VanFringe Plays for Conflict Resolution Practitioners

Earlier this month, I joined conflict resolution professionals Amanda Semenoff and C.D. Saint on their podcast – Overthinking Conflict – for two conversations about theatre and conflict resolution. In the second of these conversations, we talked about how simply watching theatre can be beneficial to one’s conflict resolution learning, and I began blogging on the topic shortly afterwards. I plan to write more on each of the ways in which one can learn from theatre, but am conscious that I promised Amanda and C.D. a list of recommendations (or best guesses!) of plays at the Vancouver Fringe Festival of interest to conflict resolution professionals – and the Fringe starts next week!

I’ve broken my suggestions down to match the categories in my recent post – “eight ways in which watching live theatre can serve a learning purpose for a conflict resolution professional”. I’ve tried to identify one or two plays that might fit each category, but do want to warn that I have not seen any of these plays yet! (One of the joys of Fringe theatre is the low risk involved in checking out plays you know nothing about: the plays are inexpensive and short, and you will almost certainly hear about something else that is amazing while standing in line. So be brave about trying several plays in an evening!)

Observing and analyzing a contained conflict text

Check out these plays if you’d like to leave the theatre and discuss (or reflect on) the way in which a conflict builds:

  • no big dealNo Big Deal – “A woman, her boyfriend, and the man who allegedly molested her.” Writer/director Gerald Williams created a thought-provoking and well-received piece in last year’s Fringe – The Dance Teacher – and this promises to carry on some of the themes explored there. A good bet for conflict analysis opportunities.
  • Sechs – Six characters with different beliefs about relationships. Coded as funny/intimate/musical.

Observing a dramatized conflict resolution process

While it’s easy to find courtroom dramas and scenes of negotiation in theatre (or in film, television, etc.), there are far fewer representations of other forms of conflict resolution. There is, however, one play at the Fringe this year that seems to offer just that:

i am for you

  • I Am For You – A student teacher uses stage fighting and Shakespeare as a conflict resolution tool.

Learning about other ways of viewing the world

Theatre offers a glimpse into others’ perspectives, can increase empathy, and may well increase understanding. There are so many possibilities in this category, but I’ve tried to narrow my selections down to just a few:

  • Dramatic Works Series – This series of five plays showcases playwrights of Asian descent.  (I Am For You is a part of this series). They all look interesting!
  • Setting Bones – I’ve recently spent some time with two of the three playwrights for this show in their work as diversity consultants, so it’s one I’m especially looking forward to seeing. I anticipate a thought-provoking show with multicultural themes. Fringe New Play Prize Project.

Engaging with metaphor

Metaphor can be a powerful tool for conflict resolution practitioners. It can illuminate ideas and situations; and it can provide distance from and perspective on a difficult topic.


  • Hyena Subpoena – A combination of spoken word poetry and projections of the animals within us. The description speaks of a meditation on predators and prey, so I am anticipating this will fit nicely within the conflict metaphor category.
  • Multiple Organism  – I may be way off base in where I’m placing this piece in my categories, but I am absolutely confident in recommending it. Mind of a Snail has created some truly amazing work in the past, and I have only heard great things about this production. Check it out just for the creativity and a whole new appreciation for shadow puppets!

Reading meaning through physical theatre

So much of our communication is physical, but we spend so little time focused on physical communication. Take a chance on some very physical theatre to stimulate thinking about physicality and conflict.


  • Bushel and Peck – Alastair Knowles is incredible at physical theatre. If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing his work as half of James and Jamesy, you won’t need to know more. If not, here’s a review from this show’s previous run.
  • Breath-Ahhh – Theatre Terrific approaches physicality differently than most plays – from its inclusive cast and focus on accessibility for audience members through its  exploration of breath, this show promises to challenge the audience to recognize and think about the physical.

Observing others’ skills in scripted or improvisational form

This is a tough category to predict in advance. In the past, I’ve been impressed by a wide array of performers with incredible skills directly applicable to the work of conflict resolution: Tonya Jone Miller’s empathy, active listening and spontaneity in The Story of Os and the incredible awareness of audience member needs by James and Jamesy stand out amongst recent Fringe shows. If I come across examples this year, I will certainly share them.  Please share any you see with me!

Explorations of historical conflict

Plays which reimagine historical conflicts or conflict set in past times can offer fresh insights into both those conflicts and contemporary problems.

  • An Arrangement of Shoes – This play is set in an Indian train station during the Gulf War, and also apparently references considerable Indian history over the past 70 years.

Explorations of neuroscience, mental health topics, and other content that enriches our practice

There are so many areas of study that inform conflict resolution practice, and many are well-represented in theatre. In particular, deeply personal stories of mental health topics can bring insights that help us improve our practices.

  • Periscope – Last year, Megan Phillips brought a fascinating study of anxiety to the Fringe – Not Enough.  This year, she is bringing another personal story to the stage – or rather to Ocean and Crow Yoga (likely to be an intimate venue).
  • Katharine Ferns Is in Stitches – A show about mental illness, domestic abuse, and drug addiction that had solid word-of-mouth (at least in the queues I was standing in) at the Edinburgh Fringe over the last few weeks.

Please do let me know if you stumble across other shows that should be shared with conflict resolution practitioners! And I hope to see you at the Fringe!


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