Augusto Boal: Theater and sensitive thinking

During the last week the renown theater director and writer Augusto Boal held an event on invitation of the berlin biennale. It was a very special evening introducing himself through a longer speech, and then followed by some pieces with invited actors, his son and the participating audience to give a a lively impression of his ‘Forum Theater’ form of the Theater of the Opressed.
Anyone ever having the chance to see such an event – just go! It is the experience which translates the idea best. Nevertheless I will try to give here some information and impression on Augusto Boal and his work.

A theater director, writer, and politician, Augusto Boal was recently nominated to be a candidate for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. He is the most prominent theater pedagogue of our time, attributed with revolutionizing the methods of working with actors and introducing ways of incorporating the audience into the play’s production in order to restore a sense of community. Boal’s teaching and practice influenced theater and pedagogic work worldwide. His Theatre of the Oppressed was created in 1971 in Brazil with the specific goal of dealing with social exclusion, political repression, and other urgent local issues. The Forum Theatre in Peru (1973), the Invisible Theatre in Argentina, and the Rainbow of Desire in Europe were each offshoots of the Theatre of the Oppressed. Augusto Boal was born in 1931 in Rio de Janeiro (BR), he lives and works in Rio de Janeiro.
Augusto Boal established the theatre of the oppressed in the early 1970s.
Theatre of the Oppressed emerged around the idea to open up and get able to break the predefined ratio by acting through a problematic situation and finding a solution, which seemed ‘unthinkable’ as outside of the ratio of the oppressor.
Theatre of the Oppressed is the Game of Dialogue: we play and learn together. All kinds of Games must have Discipline – clear rules that we must follow. At the same time, Games have absolute need of creativity and Freedom. TO is the perfect synthesis between the antithetic Discipline and Freedom.
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It’s a theatre designed for people who want to learn ways of fighting back against oppression in their daily lives. Audience members are urged to intervene by stopping the action coming on stage to replace actors, and enacting their own ideas. Bridging the separation between actor and spectator, the Theatre of the Oppressed is practiced by “spect-actors” who have the opportunity to both act and observe. This particular type of interactive theatre is rooted in the pedagogical and political principles specific to the popular education method developed by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire.

1. Explore the situation lived by the participants.
2. To analyse the root causes of the situation, including both internal and external sources of oppression.
3. Explore group solutions to these problems.
4. To act to change the situation following the precepts of social justice.

The facilitator creates a safe space for people to explore ideas in an uninhibited way. He is here to allow people to come to their own conclusions. People can carry subconscious psychological scars that manifest themselves in many ways and they may be unaware of the source of their pain and anger. For this purpose it is important that the facilitator has the trust of the group. The facilitator discusses a contract with the group. They discuss about what boundaries there should be, and what experiences shared are confidential. They need to leave the outside world outside for the duration of the workshop.

The facilitator is there to observe and guide the group without interfering with the process too much, gradually introducing activities that exercice both the body and the mind. (source)

Listen to a talk with Augusto Baol: Augusto Boal unplugged at the Abbey April 3rd 2008
Find more on Agusto Boal and The Theater of the Oppressed on wikipedia.

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