Encouraging Discussion

Doing live theater together with others can provide a rich opportunity to raise issues related the “the unspeakables” of yesterday and today.  Setting the stage with a good introduction and post-reading discussion is important.

Audience Feedback & Discussion

We regard discussions with participants and audience members as an integral part of reading or performing Project Unspeakable and hope you will too. During the discussion, we hope you’ll let people know about the Project Unspeakable website (www.projectunspeakable.com), where they can find a bibliography of sources used in the play as well as a list of other resources.

We strongly recommend that post-reading discussions be led by one or two skilled (though not necessarily professional) facilitators so as to successfully create an atmosphere of safety and compassionate, respectful listening in which everyone who wants to has a chance to say whatever they’re thinking and feeling.

To create this kind of environment, we suggest that facilitators offer a few “guidelines” for the discussion. These may include:

• Letting everyone speak once before anyone speaks a second time (i.e., saving back-and-forth responses until everyone has had a chance to speak).

• Making sure that stronger, louder voices don’t dominate.

• Remembering that people’s feelings/emotions in relation to what they’ve just heard or seen are just as valid, as important, as their thoughts, questions, and ideas. This is a powerful and, for some, controversial play that may bring up some uncomfortable feelings such as shock, anger, disbelief, sadness, and fear.

• Remember that while respectful disagreement is usually helpful and makes for a lively discussion, harsh critiques and judgments of others’ reactions are not helpful and often serve to shut people down.

Finally, since there will be limited time for serious back-and-forth discussions of particular responses to the play, or of specific ideas, plans, or proposals for actions stemming from the play, you might consider organizing a follow-up discussion for a later date, and/or setting up an “Unspeakable” blog site in order to keep the conversation going.  Passing around a sign-up sheet to get people’s contact information would be helpful in this regard.

Sample Questions

Here are some suggested questions that might be helpful to start off with, before getting into a general discussion:

• What were your reactions, your thoughts and feelings, as you listened to or watched the play?

• What in this play, if anything, surprised you?  What was new for you?

• What ideas or parts of the play are staying with you most powerfully?

• What major question or questions are you left with?

• How does what you saw/heard relate to your own memories of the 1960s, or to what you’ve heard about the 1960s?

• What do you think the impact was of these four assassinations, for our society generally and/or for you personally?  And would it have made any difference if these four leaders had been allowed to live?

• In what way, if at all, do you see the play’s themes or questions relating to your
personal life, your work life, your efforts to bring about change in the world, either in the past or right now?

• Do you think the questions or issues raised in the play have relevance today?  How do those questions or issues intersect with current U.S. or world issues and events?

• What makes certain questions and issues “unspeakable,” whether they relate to events of the past or to things happening today?

• What needs to be done – and what can we do – to break the silence and the secrecy around key issues or events that, for most people, are “unspeakable”?