What is Theatre of the Oppressed?
Culture.World.Me. Team shares the basics
How did it all begin?
Let's delve into history
The Theatre of the Oppressed was first elaborated as a theatrical form in the 1970s by Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal. Boal's techniques use theatre as means of promoting social and political change. His method was based on the assumption that dialogue is the common, healthy dynamic between all humans, that all human beings desire and are capable of dialogue, and that when a dialogue becomes a monologue, oppression ensues.
In the Theatre of the Oppressed, the audience becomes active, they explore, show, analyse and transform the reality in which they are living.
Oppression, according to Augusto Boal, is when one person is dominated by the monologue of another and has no chance to reply. Boal's life is devoted to giving those who are in this one-down position the tools with which to express themselves and discover a way out of their powerlessness. He does this through the medium of theatre by turning spectators (or passive oppressed people) into actors (or fighters against oppression).

The spectator takes on the role of the actor. Everyone is both spectator and actor, at least potentially. Everyone is a protagonist – the spectator does not delegate power to the actor. Even though some people might choose not to come on stage, the fact that they decide notto intervene is itself a form of acting.

The Theatre of the Oppressed methodology consists of...
... a series of games, exercises and techniques which involve the body, the senses and engage personal experience 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 participatory form of theatre, to create a safe space for people to rehearse their actions and find various opportunities for social transformation which can later be used in real life.

Game playing is one of the core activities of Theatre of the Oppressed. An extensive arsenal of well-crafted and expertly facilitated games allows participants to stretch the limits of their imaginations, demechanize habitual behaviors, develop new responses, and analyze societal structures of power and oppression. Game playing is useful, fun, and builds community!
Some of the most commonly used and known Theatre of the Oppressed kinds are Image Theatre, Forum Theatre and Rainbow of Desire.
Image Theatre allows participants to explore situations they would like to change and see what positive transformation looks and feels like by sculpting their own and others' bodies into images of problems and transformation. Images are "dynamized" with words and actions to develop processes for making transformative change.

Forum Theatre performances present short plays which show a situation that needs to be changed. Audience members are invited to replace an actor on stage and try to change the situation. Other actors respond in character, trying to maintain their oppressive or exploitative power. Forum Theatre provides a means for testing solutions in action. The audience makes and evaluates all choices. Some of the groups with whom CAT works create and perform their own Forum Theatre pieces, while others supply us with information from which we develop scripts. Legislative Theatre is an extension of Forum Theatre which leads to public policy proposals.

Rainbow of Desire exercises use Image and Forum Theatre to explore internalized oppression as the result of external, social, and systemic pressures. Participants develop an understanding of self-oppression as a way of increasing empathy and exploring opportunities for creative expression and public transformation.

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