Drama: Character and improvisation

Stage One: The return to play and playfulness

Sesame sessions work to develop spontaneous play through games and group activities. The aim of the therapist is to encourage the creative expression of the participant's psychological impulses whilst warming up the body and the imagination. The session offers age-appropriate - but still playful - interactive exercises that are spatially active and socially interactive. Key themes in this work are concerned with assisting in the liberation from inhibiting and disabling self-censorship and the suppression of unwanted, unwelcome or intolerable feelings. The sense of play coupled with permission are the qualities that enable a person to feel comfortable enough to engage, later, with their presenting difficulties.


  1. To introduce drama exercises and drama games in a non-threatening and accessible way
  2. To encourage expressiveness, playfulness, creativity, spontaneity, humour
  3. To select material that aims for the client to have a new experience whilst feeling contained
  4. To introduce drama and movement as collective, collaborative art forms
  5. To develop trust in the group through familiar material
  6. To formulate an assessment, for the therapist, of how the participant responds.

Stage Two: Improvisation and the setting

Improvisation, within the Dramatic context, is the ability to respond in the moment and to spontaneously create enacted narrative. Therapeutically Sesame sessions offer participants the opportunity to transfer these skills and experiences to their real lives. This process begins with offering experimentation with developing an imagined space. This can include working with different imaginary environments, landscapes and the embodiment of aspects of these. Work can include imaginative or embodiment work, e.g. embodiment of seasons, imagining different landscapes through which to travel.


  1. To amplify the images of different landscapes
  2. To teach participants how to embody the ideas initiated by images of place
  3. To develop an imagined scenario through images of place
  4. To begin to create what Peter Slade called 'the land' through sound, mime, atmosphere and the imagination
  5. To explore landscapes as analogous to exploring feeling and atmosphere.

Stage Three: Improvisation and the formation of character

This stage works towards developing an invented character or role. Therapeutically the Sesame session encourages participants to explore different social, cultural and gender roles and their attendant ways of being. At a deeper psychological level, the experience of enacting someone else can have profoundly healing outcomes. The experience of making a character that is both 'Not me' and 'Of me' offers the possibility of actually experiencing change but in a temporary and safe manner. This can happen in many ways, for example, through the use of Rudolph Laban's motion factors, improvisation, script, images of place and dreams.


  1. To experiment with different roles and images of self
  2. To build upon the ability to sustain a connection with a character through movement, voice, improvisation or script
  3. To allow for the expression of shadow material through the character and role
  4. To experience new ways of relating with others through a different role
  5. To explore opposites within the role
  6. To experiment with connections to mythological and archetypal images and characters from within existing stories and myths.

Stage four: Dramatic enactment - What?

Here Sesame sessions offer the possibility of connection with archetypal qualities through the enactment of mythology and fairy tale. Therapeutically the experience offers the participant a real validation of their creative expression through the ritual of performance and being witnessed by others. This involves the sustained immersion in a character and the subsequent devising of a scene that can be presented and witnessed. This stage can also be the enactment of a told story or myth and the selection of an existing role from within the story.


  1. To formulate and connect with a more complex character developed over a longer period of time
  2. To offer a depth of investigation into personal qualities through role development
  3. To validate the experience through being unconditionally supported and witnessed by others
  4. To offer the challenge of devising a small piece, negotiating with others as part of a small group
  5. To offer a longer-term scale to dramatherapy, where there is the possibility to share the work within communities.

Stage Five: Reflection - Why?

Sesame sessions help people to develop a capacity to contemplate personal meaning from their experience. In short, to notice what they noticed about their experience of being in this session. This stage involves coming out of character or experience and reflection on the return to the here and now. This can happen in many ways including writing, drawing, group ritual, or talking as a group. The Sesame training stresses that therapists do not interpret and tell their clients what they think their client's choice of role suggests. These activities are sometimes structured but sometimes an open agenda can allow all that needs to be expressed to be experienced.


  1. To provide space for quiet contemplation and reflection on the experience
  2. To offer the chance for a discussion about the impact of the experience
  3. To create some distance from the experience To link the experience to other experiences.

See Drama: Case Study for an example of drama used in the Sesame Approach