used tool at conferences and the effect of each drama on this conference was deeply satisfying. The cast executed the challenge with tremendous generosity, kindness and commitment and the evaluations reflected the appreciation shared by all participants.

You may wish to watch the dramas on www.icatholic.ie and view the scripts by clicking on the pdfs below:

Session I Drama I

Session 1 Drama II

Session 2 Drama I

Session 2 Drama II

Fr John Chester,