The Heroine`s Journey

In summer 2015 Angelika Wienerroither and I hosted a two girls workshops with the Frauen Büro, Salzburg, Austria several aims.  Firstly, to give girls from two different age groups the chance to increase their self-esteem and secondly to improve their skills writing in English, their second language.  These two aims merged and many more skills were built upon.  Such as, reading their creative stories in English out loud, creating a structure for their story, analysing girls in the media and critically thinking about ways to change destructive images.  As girls enter their teenage years and they are bombarded with images that are highly sexualized before they are ready and unrealistic ideals they feel pressured to live up to, provided open forums such as this, allows for the teenage girls to think more deeply about how the media is speaking to them and gives them chance to fight back with their own voice.
      Writing is one way that you can directly connect with yourself.  In the first workshop that we gave to 12-14 year olds, I was amazed how with just a short introduction to creating a structure for their story with Joseph Campbell`s, Hero`s Journey they were able to launch into their own writing and developed imaginative tales with genres crossing across crime, adventure, fantasy and mystery.
         Angelika and I had been introduced to The Hero`s Journey in different ways and we both agreed that there was a lack of female representation in the mono myth. So by using Brave as an example we explored ways in the girls could create the heroine of their own journey into deep dark depths of themselves with their own stories of other worlds and return transformed and changed.
    As a teenager, there are so many confusing emotions and it is often hard to find the space that you can explore these in a safe and supportive environment.  Whilst school offers lessons and structured learning, Angelika and I wanted to provided a flexible structure in which the girls could learn from each other whilst simultaneously looking within deep within themselves through their writing.  We often brought them back to the surface through Augusto Boal games, that I have been working with since I was a teenager.  The power in these games are that on the surface or for an onlooker they may seems childish, but as you participate but also link these games such as The Vampire of Strasbourg or in this case, Salzburg to character development of the tormentor and oppressor in their Heroine`s Journey, as well as how that relates to oppression in contemporary society, the layers get peeled back.
       We gave them the opportunity to link their writing to symbolic photography as well as performance theatre, so that they could see their writing take shape in new artistic forms.  The aim was not to create a perfect craft in these different mediums, although crafting was indeed part of the process, it was to allow the girls a chance to transpose their ideas, so that new perspectives could be formed and fresh ideas could come forth into their writing. Furthermore, these different mediums such as photo-essays, photo-elicitation and forum theatre, allowed for a more collaborative effort so that the girls vent their ideas in a space that gained creative feedback from others.
    With photo elicitation we chose documentary photographs that drew the curtains back on the world around them, dealing with some pertinent issue.  The girls were immediately curious and engaged delving into the content to bring out the social-economic circumstances of the photographs that gave way to both discussion and inspiration for stories related to these photographs.  Angelika, being a journalist herself, also enabled the girls to have a taste of writing journalism, allowing some insight into the different styles in which the girls to activate their voices through writing.
     These girls were not only brave, but also game to go with us, not only by creating their heroine`s journey, but also a journey into the unknown through these workshops. These took us all to vulnerable and sometimes difficult places in the mind and soul, that eventually made it out into the open as their writing began to unlock and rush forward to a flow, like the flood gates opening.