This role play activity is based on setsubun, the Japanese festival of the coming spring, held in early February. One feature of setsubun is the mamemaki, ritual bean-throwing to chase away demons. I learned from a local shinto priest that the practice is based on the peasants' struggle to survive the winter. The demons represent hunger, death, disease and the beans -- the most nutritious food available at that time of year -- represent health and potential growth, the power to survive until spring.
1. Joker asks people to identify everything they most fear: e.g. illness, poverty, war... (brainstorm on board)
2. Then ask people to identify their greatest hopes, the things in their lives that make them strong: e.g. love, friendship, health... (brainstorm on board).
3. Recruit two or three Demons (oni) -- their role is to be the bearers and representatives of what we fear. Each Demon represents a different fear. They make simple paper masks which they will wear when they "attack." The idea is to frighten the people. When the Demons enter they will announce themselves, e.g. "I am war!" "I am sickness!" and make a short speech that describes their fearsome features or acts. The remaining players are "the people."
4. Meanwhile, ask each member of "the people" to choose the single most powerful thing on the list of hopes and write it ten times on slips of paper. Roll up the slips into small balls of paper (the "beans"). You need to make many beans, so people can throw handfuls of them.
5. The role of "the people" is to stand up to the Demons and chase them away by throwing the paper beans and shouting, "Out with the [feared things that the Demons represent], in with the [hopeful thing]!" In the traditional setsubun, people say "Demons out! Luck in!". In this case, they can shout, for example, "Out with War! In with Love!" or whatever terms they have come up with in the first part.
In Setsubun, the Demons are always driven away. You can choose to drive them away (leaving them free to come back again) or to reform them, welcoming them into the community of the people.
6. Discussion: which fears are strongest? Which hopes? Does fear play a role in our lives? In our activism? How do we deal with it? What role do our hopes play? ... I wouldn't try to make too much of it, just see if the discussion goes an interesting direction and if not, move on.