Theatre of the Oppressed is a type of theatre methodology developed by Augusto Boal (1931 – 2009) in the 1960s inspired by the critical pedagogy and pedagogy of the oppressed concepts of Paulo Freire (1921 – 1997). Both of them were based in Brazil at the time and the social-political context of those days (post-colonialist era and authoritarian military junta regime) significantly influenced the development of these concepts, approaches and methodology. Augusto Boal experimented with theatre in order to give voice to the oppressed, to empower them to fight the oppression in their life.
Main features of Theatre of the Oppressed Methodology
o Is an interactive type of theatre – the public will be engaged actively and can participate in the process and become “spect-actors”;
o Tackles real life oppression in its various forms (the discussion here could be vast as very often oppression can be interpreted in endless ways and can be applied to almost all areas of life);
o Aims to bring along a change in relation with the specific oppression approached – mostly by empowering the oppressed and people around.
o It is one of the most popular types of TO. Often in a Forum theatre performance we see a real life case depicted (which reflects a situation of oppression) and in which the public is invited to participate actively by coming on the stage to propose solutions to the exposed examples of oppression. Based on the proposals, ideas, interventions of the public, a discussion (forum) will take place with the public;
o In the long term it aims that the public will apply the proposed solutions in their real life (if the topic depicted is relevant for them);
o The process is facilitated, moderated by a Joker who makes the connection between the stage (actors) and the public;
o Being so popular, it is also one method that is being applied in an extremely large number of approaches. In the Forum Theatre section of this toolkit you will find one approach of working with the method described in detail.
o It often follows the same structure as Forum Theatre but aims to extract ideas from the public in order to draft proposals for a law or changes in a law (at local, regional or national level);
o These events can be organized in partnership with the institutions which are responsible with taking the proposed drafts further (municipalities, local councils, schools, parliaments, etc.) or not. In the latter option the organizers follow the steps for the proposal to reach the responsible institutions.
o There is no guarantee that the ideas of the citizens will actually make it into the final version of the law.
Forum Theatre is the most popular form of Theatre of the Oppressed worldwide and also the oldest, as it was the first one to be experimented by Augusto Boal. Due to this popularity, very often Forum Theatre practitioners use the terminology of Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) as having the same meaning as Forum Theatre when in fact TO is just an umbrella of methods and Forum Theatre is one of them. At the same time it is also probably the method that has the highest diversity in terms of how it is structured or what rules are used in its implementation phase due to its large history and ramifications around the world and also due to the lack of an initial specific methodology.
The information about Forum Theatre above is quoted from the "Act for What You Belive - Methods for Social Change - Image and Forum Theatre" by Andreea-Loredana Tudorache, A.R.T. Fusion Association, Romania, 2013 You can download the book from: https://en.artfusion.ro/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Methods-for-Social-Change-Image-and-Forum-Theatre-2014.pdf
The Forum Theatre method has been used actively during the training program. Check out pictures from the training moments.
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