During the spring 2013 semester, students from Barry’s Theatre program took role-playing from the stage to the real world when they assisted the North Miami Police Department’s Crisis Negotiation Team with training sessions for hostage and suicidal-jumper scenarios.
The training sessions, which took place in March and April, involved eight Barry Theatre students, who volunteered to assist the North Miami Police Department by role-playing characters that would be involved in real crisis scenarios.
“The students had the experience of developing a character and carrying it through an extended improv situation,” said Hugh Murphy, Ph.D., associate professor of theatre at Barry.
The first session, a hostage negotiation, took place in an abandoned house in North Miami. As part of the training, Barry students played the perpetrator, the hostage victims, the witnesses and bystanders who would hypothetically be involved.
The second training session, a suicidal-jumper scenario, took place in an off-campus house owned by Barry and required Theatre students to play potential "jumpers" who had to be talked in from the ledge.
“I thought it would be a wonderful way to represent Barry with the North Miami Police Department and an opportunity to get some improvisation experience,”said Laura Pons, a senior at Barry majoring in acting, who participated in both training sessions. “It was a little intimidating at first, because we were working with cops! But once we thought of it as acting in a play, where the police were just another character, everything seemed to flow.”
The North Miami Police Department’s Crisis Negotiation Team trains routinely, concentrating on scenario-based training in which team members work as realistically as possible to find a safe resolution to various crisis situations, said Patricia Fishel, commander of the department’s Crisis Negotiation Team.
“Unfortunately, we usually had only each other to play the different roles,” Fishel said. “As such, we lose an amount of realism to the scenarios.”
In February, Fishel reached out to Barry’s Theatre program for help. By bringing in in Theatre students to play the roles of subjects, victims and witnesses during their trainings, the team was able to concentrate on acting as negotiators, Fishel said.
“The collaboration has been very successful,” Fishel said. “The students used their skills as actors and as improvisers to provide real-life situations.”
A third collaboration with Barry’s Theatre program will take place in October, Fishel said.
“Dr. Murphy and the students have been indispensible to our successful training.”
For more information about Barry’s Theatre program, visit https://www.barry.edu/fine-arts/theatre/about-the-program/