Theatre of the Oppressed Methodology
Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) is a theatre method which was created by a Brazilian theatre director and politician Augusto Boal in the 1960s during the times of dictatorship in Brazil. Through TO Boal sought to creat a safe space for participation of every citizen in the creative process, for discussion and solution of social and economic issues of people who struggle from oppression and injustice.
The methodol consists of a series of games, exericses and techniques which inolve the body, the senses and engage personal experiences of participants to create opportunities for critical reflection of our social reality, build dialogue and jointly search for bottom-up solutions to social issues. As an interactive and particpatory form of theatre, TO creates a safe space for people to rehearse their actions and find various opportunities for social transformation which can later be used in real life.
Forum-theatre is ne of the most popular methods of TO which is used all over the world. Forum-theatre plays and written and performed not by professional artists and actors, but by members of communities who experience difficult life situations. During a preparatory workshop, facilitated by a practitioner of TO - a Joker - participants play games, perform various exericses and analyse issues that trouble them the most, and then create the scrip of a forum-play. The process of play development helps participants better understand their own issues, share their stories with others and find support among other members of the group.
After that the group performs the play which they created in front of an audience. The forum-play has certain structure: the protagonist of the play faces challenges in life, but fails to overcome them. The play depicts a social issue but does not offer a solution. After watching the play, spectators have a chance to discuss the issues which the play depicts: what are the roots of the problem? Can we say that this problem is a systemic one for our society and is faced by many people? Which existing cultural, legislative and social norms create or maintain this problem?
After a period of dialogue and analysis the Joker invites spectators to offer their own strategies of behavoir in order to address the systemic issues shown in the play. Forum-theatre invites the spectator not only to explain in words, but rather to show in action what can be done differently by stepping up on the stage, replacing an actor and demonstrating a strategy for solving the discussed issue. Therefore, the spectator of a forum-theatre play becomes a spect-actor. After each intervetion of the spectator the Joker facilitates a discussion of the proposed strategy. Another important principle of forum-theatre says that in the process of dialogue between spectators and actors there are no mistakes or "false" intervetions, because theatre is a space of play and creativity. In this theatre one can try out any strategy in order to gain new experience, analyse one's efforts at changing reality and to decide collectively whether a certain strategy can be effective in real life or not. Thus, through dialogue of actors and spectators, a truth is born.
Apart from forum-theatre TO arsenal (portrayed as a tree) also includes image theatre, rainbow of desire, invisible theatre, legislative theatre and direct action.
In our work at "Theatre for Dialogue" we use mostly the tools from the arsenal of TO, but we are also open to combining it with other methods of interactive theatre, participatory arts and education, if they contribute to our main goal - humanizing Humanity.