Social Presencing Theater
“A new social art form I call Social Presencing Theater that stages media events and productions to connect different communities and their transformational stories by blending social action research, theater, contemplative practices, intentional silence, generative dialogue, and open space.”
Theory U: Leading From the Future as it Emerges,
by C. Otto Scharmer, pp 452
Otto Scharmer says in a letter dated Dec 22, 2008, “The question comes up how to communicate the essence of these projects in a way that transforms and heightens the quality of collective awareness and action, which is why we have started to experimentwith a new synthesis between theater, embodied presence, dialogue, stillness and presencing. its called Social Presencing Theater.
Social Presencing Theater is one arm of the Presencing Institute. It is an emerging art form that explores the creative potential of Theory U and presencing. The word theater comes from the Greek thea, which means “the act of seeing.” The word, theater, can be defined as a “place of enactment of significant events or actions.” Social Presencing Theater emerges from the community to enable that community to collectively see itself and enact it’s emerging future.
Using “presencing” and Theory U, Social Presencing Theater is an innovative social art form developed by the Presencing Institute that draws upon a body-based, intuitive knowledge of oneself and others. This workshop provides training in embodiment and Social Presencing Theater as it applies to leadership and change work. Workshop participants engage in individual mindfulness of body practices and in practices that increase awareness of the “social body”. By heightening their sense of inter-personal connection, participants are better able to access creativity, facilitate groups and provide effective and compassionate leadership. The use of non-verbal techniques to inquire into “stuck” situations in one’s personal and organizational life lead to surprising insights and possibilities. Social Presencing Theater heightens sensitivity to current experience, brings attention to shifts in the social or contextual field, and is a method for prototyping seeds of the future.
An integral part of the application of Theory U, SPT is being developed by Otto Scharmer, Arawana, and colleagues at the Presencing Insititute. The program consists of the following training sessions: May 10-14, 2017; November 29-December 3rd, 2017; and May 2-6, 2018. Under the auspices of the Presencing Insititue, this advanced program is designed for leaders, facilitators, consultants, coaches, activists, artists, and others interested in bringing more embodied awareness into their personal and work life. It is an in-depth exploration of the Social Presencing Theater forms and how they can be used to facilitate social and organizational change.
This is a fluid and emerging process. No doubt it will continue to change and develop as different people become involved and different client situations present themselves. The first step has been to identify clients or communities and to interview members of that organization or group. Over a 3-5 day period, using the embodied presence techniques from Art of Making a True Move and an interviewing method based upon the work of Tectonic theater project, Arawana Hayashi, Greg Pierotti and colleagues create a performance of no more than 20 minutes.
The performance can also include members of the client system. The entire client community then gathers for a two hour Social Presencing Theater event that begins with the performance. The performance creates a field shift or a gap in the habitual way the social system regards itself. It enhances that client ‘s capacity to see its own qualities, patterns and potential. The community sees itself embodied and enacted in a respectful way. The performance is followed by reflection and dialogue using World Café or other social technologies, out of which seed of action for the future can emerge.
To see Arawana and Otto Scharmer speak on the origins of Social Presencing Theater, watch the trailer for their extended conversation below. The full series of conversations can be found on the "look" section of the Resources page.
For more information about SPT, you can visit the Presencing Institute's hub here.