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PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: THE THEORY AND PRAXIS OF BOALS THEATRE OF THE OPPRESSED BY ASHLYN KING A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Amy Reid Sarasota, Florida April, 201 2
ii A c k n o w l e d g e m e n t s Thanks to all those who made this project possible. Your contributions were integral and my gratitude is endless. Dr. Amy Reid, une consei lleuse, un mentor, une mre, et une amie Votre soin ma permis de mpanouir en tant qutudiante. Merci mille fois. Thank you to Jamie Samowitz, Laine Forman, and to all the students of the Theatre of the Oppressed and Beyond ISP for your effort, energ y and wisdom. I thank my family friends and cat for being there for me throughout my thesis year and supporting me without fail.
iii To Gabrielle Suzanne Byam and to all those like her, facilitators of peace.
iv T a b l e o f C o n t e n t s Acknowledgements ...ii Dedication.ii i List of Figures.. v Abstract ..v i Introduction 1 Chapter 1: .... 4 Doing Pedagogy: The Inf luences and Theory of Augusto Boal Chapter 2: The Need for Adaptation: Three Case studies of Theatre of the Oppressed "Successor Programs" Chapter 3: Walking the Walk: My Experience Facilitating a Th eatre of the Oppressed Workshop Adaptation Bibliogra phy.89
v L i s t o f F i g u r e s Figure 1: Jana Sanskriti Center for the Theatre of the Oppressed THIRDEYE South Asia Blog, 2010. Web. Figure 2: Fire in the Hol e! Citizens in Po wer & Development Association. West Port Arthur, TX. 2004 PDF. Figure 3: Brown, Marcia. H.I.T.T.. Gainesville, FL. 2010. Web. Figure 4: Theatre of the Oppressed and Beyond ISP. Jan 2012. Personal Photo. Figure 5 : Reh earsal for Revolution. Feb 2012. Personal Graphic.
vi PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: THE THEORY AND PRAXIS OF BOALS THEATRE OF THE OPPRESSED Ashlyn King New College of Florida, 2012 ABSTRACT This thesis was divided into two main portions: a w ritten thesis, and a practical/performative portion. The written thesis explores the work of Augusto Boal, who developed the Theatre of the Oppressed, the influences that shaped his work, and current adaptations of his activist theatrical technique. I also explored the praxis of Boals techniques in a month long Theatre of the Oppressed style workshop conducted during the New College ISP period in January of 2012. The written thesis includes three chapters. The first considers the genesis and implication s of Boal' s theory, including the relationship of h is work to the Pedagogy of the Oppressed developed by Boal' s contemporary, Paulo Freire. The second chapter explores adaptations of the Theatre of the Oppressed, providing overviews of three diverse case studies of successor programs, including Jana Sanskriti from West Bengal, India, Community Environmental Forum Theatre (CEFT) from Galveston, Texas, and Hippodrome Improvisational Teen Theatre (H.I.T.T.) from Alachua County, Florida. The third chapter pr ovides a description, analysis and evaluation of the practical portion of the thesis, the Theatre of the Oppressed style workshop I led in collaboration with Jamie Samowitz and Laine Forman, both New College alumna and professional T.O.
vii facilitators. In t his way my thesis moves from a theoretical frame to one of action, a progression in line with Boal' s own assessment of his project as "rehearsal for revolution." Dr. Amy Reid Division of Humanities
1 I n t r o d u c t i o n Theatre of the Oppressed came to my attention when I was in middle school in my hometown, Gainesville, Florida. I was involved with my local theatre, the Hippodrome, and participated in their acting classes and summer camps for teens. The theatre provided a community outreach program called H.I.T.T. (Hippodrome Improvisational Teen Theatre) through which I first encountered the techniques of Augusto Boal. In my time as a H.I.T.T. student, I was introduced to Theatre of the Oppressed as a participant. The instructors of the program used Boal s exercises and, specifically, his technique of Forum Theatre to further both their goals of teaching theatre and raising social consciousness. My experiences within the H.I.T.T program were so inspiring that I became a volunteer and then an employee of th e Hippodrome in order to be more involved with their theatre outreach initiatives. When I left for college, I was interested in finding ways to explore Boals ideas on social empowerment and education. In my first year at New College, I did a month long i nternship with the H.I.T.T. program which allowed m e to teach Theatre of the Oppressed techniques on site at schools all throughout Alachua County. Along with the internship, I wrote a paper on my experiences and my research in the Theatre of the Oppressed field. This experience represents my formal introduction to both the theory and praxis of Boals techniques. The internship inspired both an increased curiosity in the world of Theatre of the Oppressed and led to my desire to teach Theatre of the Oppresse d in an educational milieu post graduation While I first encountered Theatre of the Oppressed because of my interest in theatre working as a Resident Advisor (RA) has crystallized my belief in its practical
2 value I have been an RA for three years, an d during that time, Ive sought to foster community in my residence halls and on the campus at large. The se experiences confirmed my interests in alternative problem solving and community building. This was yet another indicator of my dedication to the The atre of the Oppressed cause. My final year at New College and my thesis provided a unique opportunity to turn my interest in Theatre of the Oppressed into the capstone of my undergraduate education. As a student, I wanted to understand the theory behind B oals technique and the historical purpose for its creation. As an RA, I wanted to gain new and creative problem solving methods for my community. Looking to the future, I wanted to prepare myself for a career influenced by the Theatre of the Oppressed met hodology. But, understanding these concepts was not enough. Merely studying the Theatre of the Oppressed from articles, books and even observation would not lead me to the kind of knowledge I desired. I had to do. With this inspiration, the organization o f my thesis fell into place. I centered my work around a Theatre of the Oppressed style workshop one that would be organized, planned, facilitated and assessed by me. The workshop naturally occurred during the January interim period at New College, when the students had the time and energy to fully commit to my project. My research for the thesis served as a sort of personal training process. I learned about Boals theory and techniques and, particularly, the modern adaptations in the U.S. and abroad, in spired by Boals work. My goal was to move from a sur vey of Boal and his successors to the practical application of his techniques in the form of a month long workshop and ultimately create my own how to guide to Theatre of the Oppressed. I did not w ant to hover in the realm of theory and
3 critique, but to truly delve into Boals work and its applications. It is very important to me to think of my thesis as a concrete tool for social change. In this thesis, I seek to show that Theatre of the Oppresse d is a tool, born out of the tumult of revolution, that can be applied to a range of populations, demographics, and generations and that finds its meaning in praxis and adaptation. In the first chapter, I explore the development of the Theatre of the Oppr essed and the theory and influences of its creator, Augusto Boal. In the second chapter, I show the flexibility of Theatre of the Oppressed methodology by looking at three specific but diverse case studies of successor programs. In the third chapter, I s how the importance of praxis by explaining my own experience planning, organizing, and facilitating a month long, Theatre of the Oppressed style workshop for a group of students at New College. Throughout this thesis, I evaluate the structure, flexibility, strengths and weaknesses of Theatre of the Oppressed. My goal was to find new ways to apply this tool to our lives, our communities, and the communities of generations to come, and to leave behind a documentation of my journey for those who seek to do the same.
4 C h a p t e r 1 : Doing Pedagogy: The Influences and Theory of Augusto Boal Augusto Boal (1931 2009) was raised in Rio de Janeiro. He studied chemical engineering there and then attended Columbia University in New York City. After completing his degree in 1956, he returned to So Paulo, Brazil, to work with the Arena Theatre. This is where his interest in experimental theatre blossomed. In a short amount of time, Boal had made great progress in the use of theatre as grassroots activism (Paterson ). As Brazil was in a tumultuous period of military rule, 1 Boals controversial work drew negative attention. In 1971, he was kidnapped off the street, tortured, and sent into exile in Argentina. While in Argentina, he published the first of his texts on t heatre, The Theatre of the Oppressed (1979) In identifying the context of the environment in which Theatre of the Oppressed was born, Boal contrasts the populations of developed countries, such as the U.S., with those Latin American beings who, by and la rge, live in slums, suffer hunger, and have no vestige of protection against disease and unemployment (Theatre 97); it is with these people that his work was originally concerned. Boal subsequently self exiled to Paris, where he taught his approach to the atre and was able to establish several centers for its practice. During this time abroad, Boal was finally able to work closely with his mentor and friend, Paulo Freire, from whom 1 Beginning in 1961, [President Joo ] Goulart' s years in office were marked by high inflation, economic stagnation, and the increasing influence of radical political ele ments. The armed forces, alarmed by these developments, staged a coup on March 31, 1964. The coup leaders chose Humberto Castello Branco as president, followed by Arthur da Costa e Silva (1967 69), Emilio Garrastazu Medici (1969 74), and Ernesto Geisel (19 74 79), all of wh om were senior army officers. Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs: Electronic Information and Publica tions, Background Note: Brazil
5 much of Boals theory is derived. Although they remained in communication, F reire and Boal were uprooted by their exile, and thus, the two were not united on a public platform until 1996 at the Pedagogy for the Oppressed Conference in Omaha, Nebraska (Paterson). Boal spoke highly of Freire and when the educator passed away in 1997 Boal stated, I am very sad. I have lost my father (Paterson). In 1986, several years after the military rule was ended, 2 Boal returned to Rio and set up a Center for the Theatre of the Oppressed there. In the next ten years, Boal published two more bo oks, extended his pop ularity and teachings to the U.S. and other countries, and was awarded the Career Achievement Award by the Association f or Theatre in Higher Education ( ATHE) (Paterson). The Work of Paulo Freire The purpose of education should be h uma n liberation, which takes place to the extent that people reflect uponthe relationship to the world in which they live. Andin conscientizing themselves, they insert th emselves in history as subjects. (Freire 1971) The work of Paulo Freire, like that of Boal, is a product of the turmoil of the Brazilian military coup of 1964. Freire began his work with literacy programs in Latin America, focusing on the use of what he called culture circles and a d ialogic method to teach reading, writing and social e mpowerment to the students. Because of his work, Freire was arrested, imprisoned, and forced into exile with his family. After spending 2 [Ernesto] Geisel began a democratic opening that was continued by his successor, Gen. Joo Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo (1979 85). Figueiredo permitted the return of politicians exiled or banned from political activity during the 1960s and 1970s and allowed them to run for stat e and federal offices in 1982. Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs: Elect ronic Information and Publica tions, Background Note: Brazil.
6 time in countries s uch as Bolivia, Chile, the U.S. and Switzerland, Freire was able to return to his home country in 19 80. He was now free to teach his critical pedagogy using techniques such as critical conscientization In 1986, Freires work was recognized with the UNES CO prize for education (Shor, ix x ). In Freires method of critical conscientization he outlines a so called problem posing education process with guidelines for teachers willing to adopt this controversial method. He begins with the concept of culture circles and identifies the need for small, community oriented, learning groups comprised of pe opl e from a common background who speak a common vernacular (Wallerstein 33). With in these groups, it is the teachers goal to come up with gen erative words: terms that are socially relevant and emotionally stimulating to that particular community of stu dents (Wallerstein 33) These words are then used to stimulate their understanding of the social root causes of problems and how they could effect change (Wallerstein 33). Freire disavow s traditional teacher/student dynamics and the faade of cleansing t he classroom of external societal influe nce. On the contrary, he affirms that education starts from the experiences of the people and either reinforces or challenges the existing social forces that keep them passive (Wallerstein 33). With these building blocks Freire seeks education for transformation in literacy, English as a second language, labor, peace, health education, and community development (Wallerstein 33). To understand the impact of Freires theory of education on Boal it is important to note that for Freire, the learner is not an empty vessel nor an object who passively receives an educ ation. The dialogic approach that Freire proposes is based on the idea of teacher and student as co learners, with active participation on both sides. E ducation
7 must begin with a recognition, by the student and the teacher, of the root sources of each ones social role. This means we must reassess the context of our lives in order to be active participants in their transformation. Freire claims that true knowledge is the union of this reflection and the subsequent action it inspires (Wallerstein 34). It is in the atmosphere of Freires problem posing education that we see echoes of Boals Theatre of the Oppressed. Freire insists that this kind of learni ng is particularly applicable to socially disenfranchised bodies of people, such as students in ESOL classes. With the use of the aforementioned generative words, a curriculum based on the shared conflicts of the students allows them to create a communit y resp onse to a given problem. As in a Forum T heatre workshop (a concept of Boals which will be discussed later), Freires idea for a classroom is one in which the problems from home and the community are not ignored, but rather used to empower the commun ity and to give a voice to its oppression. In order to facilitate this environment, a teacher must listen, use dialogue and then act. Through listening, the teacher seeks out emotionally charged themes that ignite the students interest. Through active l istening, the teacher then finds hidden voices that indicate their true struggles (Wallerstein 35). The use of images is also often necessary ( as in the work of Boal) to eliminate a bias against non verbal communication styles. Once the class has identif ied these themes they then codify them for future use in conversation. Codification, as Freire calls it, involves taking these ideas and giving them a concrete and physical representation that can be used as a reference point in discussion. Again, as in Boals Image Theatre, this could be a photograph or a short scene. The code needs to be focused, familiar, multidimensional, and open ended. Codes
8 help to dep articularize a representation of an emotionally weighted theme. At this point, it is the teacher s job to provoke thought about these codes through questions that will lead the students into positive action For this reason it is called problem posing not problem solving because the emphasis is on the continued need to think critically and act on our thoughts. This concept of Freires parallels an essential point of Boals theatre: the anti catharsis, which will be discussed further later. Freires concept of action is then the follow through of this reflection. Action is where the student moves from being just a critical thinker into being a social and political agent This step is left largely open ended by Freire, which could be seen as a weakness in his teaching, but instead is indicative of his desire to guide, not dictate this kind of revolution ary education. Another critique of Freirian pedagogy is his constant and unstoppable ethics of solidarity and an unrepentant utopianism (McLaren 147) For this reason, Freires pedagogy is often labeled as unattainable and impractical. Boal too, is cr iticized in this way, but their common refusal to define their ideologies, mandate rules or demand structure, has set their work apart from that of their predecessors. The Development of Boals Theory The paradox of theatre today is that, although it ha s a proposed goal of self express ion, too often, it s true usage is, to borrow a phrase from Marx, as an opiate of the people. Thus, in a forum we believe to be liberating, often we are working within a construct of oppression. The passivity of the audien ce awards the actors/playwright an inordinate amount of power and influence. In order to reinvent theatre as a medium for
9 unbridled self expression and even political change, we must deconstruct the notion of theatre as it is seen today. As detailed in his first work, Theatre of the Oppressed (1979) Augusto Boal develops his theory of theatre by first looking at its evolution as an art throughout history. He begins with a fundamental critique of Aristotles Poetics a work crucial to understanding Weste rn theatre. The Poetics illustrates the role of actor and the place of art in society. The text claims to be apolitical in nature, a claim that should alert us to its possible fallacies. According to Ame lie Rorty in her essay entitled From Catharsis to t he Aristotelian Mean, Aristotles thoughts on theatre are central to continuing debates about public control over artistic representation in the mass media, and the role of art and the artist in education and society (341). Boals treatment of this text can be described as a systematic negation of each of Aristotles theses by reason of their manipulatively oppressive intent. Boal seeks to deconstruct this text with the goal of redefining theatre. Boals first point is that while the Poetics makes the c laim that poetry and politics are two separate fields, Aristotle, in fact, constructs the first, extremely powerful poetic political system for intimidation of the spectator, one built for the repression of the people (Theatre xiv). Boal sets his own explicitly political project in strict opposition to the inherently oppressive and seemingly apolitical scheme set by Aristotle in a chapter titled, Aristotles Coercive System of Tragedy Boal begins with Aristotles claim that art is imitation: not im itation of humans as they truly are, but as they should be. The tragic hero of Aristotles Poetics is a virtuous man, with his one flaw being the only trait that is not in harmony with what society regards as desirable (Theatre 34). But who decides w hich virtues are to be hailed
10 on stage? Those in power. Thus, according to Boal, the Aristotelian theatre has become a propagandist space, controlled by few, for the oppression of many. Aristotle then argues that catharsis should be achieved in the conclu sion of a tragedy. The tragic hero reaches his end through purification, catharsis, through purgation of the extraneous, undesirable element which prevents the ch aracter from achieving his ends (Theatre 32). As the tragic hero undergoes this purification of his socially unacceptable quality, so does the audience. In his definition of tragedy from the Poetics, Aristotle states, tragedy is an imitation of an action that is admirable, complete and possesses magnitude; in language made pleasurable, each of i ts species separated in different parts; performed by actors, not through narration; effecting through pity and fear the purification of such emotions. (10) As the spectator/actor relationship is of special meaning to Boals work, he reaffirms that in Ari stotles structure of theatre, pity and fear are the minimal specific form linking the spectator and the character (Theatre 30): pity for the fate of the character whos e being defies social law, and fear of ones own unique individuality. Thus, theatre i mpacts the audience: a purging of individuality under the guise of apolitical art. In Aristotles theory, the spectators empathy is an emotion provoked as a result of the audiences suggestibility ; Boal does not reduce the importance of empathy, but argue s that appropriate empathy is not a simple matter of o smosis, but is born of knowledge (Theatre 103). Therefore, the spect ator must remain in a constant state of critical awareness. In Oliver Taplins essay, Emotion and Meaning in Greek Tragedy,
11 he agr ees with Boals insistence on a critical audience and simultaneously defends Aristotles focus on provoking emotion and empathy. Taplin argues that emotion provoked by theatre is far from being thoughtless; rather our emotions in the theatre, far from dri ving out thought and meaning are indivisible from them: They are simultaneously and mutually dependent (Taplin 174). Another interpretation of the role of catharsis in theatre comes from Jacob Moreno (1892 1974). In the 1930s, Moreno developed a group focused theatre with an emphasis on the psychotherapeutic properties of theatre. For Moreno, spontaneity [in the theatre] leads to catharsis, and the resulting creativity helps to solve both everyday and psychological problems (Meisiek 806). This view o f catharsis stands in opposition to Boals. Instead of leaving the audience anesthetized, as Boal suggests, for Moreno, catharsis leads to the creation of new ideas on how to resolve social and personal problems. This point perhaps introduces another inter pretation of Aristotles definition of tragedy as misunderstood by revolutionaries such as Boal. To concl ude this section of his critique Boal affirms the enduring nature of Aristotles system in modern times and states that this kind of theatre attempts to bridle the individual, to adjust him to what pre exists (Theatre 47) While there is debate over the value of catharsis, Aristotelian theatres goals are antithetical to those of Boal and cannot be used for social change nor revolution Boal transi tions his discussion of the development of theatre into the evolution of the character through several significant theatrical styles: feudal theatre, Hegelian theatre, and Brechtian theatre. Boal is most concerned with the relationships these kinds of thea te maintain with the audience, or the masses. He finds an essential lack within each of
12 these kinds of theatre in terms of their ability to empower the audience and hence, the people. Boal begins with period which he calls feudal theatre. This kind of theatre comes out of the Western European Medieval tradition of theatre. Boal argues that this type of the atre was another formulaic art, the goal of which was to support the nobility and teach their concept of virtue to the peasantry ( Theatre 56). Accor ding to Boal, feudal art had a transparent and highly simplified allegorical format: characters that were not people, but embodied representations of certain v ices and virtues in competition ( Theatre 56 57) Moving into the next period which the text call s Theatre of Virtu, Boal claims that t he work of Machiavelli and Shakespeare produced a new Bourgeois conception of a man of virtu: no longer the object of the drama but the subject ( Theatre 57 ). This man would stand against the ignorant masses: the on e true, virtuous man. This seems to be moving in the right direction: the character made subject now r ather than object. Yet, we still have the obvious, wide barrier between the audience (the masses) and this exemplary individual who is put on such an una ttainable pedestal. In addition, the virtues extolled in the character of this virtuous man were still controlled by t he nobilitys concept of virtue. The art was still oppressive in nature. Boal asserts that, the dominant art will always be that of the d ominant class, since it is the only class that possesses the means to disseminate it ( Theatre 53). Boal moves on to speak about Hegel and the actors re subjectification in Hegelian theatre. Hegel claimed that his character was free, but according t o B oal, this freedom was trapped within a consciousness of ethical necessity and therefore was not
13 a statement of true autonomy ( Theatre 73). In Hegels work, subjectivity reigns; it is the subject that determines all external action ( Theatre 87). The pro blem with this lies, according to Boal, in that, although Hegel awards his character a free spirit, he/she is still essentially informed by the values of the playwright. Here, it seems that Boal calls for a departure from one of the major fundamentals of W estern theatre: a script. Boal also critiques Hegel in his assertion that the action of the play had to end in harmony, which sounds quite like Aristotles purifying and sedating catharsis. This is, again, contrary to Boals ideals in that an anestheti zed audience will leave the theatre with no motivating desire for change or for revolution; they will be as complacent as when they entered the theatre (if not more so) Boal seems more positive when he discusses the theatre of Bertolt Brecht. Brecht purp ort s that the character is no way free, but is rather an object subject whose actions are determined by social or economic forces ( Theatre 92) Boal adds the qualification that, for Brecht, individual will does have influence, it is just not the essenti a l force in the dramatic action. This status of the character is justified by Boal to some extent in that it confirms the outward influence of society in everything we do, even on the stage. But, it seems Brechts theory of the character still has a pessimi sm that Boal does not share. Boals protagonist is both influenced by society and informed by his/her role in that society, but ultimately capable of throwing off the oppressive obstacles of that society by empowering his/herself on the stage. For Boal, theatre must Showwhich way society is moving, and how to hasten the transition ( Theatre 105). Aristotles notion of c atharsis in theatre though often thought of as therapeutic or even as inspiring creativity, works more as a band aid on a
14 chronic woun d. It seems Boal would rather expose the wound and leave it raw so that one might be reminded of the constant need to work towards healing. Boals Poetics of the Oppressed In the very beginning of Boals work using theatre as a tool against oppress ion he found that his efforts were both misdirected in his own naivet and misinterpreted by the public. A storyteller by nature, Augusto Boal describes his works evolution through anecdotes. One day in a small village in Brazil, Boal and his theatre troupe addressed a group of townspeople with their performance, the theme of which was let us spill our blood (Rainbow 2). They used fake guns as props and played their performance in full, dramatized style. Later Boal realized, that his troupe was then acti ng in a style more accurately called theatre at the oppressed not of. Once they had finished, a man named Virgilio came to them and in full vigor exclaimed his readi ness to take up arms and fight -spill his blood, as it were. Horrified, Boal and his tr oupe members had to explain: they were performing in metaphor, their guns were fake, and they had no intention of actually fighting the military regime in Brazil. Virgilio, confused, asked the troupe members if what they meant by let us spill our blood w as instead let you spill your blood (Rainbow 2). Lost for words, the troupe and Boal left this village defeated, downcast and just as confused. How were they to be true artists and true fighters of the cause if they werent expecting to fight? Boal cites a contemporary of his, Che Guevera, to explain his epiphany: solidarity means running the same risks (Rainbow 3). Never again did Boal advise, preach, or generally instruct those who m he sought to inspire. The conscio usness of his status as a
15 white male was crucial to his work. We must understand our privilege if we are to work with those who are subject to oppressions different from our own. After understanding, we must make their oppression our own: run the same risks. In his first work, Theatr e of the Oppressed (1979), Boal posits his own Poetics of the Oppressed. W ith this kind of theatre, Boal seeks that the people reassume their protagonistic function in the theatre and in society ( Theatre 119). How does he intend to do this? Boal propos es the idea of theatre as a language. In a time and a place where illiteracy was rampant 3 Boal found the lack of verbal agency to be a critical reinforcement of oppression. This recalls Freires theories of education and work with culture circles, to cr eate a new language in the classroom b ased on the vernacular of the community. By empowering the people to use theatre as their voice the Theatre of the Oppressed process would produce an accessible language To achieve this in his own work, Boal had to deconstruct the traditional fourth wall of the stage (the theoretical barrier between the audience and the actors); actor must become spectator and spectator actor. The spectactor (a union of actor and audience) is Boals invention and one of the key tenets of the Theatre of the Oppressed. With actor and spectator united, Boals theatre inspires the critical consciousness spoken of by Paulo Freire before him. They have the power to question, to transform, to make change: and not only on the stage. A ugusto Boal likes to call the Theatre of the Oppressed a rehearsal for the revolution ( Theatre 122). By acting it out on stage, the spectactor is empowered to apply their actions to real life. Again, Freires 3 In 1960 about 61 % of the population of Brazil was literate and 68 % in 1970 Joo Yunes, The population of Brazil
16 theory is reference d in respect to Boals c oncept of true knowledge as the amalgamation of critical reflection and subsequent action. Affirming the difficulty and the radical nature of this transformation of the spectator, Boal proposes an in depth plan to serve as a guide for transition into this form of theatre. T he ways in which Boals stages of theatre evolve, even within his own explanatory text, are clearly sequential, logically buil ding on the formers weaknesses. Following the progression of his techniques, Boal takes us step by step closer to his ideal form of theatre: a theatre of the people, by the people. This progression begins with the central idea of theatre as language; with every language there is a vocabulary. In theatre (both Boals and others), our vocabulary is the human body, the main source of sound and movement ( Theatre 125). In order to familiarize ourselves with this vocabulary, Boal divides his ideas into three stages: Knowing the Body Making the Body Expressive and Theatre as Language ( Theatre 126) In the fir st s teps to knowing the body, Boal outlines a series of exercises which aim to re inform the body of the common person. Boal claims that our bodies are so burdened by what we do with them daily (especially those engaged in manual labor) that we lose touch wi th our musculature ( Theatre 128) By raising our consciousness of our bodies and to what extent they are limited by our everyday routine, we can attempt to move ourselves into the body of another and begin to comprehend another persons physical vocabulary For instance, Boal encourages sculpting activities in which participants physically direct each others bodies into positions to create stage pictures that illustrate their experience of oppression ( Theatre 128) In order to master this
17 technique, we m ust return to a consciousness of the ways our bodies move and how we can sculpt them to create universally understandable images of our internal struggle. How do we reignite this expressive power within us? Boals answer is simple: Play! Through play, Boal states, we can find the tools that allow us to interpret, which is the end goal of body consciousness. In concluding this stage, Boal insists that this process be a creative and all inclusive one. All participants should have the right to create games direct the groups progress and not to be passive recipients of an entertainment that comes from the outside ( Theatre 131). In the next stage of the process, theater as language, Boal identifies the different types of theatre within the spectrum of Theatre of the Oppressed. Boal stresses that the two previous stages are preparatory and meant to bring spectat ors fully to the role of spectactor and to transition from passivity to action ( Theatre 132). In this section, Boal delineates his categories of Simultaneous Dramaturgy, Imag e Theatre, Invisible Theatre, 4 Forum Theatre, and Newspaper Theatre. 5 Of these, I will focus on the three major techniques: Simultaneous Dramaturgy, Imag e Theatre, and Forum Theatre. Even as he outline s the procedures it is important to note the open endedness in his instructions. Where there are rules, they are clearly still meant to be bent adjusted, personalized and even broken. As Boal created his theatre by breaking previous rules and structures, we are encouraged to do the same. While understanding and 4 Invisible Theatre is a form of theatre that takes place in public areas and is announced by the actors and unexpected by the (unknowing) audience. Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed, 134. 5 Newspaper Theatre is a set of 12 techniques that use theatre to problematize and criticize the representation of news by newspapers Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed, 135.
18 maintaining the integrity of the overarching principles of the Theatre of the Oppressed, it is important to constantly question all assumptions and to feel empowered to innovate. Within Simultaneous Dramaturgy, t here are actors on stage and audience members watching them. Thus, to a certain extent, the fourth wall remains. However, there is an active communication between actor and spectator. The spectators role is to give the actor suggestions fo r the scene of oppression that is being played. For this theatre to be successful and exciting the actors must always be ready to accept, without protest, any proposed action ( Theatre 134). An example of this kind of theatre would be a suggested story o f oppression from an audience member played out by the actors on stage. Then, after playing through the scene, the audience members, remaining seated, can make suggestions to the actors for how to change the series of events. For instance, if audience sugg ested, the protagonist should speak louder and face the antagonist with his/her body, then the actors would have to adhere to this adjustment to the best of their abilities. The difficulties inherent in this type of theatre are clear: the actor has the e normous task of interpreting the voice of another and lend ing their body and voice to the other. Additionally, the spec tator is engaged only in a limited way, due to their position on the other side of the fourth wall. The next phase is Image Theatre. With Image Theatre, the spectator is much more involved. A participant is asked to choose a theme of oppression and the group agrees upon it. The participant then sculpts the other group members bodies (with permission and obvious respect of boundaries) into a scene which describes the spectators opinion or personal experience pertaining to the theme. The sculpting, or outward adjustment of the other participants bodies, is done silently, so knowing the
19 body and making the body expressive certainly c ome into play. The result of this process becomes the actual image (or the image of reality from the vantage point of the one participants perspective). The group then enters a discussion based on the image that has been created and work s to rehearse an image that they all agree upon: this image will then be called the ideal image (or the image that the group collectively consents to). This image represents a vision of the theme as it should be in an idealized world, according to the group. The final step is for the group to find a transitional image that shows how to feasibly move from the actual -meaning the truth of the op pression in an everyday setting -to the ideal -or the idealized goal for breaki ng the instance of oppression ( Theatre 135) As an example, a participant could choose to illustrate an image of racial discrimination in a commercial store. After forming all of the other participants into a scene where he/she is being mistreated by a sales representative, the group then decides w hat would be a positive outcome, such as a manager reprimanding the employee for their misbehavior and standing up for the customers rights to equal treatment: this being the ideal image. Then, the group discusses how they could move from one image to the other, perhaps forming an image of how to change this oppressive scene, such as the customer asking to speak to the manager and informing them of the employee s inappropriate behavior. It may take several attempts to create a reasonable image of transitio n. Boals work does not promote blind idealism; often, the issue is too complex to solve with just three images. This is an important part of the experience. Th e process enforces the difficulty of the transition from passivity to action and the idea of a rehearsal for revolution.
20 Image Theatre is, in Boals words, one of the most stimulating types of theatre because it focuses on making thought visible (Theatre 137). In this way, the problem of varying ranges of verbal ability within the group is el iminated, equali zi ng the playing field. Whereas this may be more directed at Boals original demographic in Brazil, the problem still exists in countries such as the U.S. because verbal language is so multifaceted, it may easily lead to miscommunication. Boal states that each word has a separate connotation from person to person as well as a society based denotation; w ith the use of images and a non verbal form of communication, Boal claims the denotation connotation d ichotomy is eradicated (Theatre 138 ). In a sense, when we shift from words to images, everyone is speaking the same language, enhancing our ability to understand in terms of universal images rather than ambiguous words. While there are many adaptations within Image Theatre, Boal reinforces that the important thing is always to analyze the feasibility of change (Theatre 139 ) which drives the message of activity rather than passive discussion /reflection. In order to fully understand the evolution into the next type of theatre, we must loo k at an anecdote from Boals The Rainbow of Desire which describes the birth of Forum Theatre. At a performance by Boals troupe in Peru ( where the style used c ould be described as Simultaneous Dramaturgy), the troupe played a scene described by a woman i n the village about confronting her cheating and abusive husband. A woman in the audience became very impassioned by the example and was giving a multitude of suggestions. Each time her suggestions were taken, she said she was unsatisfied and that the acto r had not fully listened to her meaning. Finally, the woman insisted that she enter the scene herself and played out the scene with such passion and vigor that the entire
21 audience (and troupe) was amazed. At this moment, one of Boals many epiphanies came: When the spectator herself comes on stage and carries out the action she has in mind, she does it in a manner which is personal, unique and non transferable, as she can do it alone, and as no artist can do it in her place. ( The Rainbow of Desire 6 7) In this way, Forum Theatre was born. Forum Theatre, in procedure, is divided in this way: 1) a scene is presented by a group of participants showing a social or political issue with a difficult solution and ending with the oppression unresolved; 2) the spect ators are aske d if they approve of the ending and a discussion ensues; 3) the participants play the same scene again, but the spectators are asked to raise their hand the moment that the oppression begins to occur and if/when they have an alter native sugge stion for the scene; 4) the spectators are invited to replace the protagonist on stage and act out their suggestion; 5) the performance ends with further discussion as to the success of the suggestion (Theatre 139). Rather than coming to an easy or collect ive conclusion, the spectators and actors are left with the elements of the discussion and an anti cathartic feeling of unrest or incompleteness that seeks fulfillment through real action (Theatre 142). In this way, Boal creates his rehearsal of revolut ion, inspi ring the participants and spectactors to act or at least to notice the daily oppressions they endure and to think about how to change them. The games designed to prepare actors to work within the Theatre of the Oppressed and to which I have r eferred throughout my outline of Boals techniques, are largely laid out in his book, Games for Actors and Non Actors (1992). One can assume
22 that Boal calls them games and not exercises to reinforce that they encourage play rather than work. These ga mes represent a variety of approaches to preparing participants for the final, performative aspects of the techniques. Although there are certain games specified as preparatory for Image or Forum Theatre in particular, they all develop skills that speak to the breadth of the Theatre of the Oppressed arsenal. Boal divides the games into categories that progress and build on each other. For instance, the first sections outline games for honing each of the participants senses. Those include games such as Th e Imaginary Journey ( Games for Actors and Non Actors 107), which consists of one actor leading another (who s e eyes are closed) around a space while creating a story for them by making sounds and using physical touch rather than words. An actor may decide to create a day at the beach for their partner by imitating the sound of the waves on the beach and blowing air on their partner to simulate the sea breeze. The use of all our senses is important in creating a believable scene or image of reality. The ne xt section then introduces the idea of memory of the senses. Once we reenergize our perception of sensory stimuli, we must be able to recall these sensations for use during the performative techniques. Other games develop imagination: how can we create n ew characters and even new ideas of proposed reality? Beyond these specifics, the games also seek to create group dynamics (working in tandem with the other participants), push the loss of inhibitions, etc. The games take the form of short, stimulating, a nd largely improvisational exercises. For example, Columbian Hypnosis is a game within the section Feeling What We Touch ( Games 63). The participants divide into pairs and choose a leader and
23 a follower. The leader then puts their hand about six inche s away from the face of the follower. The follower must maintain this distance, wherever the leader moves their hand. Thus, it looks as though the follower is being hypnotized by the leader. This game helps the participants on many levels: it introduces them to new motions that may be out of their comfort zone, it allows the duo to understand the dynamics of working within a team (how can the leader make the process challenging while respecting the other player), etc. This game represents one of many sho rt exercises that move towards the larger goal of performing a technique. The challenge is that all of the games are a necessary part of the process for a successful experience with the techniques. Therefore, the time constraints of a Theatre of the Oppres sed workshop must be flexible enough that the participants can be adequately prepared. Preparation is essential because it is within the final techniques, whether that be Image Theatre or Forum Theatre, that the overall goal of Theatre of the Oppressed is achieved; during the performance of the techniques, the participants apply the skills they developed in the games directly to social problems. It is during these performances that the rehearsal for revolution truly occurs. In his conclusion of his Poet ics of the Oppressed, Boal reminds us that the theatre of the Bourgeois is spectacle theatre and inherently finished theatre (Theatre 142). Even in popular improvisational theatre shows, the purpose is entertainment. The actors play on recognizable st ory lines to appeal to the audience and do not challenge these archetypes nor allow for audience intervention. However, the world of the oppressed is still in flux. Their theatre is still in the rehearsal process. Thus, in the ideal of
24 Theatre of the Oppre ssed, the spectator is freed, made protagonist and allowed the authority to create his or her own future on the stage. Although Boals arsenal contains many exercises, procedures and rules it is once again essential to note the malleable quality of this type of theatre. In summarizing the work of Boal and the tenets of his theatre, I do not propose that they are exclusive or in any way complete. Boals own theory is in constant transition, even after his death. His stories encourage us to learn through ex perience and to think critically about all we read. The excitement of Theatre of the Oppressed is in its wide margin for change and adaptation. With each community comes different issues, with each leader comes different styles of organization, with each a udience comes a new energy and a new perspective. Further Evoluti on of Theatre of the Oppressed: The Rainbow of Desire and Legislative Theatre After working with populations in Europe and the U.S. during his exile Boal began to experiment with Theatre o f the Oppressed as a method of personal therapy. This evolution brings Theatre of the Oppressed to a more individual level, no longer speaking for whole communities, but for the struggle of the individual within that community. Boal found himself coming in to contact with new kinds of oppression (Rainbow 8). He discovered that there was visible oppression and an internal oppression that wo uld not show itself in a Forum T heatre performance. This shift in Boals methodology suggests his work in these more d eveloped countries and with more privileged populations; it
25 seems that the goals are no lo nger as political and the risks, at the social level, are seemingly lowered as well As part of the creation of The Rainbow of Desire Boal came up with the concep t of the cops in the head mentality (Rainbow 8) This idea explained that we all have a source of oppression within us, the cops in the head; but, he argues, their headquartersmust be on the outside (Rainbow 8). So, whereas Boal had previously concer ned himself with the headquarters or the external sources of oppression, he now looked inward, to how we perpetuate our own oppression in our minds. The idea of The Rainbow of Desire is that theatre is essentia lly a therapeutic and knowledge seeking ac t. When a person plays a role, they are able to reflect on their performance and their true identity, thus juxtaposing the two. The goal is to see and to see oneself (Rainbow 25): this duality gives a true perspective on the situation. Boal created a sle w of games and exercises to facilitate this personal reflection, but, as with any other form of his theatre, the goal is not a cathartic one. One example of a Rainbow of Desire technique is the scene named after the technique. In a Rainbow of Desire sce ne, participants are asked to offer their personal stories for the group to work with. As in Forum Theatre, the group votes on which scene they most identify with, and then the exercise begins. The person whose story is chosen selects another participant t o represent the antagonist character (or oppressor) in their scene. They then explain all of the circumstances surrounding the story, their feelings, the antagonists arguments, etc. Once everyone understands the story, the participant (protagonist) and t he participant playing the antagonist play out the scene of oppression in question. Once it
26 has played through, the protagonist is asked to pick several people from the group to represent their desires in the scene. The protagonist physically sculpts each participant and tells them what desire they represent. The protagonist then places them around themselves, spatially portraying how much they want each specific desire to be represented within the scene. When the scene begins again, the protagonist can uti lize the participants representing their desires to help in their battle against the antagonist. Each desire represents a tactic within the protagonists arsenal, or tool for combating the oppression, and this way they may view the spectrum of their desire s/tactics from an outward perspective. This allows the protagonist to reflect on their own behaviors, but also to gain new insight from the other participants who bring other interpretations to the stage. The actor representing the antagonist can also sho w the protagonist which of their tactics are effective and which are not. In the process of this technique, each participant gains something from the experience: spectators view from an outside perspective, participants within the scene learn more about th eir own desires though acting them out, and the actor representing the antagonist learns about the weapons of the oppressor. At the end of a technique, the group discusses how the scene went, what they learned, and how they felt during the process. No sol ution is agreed upon, but instead each person takes away their own broadened perspective. Therefore, e ven in this personal exploratory process, Boal still posits a disequilibrium which prepares the way for action, rather than a state of closure which cou ld lead to passivity (Rainbow 72). The last development of Boals theatre before his death in 2009, was the creation of Legislative Theatre. In the late 90s Boal served as a city councilman in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. During thi s period, he brought For um Theatre inspired techniques into the
27 councils deliberations so that the voices of the people were heard during the legislative process an application he discusses in his book Legislative Theatre (1998) This technique provides an interesting and direc t application of Boal s philosophy to every day life. Unfortunately, due to Boals untimely death, the framework he provided for Legisl ative Theatre remains more theoretical than realized As a result, it is less commonly employed by activist theatre group s despite the appeal of its practical implications Returning to our discussion of Rainbow of Desire, this technique which was the last fully developed by Boal, has been criticized for the individualistic turn it represents in his work In Theatre of th e Oppressed and Teatro de Arena: In and Out of Context, David S. George argues that Boals theories correspondto authoritarian populismand to first world sources (39). The article seeks to prove that Boals techniques, even in their origin, were never for the working class, but rather a statement that workers and peasants need middle class heroes to lead them to social enlightenment (George 40). Georg e sees Rainbow of Desire and it s application to first world issues as the most honest form of the The atre of the Oppressed, which is, at its essence, politically correct psychodrama for privileged groups in the imperialist countries (45). However, in her article, Activism, Therapy, or Nostalgia? Theatre of the Oppressed i n NYC, Mady Schutzman addres ses this criticism. Schutzman affirms that it is problematic to transpose a third world aesthetic of resistance to a first world aesthetic of self help (78). But, she asserts that critics, such as George, must stop evaluating Boals work on the basis of the quantity of political activism it stimulates (Schutzman 80). Together, these critiques represent a central issue to Boals work: environment.
28 These two views of Boals evolution into Rainbow of Desire are missing an essential point. The importance o f Boals work lies in transformation. If Boal left his techniques in their original context of 1960s Brazil, they would quickly become out dated and unusable. Boal may be criticized for this transition from third to first world problems, but it reflects the main goal of Theatre of the Oppressed: transition and adaptation for the people and the peoples needs. The essential thing to take from this evolution in Boa ls own theory is that even for the master, his craft is in constant transition. Again, t he crux of Theatre of the Oppressed is adaptation, change, addition and subtraction. There is no right way to do this theatre and the only mistake a student of Boals work could make would be to follow it blindly to refuse to personalize the method for the mselves and their own goals.
29 C h a p t e r 2 : The Need for Adaptation: Three Case S tudies of Theatre of the Oppressed "Successor Programs" As stated in the previous chapter, the essence of Augusto Boals work is trans formation. Boal begins his own p oetics, as outlined in The Theatre of the Oppressed by saying, now the oppressed people are liberated themselves andare making the theatre their own (Theatre 119). Once armed with the tools and empowered to act for themselves, it is the duty of the s tudents of Boals techniques to move forward with his work. Another fundamental part of his vision is accessibility to everyone, everywhere. Both of these factors make adaptations by successors (or so I will call them in this chapter) to Boals work not only inevitable but crucial to the survival of his ideas. Today, there are countless examples of the ongoing legacy of Boals work. In addition to the thriving Theatre of the Oppressed headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (C.T.O. RIO), Paris, France ( Centre du Thtre de lOpprim), and in New York City, U.S. (The Theatre of the Oppressed Laboratory) many other programs promote the themes of Boals original work. Theatre for social change can be seen in groups like Bass/Schuler Entertainments Sex Si gnals, a touring group in the U.S. that spreads dating and sexual assault awareness on college c ampuses through improvisational and audience interactive p erformances. Another example is the SOURCE Theatre, based in Sarasota, Florida. This program is spons ored by Planned Parenthood and involves high school and college students in a performance group that tours with shows about H.I.V. awareness and prevention, substance abuse and other topics relevant to youths in the area. The range of organizations that p romote the ideals of Theatre of the Oppressed
30 (whether explicitly or not) is impressive, clearly indicating the effect Boals creation has had on the theatrical and activist communities. Of the many successor organizations, I would like to introduce three case studies of different groups that have adopted the poetics of the Theatre of the Oppressed and adapted them for a specific time, purpose, and community. Each of these represents an incarnation of Boals work in a completely different setting than Bo als original Brazil. They have each been created in response to a unique need in their respective communities, and dem onstrate the flexibility of Theatre of the Oppressed to adapt to a variety of contexts age groups, places, and social classes The case studies are: Jana Sanskriti in West Bengal, India Community Environmental Forum Theatre in Galveston, Texas and Hippodrome Improvisational Teen Theatre in Alachua County, Florida There are four themes I will use to explore each of these successor progr ams: Environment, Goals, Leadership, and Adaptations. These four aspects are essential to the make up of each group and will help us to view clearly both what they have in common with Boals original Theatre of the Oppressed and also their modifications to Boals original style. From there we can assess their efficacy as successor programs, and the validity of the adaptations. It is important to evaluate these programs based on their faithfulness to Boals central ideas, and to assess their ability to go ab ove and beyond Boals work with their adaptations. First and foremost, the theme of environment is particularly fundamental when looking at Boals work. Boals methods transitioned as his physical location and, thus, participant demographic changed. F or example, upon moving to Europe and then America with his workshops, Boals style transformed accordingly and brought about the
31 inception of the Rainbow of Desire techniques. In these different cultural contexts, Boal found that n ew kinds of oppression faced him and his company (Boal Rainbow of Desire 8) The Rainbow of Desire style moved from social oppressions (economics, etc.) towards the individuals struggles within themselves: depression, suicide, anxiety, etc. Arguably, while this may have been instigated by a transition into a more privileged and individualistic participant population, it nonetheless represents a necessary response to a change in demographics by Boal himself. Thus, as each successor program adapts to its own cultural context, it necessarily alters the praxis In observing these adjustments, we can assess the innovation of each case study and its ability to transform to fit a new framework. Augusto Boal was never ambiguous about his goals for Theatre of the Oppres sed. He aptly named his theatre rehearsal of revolution ( Theatre 141) and made explicit therein the goal of change. The structure of Boals method from the audiences integral participation, to the loose role of the facilitator exemplifies the goal of equality and accessibility to everyone. Therefore, in order to understand the crux of these successor programs, we need to determine their intentions and how those objectives shape their programs structure. It is by asking what do you want out of this? and f or whom are you taking action? that we arrive at the true message of the organization. In addressing the goals of the case studies I will look at the mission statements/philosophies of the organization and their specific community issues to fully understand both what they want to achieve and how they want to achieve it. Leadership is the next theme I will examine. In both the work of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal, there is significant emphasis on the role of the facilitator. In the Theatre of
32 the Oppressed Boal calls this position the joker (in reference to the neutral role the joker plays in a stack of cards). The role of the joker is complex: its usually occupied by someone with training in Theatre of the Oppressed, as it' s not an easy part to play. T he joker must retain objectivity in the proceedings of a workshop or performance, and must aid in the logistics of the process, but cannot intervene with their own agenda. On the other hand, the joker has the task of asking the right questions to cr eate t houghtful responses and provoke meaningful discussion. The balance is tenuous, yet, when done correctly, the joker is a successful figure of Boals theme of egalitarianism. In Freires work, the parallel to the joker is the educator. The educator is to b e equally a student in the learning space: A cultural circle is a live and creative dialogue in which everyone knows some things and does not know others, in which all seek together to know more. This is why you, as the coordinator of a cultural circle, mu st be humble, so that you can grow with the group instead of losing your humility and claiming to direct the group, once it is animated (Freire qtd. in Shor 41). Freires main goal in the learning space is to eliminate a teacher/student hierarchy that will limit the voices of the students and privilege one opinion over the many. Thus, Freires educator is much like Boals joker in his/her goal of neutrality and equality. As to the place of the joker in the community, it is ideal to have someone who is a contemporary and a neighbor of the spectator ( Theatre 175), but this is rarely achieved due to the level of training required for the job. When this does occur, however, the dynamic of the group becomes much closer to the desired equilibrium. The joker also
33 holds the important task of creating continuity within the tradition of Theatre of the Oppressed (I use the word tradition here loosely, meaning the values, intentions, and ph ilosophy of the T.O. framework) The joker is a memory of all that has go ne on before and all that the community aims to achieve In other words, the joker is the essential bridge of traditional Theatre of the Oppressed practices and the necessary adaptations to come. Although Boal always sought to make his organization transpa rent, accessible and equitable, the face of Theatre of the Oppressed will always be his. Who Augusto Boal was shines through his work and gives insight into the raison dtre of the work. Thus, when analyzing successor groups, it is important to find the l eader, the doer who keeps the program going. Exploring leadership of each successor program will help us to understand the organization and even assess its potential in the future. Finally, adaptation is a main focus in this analysis of Boals succes sors. The importance of change is tantamount to tradition when it comes to Theatre of the Oppressed. To follow blindly Boals guidelines for Theatre of the Oppressed is to commit a grave error for the work. In her critique of the modern adaptations of Boal s technique and the difficult transition from pedagogy into action, Speaking Theatre/Doing Pedagogy: Re Visiting Theatre of the Oppressed, Leigh Anne Howard writes that many practitioners seem more willing to follow [Boals] method like a template rath er than molding the techniques to meet the particular needs of their personal or social situations and that, subsequently, this stasis brings many problems (218). Therefore, we look for the balance of the old and the new, when analyzing the successo r programs.
34 As mentioned in the previous chapter, even Boal felt the need to change and create new techniques as he changed audiences, countries and time periods. The Arena Theatre of Brazil evolved from propagandist (meaning politically motivated and hyp erbolic) performances to discussions with audiences, to participation with audiences, and beyond. The politically charged notion of oppression and community togetherness evolved into the internalized, cop in the head oppressions addressed by the Rainbow of Desire. Boals technique, even after his death, remains a living being. The idea of constant flux is essential in keeping this kind of theatre loyal to its mission: theatre of the people, whatever time, place or population that applies to. Boals wor k and the work of his successors make up an ever growing web of technique in social theatre. It is crucial that this evolution be an open discourse, so that we may build and learn from one anothers successes and failures.
35 Case Study #1: Jana S anskriti Jana Sanskriti 6 is a Boal inspired troupe from the West Bengal region of India. This group began 21 years ago as several loosely united, propagandist theatre groups (this is the phrase used by Jana Sanskriti itself meaning politically charged ) from different villages across the West Bengal region. After a two month visit from Augusto Boal in 1994, they aligned much of their work with his methods. The group now fields more than 30 teams made up of men and women from agricultural backgrounds t hat perform all over India. The groups intent is to give the participants and their audiences a voice by performing Forum Theatre and other scenes. This case study gives particular insight into how Theater of the Opp ressed can be adapted for use in specif ic cultural contexts. Beginning in the early 1990s, Jana Sanskriti was conceived out of a reaction against the hierarchical system and increasing rigidity within the Communist Party and the constraining framework of traditional values and moral doctrines of Indian society The weak, as defined by their gender, caste and education are born into a state of political marginalization. The roots of this oppression are ancient in Indian culture, but were made more punishing during the colonial period, when W est Bengal was the first part of India to fall under British rule. The current facilitator of Jana Sanskriti, Sanjoy Ganguly, describes the Indian political climate as one of centralization and monologue 6 Jana Sanskriti (Bengali for Peoples Culture) mixes Indian folk theater with the political action of Augusto Boals Theater of the Oppressed. Teams of actors perform plays in their villages, enacting the problems of rural society patriarchy, sexism, alcoholism, religious hegemony, imperialism [and] political corruption M. F. P. Andrews, Celebrate Peoples History
36 (Mills 551) and it is just that which the group w ishes to circumvent with their Forum Theatre. One of the legacies of the colonial period is the Western cultural influence In response to this, groups like Jana Sanskriti seek to regain a sense of national identity by using existing or indigenous cultur al forms for their self expression (Mills 552). These forms include the traditional structures, folk songs, dances, and familiar patterns of Indian culture (Mills 553). Another specific aspect of the culture of poorer Indian communities is a lack of edu cation which necessitates an alternative means of expression for communication. As in Boals original context of Brazil, in India, illiteracy has prevailed among the masses and, as such, expressive art forms make their message more accessible and inclus ive (Mills 553). Jana Sanskriti has found their success in the use of such folk art forms. The How of Jana Sanskriti focuses on the goals of 1) bringing light to social and political issues through humanizing the plight of the oppressed on an every day level; 2) encouraging the critical thinking and participation of audience members through the telling of their stories; and 3) finding concrete ways to put into action the transformations that have been created in the scenes. The general process of Jana Sa nskriti is much like both Freires and Boals in that it does not halt after the ideation, but rather reaches fruition in the action portion of the process. The Jana Sanskriti team focus es specifically on the issue of inequality of women in the West Beng al communities: In Jana Sanskriti practice, women do not inhabit their customary societal roles, but assert their agency and ability to take action by assuming
37 conspicuous roles which portray them equally as authoritative, capable, independent decision ma kers, coordinating dances, leading forum debate (Mills 555). This reversal of traditional gender roles on stage gives women an opportunity to rehearse for their revolution in everyday society. The philosophy of Jana Sanskriti, as summarized in the abstr act of Sandra Mills article, ce nters on help[ing] communities learn how to use theatre as a language for reflection, exploration, and analysis in order to articulate new direction and bring about transformation (Mills 550). This statement echoes Boals original intent of forming a new language for the people, inciting new ideas for change and enacting real transformation. In addition to the parallels with Boals philosophy, Jana Sanskriti seeks to bring marginalized peoples into a political forum from wh ich they have been previously excluded. The organization is even vying for access to free and pluralistic media channels to promote communication and discussion on all levels (Mills 551). In other words, Jana Sanskriti, though extra institutional in n ature, is working with popular forms of media and traditional art forms to achieve their political aims. The goals of the theatre troupe itself are participation and dialogue with actors and audiences, in hopes of an eventually open and empowered dialogue with the state. The current leader has explicitly stated the main issues addressed by Jana Sanskriti to be the oppression of women in marriage, alcoholism and the living conditions among India' s farmers (Schuring). Jana Sanskriti, as mentioned before, em ploys traditional folk art forms in their work. The goal of this is to create a comfortable environment for the participants, but this
38 is also fused with new techniques (adopted from Boal) that push the cultural boundaries. A risk that is central to the go als of Jana Sanskriti is the exposing of previously ignored gender inequities in India with the intent of raising the consciousness of the women, but also [raising] the consciousness of the male members of the community (Mills 554). Therefore, Jana Sansk ritis intentions are two fold: to incite change at a political level and also to bring about personal transformation on the familial and intra personal levels. The founder and current leader of Jana Sanskriti is Sanjoy Ganguly. It was by Gangulys invita tion that Boal came to India to work with their organization in 1994. Previously active in a Marxist movement, Ganguly has not lost his political drive, but has opened the gates for a more democratic conversation. Po litics remain a focus of Gangulys. To m e, making theatre is politics. The content of our work is primarily determined by the environment, the people we are working wit h and what is important to them. In other words: we don' t play the script: we script the play. (Schuring) Gangulys most noticea ble leadership attribute, recognized in my readings on the troupe is his passion and energy that seem infectious to people around him. Perhaps it is this charismatic hope that has brought over one thousand actors to his cause (Schuring). Ganguly is inspir ed by the inherent capacity for greatness in humans and the need to foster awareness amongst them: Now I understand the most important step to empowerment is a fundamental change within the human being. I have seen how everyone involved in theatre finds in this process talents hidden within themselves,
39 identifies the oppressor within them and also recognizes the human self. (Ganguly qtd. in Mills 557) He also speaks of the obstacles that challenge this talent. Inciting awareness in the people of India, he believes, is the key to igniting these talents within them (Schuring). For Mills, Gangulys work aligns strongly with that of Freire, supporting his assertions that these continuing dominating structures and conditions have psychological imp lications for the marginalized communities, causing lack of self esteem and a sense of inferiority (551). As a facilitator, Ganguly appropriates the methodology of Boals Forum Theatre, with the caveat that Jana Sanskriti also includes traditional, folklo ric, Indian art forms. With dance, folk songs and other familiar traditions, Ganguly lures his audience in rather than confronting them, at least initially. In his work, Ganguly has remarked the way in which the celebratory aspects of folk art energiz[e] people (Mills 553) ; he and this troupe have harnessed this energy for the strengthening of community ties. In terms of adaptation, as outlined in this case study, Jana Sanskriti has created a Forum Theatre model that works for them. Most of the significan t changes to Boals original technique have been alluded to above : a focus on aesthetics, use of traditional folk art forms, efforts to reverse social norms of gender roles, and the use of personal stories from the participants. Jana Sanskriti comes from a different time and a different country tha n Boal, and as such, has specific cultural intentions for its theatre. The fact that womans oppression is made a central issue of the Jana Sanskriti team sets it apart from many other successor
40 programs. It is essential it seems, in the case of Jana Sanskriti, as they are working directly against their government, to have specific, articulated oppressions if they intend to have specific results. Fig. 1: The vibrant costumes and stylized performance techniqu e of Jana Sankriti (THIRDEYE South Asia Blog, Jana Sanskriti Center for the Theatre of the Oppressed) The aesthetics of a Jana Sanskriti Forum Theatre performance are used to signify the experience of oppression and also to express the possibility of change (Mills 550). A specific example of one of the touring scenes created by Jana Sanskriti is, Shonar Meye (translated as Golden Girl ). This play was created by 22 women in West Bengal and is based in their own life experiences. The themes introduced by the scene include dowry related problems violence, and lack of choice that are commonplace for women in India (Mills 550). Mills describes the scene: Profiled against a black sky and the florid fountain of saris and curling white tunics, Amba a you ng Indian girl is caught in a web of everyones demands. Physically trapped by a fan of ropes symboliz ing the
41 oppressive condition of women in Indian society, she is pulled in every direction. With no alternatives and no support she stretches out her arm s and draws on the audience for strength. Her stature is powerful yet pleading, indicative of the desire to resist her situation but accepting that she cannot do it alone. (Mills 550) The audience members are invited onstage (following the structures of Fo rum Theatre) to integrate their own ideas and solutions to Ambas problem. Symbolism and metaphor create a strong emotional reaction in the audience that helps to trigger their sympathy. However, empathy without critical consciousness as in the work of Boal, is to be avoided. The scenes must have a balance of the emotional and the rational so that the spectactors do not find themselves enveloped in the characters and unable to think logically about the greater consequences of the scene. This reinforces t he notion, developed in the first chapter on Boals theory, of anticatharsis and the need to leave audience members unsatisfied and motivated to take action. The use of folk art by Jana Sanskriti to transmit their message presents both benefits and dang ers. As mentioned before, the audiences are drawn to what they know and excited by the song and dance that embodies their culture. But, once they are drawn in the play must promote change and awareness to succeed However, t he danger with these folk art f orms is to label a community as homogenous and treat them as such. Also, this medium is problematic in that, according to Mills, some traditional art forms could perpetuate existing norms which may be repressive and dependency based, or that manipulating t hese styles may
42 diminish their cultural meaning and therefore undermine their value as means of identity and empowerment ( 554) This is a tenuous balance that Jana Sanskriti must maintain: to embrace their cultures art forms and to incite transformation b y pushing boundaries and addressing taboos. Lastly, Jana Sanskriti does not shy away from using the personal stories of its participants for their scenes (as seen with the play Shonar Meye based on the collective experiences of 22 women). Boal, too, enc ourages the use of personal narratives, as long as they are universal enough so that many people can relate to them. Through raw examples of oppression in Forum Theatre scenes, the actors and spectactors take on these stories wholeheartedly. The effect o f this, I imagine, is a resonating impact on their audiences, which is, after all, a goal of Theatre of the Oppressed. Case Study #2: Community Environmental Forum Theatre (CEFT) The CEFT or Community Environmental Forum Theatre is my second case study. I n the Texas petrochemical belt, the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston has created, through its National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Center in Environmental Toxicology, a new approach to inclusive outreach and education (Sulli van & Lloyd 627) in their community. This new approach consists of the formation of the CEFT by the Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) project at the University of Texas. Their focus is on the design and implementation of environmental heal th research, community health care and education through interactive workshops and the Forum Theatre method (627) This case study is especially important as it documents Boals technique being implemented in new and necessary
43 fields like environmental h ealth awareness. It also points to a more institutionalized method of using Boals work. Though not a medium Boal had originally foreseen for the Theatre of the Oppressed, it still represents a valuable adaptation. The CEFT was created in an area of Texas with a compelling desire for environmental justice in response to a strong pattern of abuse through pollution and dishonest public health inform ation (Sullivan & Lloyd 628) This area is occupied by a largely wor king class population, with much of the economy dominated by petrochemical companies responsible for pollution and degradation of the environment. According to the National Census of 2000, t he median income for a household in [Galveston] was $28,895, and the median income for a family was $35,0 49. About 17.8% of families and 22.3% of the population were below the poverty line including 32.1% of those under age 18 and 14.2% of those age 65 or over (United States Census Bureau 2000). In their article explaining the necessity for the CEFT in this community, Sullivan and Lloyd point out that t he below the radar political agendas affecting environmental regulatory practices, and the cost benefit economics or bottom line protectionism of polluting industries and their efforts to neutralize or underm ine the regulatory process have created an unfair power dynamic between the residents of these communities and the facilities that make up a large part of the areas economy and jobs (629). One instance of this issue can be seen in an incident involving a high school being built in an environmentally unsafe area. The site of the school had under and above ground petrochemical pipelines which threatened everyone on the property. The
44 community was not part of the decision to build a school in this location, proving the lack of communication and safe city p lanning that defines this area (Sullivan & Lloyd 629) The CEFT responds to a need, recognized by both the disenfranchised inhabitants of the region and environmental health scientists, for better communica tion and cooperation between the residents and petrochemical companies. By opening this dialogue, the CEFT hopes to humanize both sides of the schism and facilitate better public health policy and environmental awareness. Although outside of the usual impl ementation of Boals technique (alternative, outsider organizations with extra institutional intents), this successor program represents a new avenue for community and business communication that could prove essential in a capitalist society. For the peo ple of the CEFT, irreconcilable conflict is not inevitable (Sullivan & Lloyd 628). Though the community in Galveston, TX, has a n urgent and long ignored grievance against the polluting corporations in the area, this organization does not feel helpless. Their goal is not to uphold one side over another, but to increase knowledge of toxicological concepts, develop risk awareness, extend and strengthen coalitions, create action agendas and promote community advocacy skills (Sullivan & Lloyd 627). Therefor e, mu ch like the other organizations we have seen, they intend to spread information, incite critical thinking, encourage expression, form community ties, and, inevitably, act out against the injustice. The practical implications of this action, for the CEFT, will be rapid response, inclusion, empowerment and a systematic socio economic analysis of injustice, anddirect reparations (Sullivan & Lloyd 628). Thus, despite its innovative organizational frame, CEFT is at its essence, an advocacy program fo r the oppressed. The people of the community in this area of Texas
45 are marginalized by their poverty, lack of voice and lack of knowledge of the environmental issues that plague them. They are, in fact, an oppressed people A lthough working with the system is not always Augusto Boals mod us operandi it is effective in achieving a state of equality in these circumstances. Perhaps, with the middle man of the university that created CEFT, the gap in communication from oppressed to oppressor will be easier t o bridge. A typical workshop of the CEFT is much like the other Forum Theatre workshops we have seen (both in Boals original procedures and the other case studies ). The group issues an open call to th e public for participants and the workshop is structure d by trained members of the CEFT. Fig. 2: Fire in the hole! CEFT workshop creates an ethnographic image of a communitys worst environmental health threat. Forum actors show a fenceline communitys reaction to the ever present danger of explosions an d major fires at the nearby petrochemical complex. This image was incorporated into the performance. (Citizens in Power & Development Association/West Port Arthur, TX, 2004.)
46 The group, comprised of community members, creates scenes based on their experi ences of oppression in the realm of environmental injustice. The leadership that brought about the Community Environmental Forum Theatre is not specific to one facilitator. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Center in Environmental Tox icology at the University of Texas Medical Branch was the creator of the program in 2002. It is admirable that this generation of scientists and scientists to be are inspired to create meaningful ties with the community and work towards better environment al health policy for mutual benefit. One apparent difficulty results from the hierarchical differences between facilitators and community members in the realm of their education. This may not be different tha n other successor programs in which the facilit ator, inherently, is better informed about the Theatre of the Oppressed process. The recent involvement of other community groups, such as Unidos Contros Environmental Racismo, maybe a move to balance this inequality (Sullivan & Lloyd 629). What is most st riking about the group is its focus on environmental health. The model meets Boals in one main factor: a distinct oppressed and oppressor dynamic. However, as mentioned before, the programs implementation by an academic institution is out of the norm to the Forum Theatre world as Boalian purists would doubt the good intentions of any organization with government funding. While it is important to be vigilant as to the goals of such a program, the group is indeed producing results The CEFT has a procedure set up that also ensures transparency in their efforts: an open call for participants, photo and video documented workshops, and efficacy surveys for the participants and facilitators throughout the process. (Sullivan & Lloyd 633)
47 Case Study #3: Hippodrom e Improvisational Teen Theatre Lastly, I will examine H.I.T.T. or Hippodrome Improvisational Teen Theatre of Gainesville, Florida. The Hippodrome State Theatre is a professional performance center that regularly puts on shows on its main stage. The Hippod rome has a community outreach office that works within the schools of Alachua County, Florida to help facilitate change in the lives of youth s in the surrounding community. H.I.T.T. was initiated in 1984 and since then, their work with students (ages 11 18 ) from all over the area has become an essential part of the community The program is staffed by educators trained in theatre who use the techniques of Forum Theatre to invite students to explore their hardships and oppressions with their school communiti es. My experience with H.I.T.T. began at the age of eleven when I began participating in their summer camps and weekly workshops during the school year. I continued to participate for three years, until I was given the oppo rtunity to volunteer as a teen helper throughout high school. I subsequently interned with this program for a month long Independent Study Project while in my first year at New College in 2009, during which I worked as a teacher, mentor and facilitator of Forum Theatre in the schools s erved by H.I.T.T. This case study is an example of the Theatre of the Oppressed directed at children and young adults in the specific milieu of their education, and a in a different social e nvironment than that of Boals original program In the Alachua County school system there are diverse levels of socioeconomic status and literacy. 13.6% of the countys population speak a language other than English in the home, and 23.6% of Alachua County residents are living below the poverty line compared to 13.8 % in the state of Florida as a whole (United States Census Bureau 2006
48 2010). As a part of their contribution to the community, the Hippodrome seeks to break down some of the barriers to education and success by working with youth on the issues that are ac ting as obstacles to their futures. The student participants are age 11 18 and they come from a range of family backgrounds. There are six middle and high schools that the H.I.T.T. teachers work with on a weekly basis. The schools they work with are diver se in their populations, ranging from a charter school to a private school in the Hare Krishna community to a vocational high school. The issues that are focused on are common to most middle and high school students: alcohol and drug abuse, bullying, peer pressure, sexual health risks, teen pregnancy, etc. In the time the H.I.T.T. instructors spend with them, the students have the opportunity to give their opinion and express their situation in a secure environment to fellow class mates and friendly facilit ators. The primary emphasis during the first months of the semester is trust building, until the group dynamic is such that the students feel comfortable in their self expression. The uniqueness of the environment lies in the sense of maturity the studen ts feel when spoken to as adults and told that their opinions matter. The phenomenon here points to a larger issue of the disconnect between generations that disenfranchises the voices of all, not just underprivileged, youth. This program shows that Boals technique can be a useful tool for the younger generation and perhaps can help to bridge the gap Alachua Countys H.I.T.T program has a limited target demographic and an incredibly broad goal: helping the youth of the community to succeed. The goals o f the program are both specific and sweeping: to help teens deal with particularly common
49 issues b ut, also to provide participants with a sense that they can succeed and to furnish them with the skills and knowledge necessary to resist high risk behavior s (Brown). In addition to working with the students on personal betterment, the H.I.T.T program has a distinct goal of empowering youth s to take on leadership roles elsewhere in their lives After weeks and months of work on improvised scenes, the stude nts go on t our to other schools. While on site with the new students, they play the role of actor, playwright, director, tour manager, and most importantly, teacher as they share their knowledge to their peers and other members of their community (Br own). Fig. 3: H I T T students from Loften High School met students from the PACE Center for Girls to present a scene and workshop addressing underage d rinking, teen pregnancy, and peer influence on decision making. After the performance, both Loften and PACE students discussed key choices made in the scene and replayed moments to affect the scenes outcome. (Loften High School performance for PACE Cent er for Girls, Oct 28, 2010)(Brown)
50 As the young people take this role of mentor to their community peers, [ the y] build self esteem, team building skills and strengthen their ability to make positive life choices (Brown). This goal goes hand in hand with the philosophy of Freire and Boal they would rather teach a man to fish, so to speak, then feed him just for a day. Although interns have come and gone over the years, two permanent staff members of the Hippodrome State Theatres Education Department keep the H.I.T.T. program alive: Marcia Brown and Suzanne Byam These women have been working with the Hippodrome and, specifically, the H.I.T.T. program for over 15 years. In this time, they have formed strong bonds with the community educators and this aids in the building of trust when they go on site to schools. They use their different teaching styles to their advantage and work in tandem, creating a comfortable environment for a range of personality types. During my work as an intern I immediately remar ked on the atmosphere of equality when in the classroom with the young adults and facilitators. Brown and Byam acted as if they were amongst other adults and did not condescend to the students. The teenagers immediately reacted to this with increased parti cipation and surprisingly mature behavior. For example, when we would walk in at nine in the morning on a Monday, the students would be lethargic and uninterested. But, when asked to sit in a circle on the floor (the two leaders sitting amongst them, creat ing no delineation of power) and when queried by the leaders about their weekends and how they were feeling, the students immediately straightened their posture and expressed signs of being engaged. It amazed me how little efforts to make the students feel respected had such drastic affects on the student s behavior in class.
51 The difficulties I have observed in the role of facilitator when working with children and teens are that, in order to reach a level of depth, one must often prompt the participants m ore than is appropriate for this kind of theatre. The students must be taught to think critically. Therefore, the facilitator must walk a fine line between guiding discussion and let ting the participants come to their own conclusions. Another interesting theme I found in the classroom of H.I.T.T. is the repeated question: are you one of us? Many of the students reacted more comfortably to Byam, an African American woman, and were more open to sharing with her than with Brown (a Caucasian woman ) or me (a younger Caucasian female) This comes back to Boals ideal of the facilitator being a neighbor to the participant, and can create a significant barrier between participant and leader. In the end, the largest hurdle, working with youth, is overcome by the se women with their experience and keen ability to create an egalitarian environment that challenges adolescents to act and think like adults. In the realm of adaptation, the H.I.T.T. program is particularly interesting. Many facilitators would steer clea r of children and teens because of the difficulty of working with less mature participants and because perhaps, they think adolescents are not capable of enacting immediate changes in their society. I believe, as do the facilitators of H.I.T.T., that th is is a mistake. The clich that the chil dren are our future holds true; if our goals are truly transition, where better to start than the next generation? This program intends both to empower youth to take control of their own futures (avoiding such obs tacles as drug abuse and unexpected pregnancy) and also to guide the future of their community They are instilled with leadership skills and an ethical perspective that helps to shape their future decisions as influential citizens. The challenge with prog rams such
52 as H.I.T.T. is that there is a strong possibility for indoctrination. The students are malleable and, therefore, it is essential that these programs have leaders with the students welfare in mind. Conclusion There is much to be learned from th ese three successor programs in relation to the work of Augusto Boal in the Theatre of the Oppressed. My themes of environment, goals, leadership, and adaptation are clearly important factors in the construction of a program based on Boals methods. My goa l for examining these case studies was to identify possible adaptations that would guide me this year and in the future in forming a Theatre of the Oppressed based organization. Specifically, the aspects that resonate with me include: the use of relevant a rt forms based on demographics, directed goal s of social change, the use of Theatre of the Oppressed in institutional milieus, working with youth and a focus on action and the necessity to continu e the Forum Theatre process. Each community has its own, s pecific form of communication. For example, my particular generation relies heavily on electronic and web based modes of networking. We use text and facebook for intrapersonal communication and express our selves through personalized web sites, blogging and photo journals such as tumblrs. Though this may be looked down upon as a viable approach to communication by older generations, it is, nevertheless, a defin ing interest of my generation. How could this trend be harnessed for the use of Theatre of the Opp ressed? I envision the use of photo, video and web documentation (such as through the use of Youtube) to display the efforts and products of the Forum Theatre process. When these
53 experiences are made public by being posted on the internet, they are accessi ble to a considerably larger audience. There is even potential for spectactors in this strategy, because the web sites documenting Forum scenes could allow room for commenting and group discussion on the web site itself. Although not live, the discourse is open and accessible to anyone with int ernet access. The possible down sides to an adaptation such as this are the existence of cyber bullying and a lack of a facilitator presence to guide the conversation. However, free speech is important to the work o f Boal and censorship would invite a negative precedent. Another attribute of the successor programs that I appreciated was the use of specific goals towards social change. By this I mean the directed manner in which groups like Jana Sanskriti choose a sp ecific issue in their society (like womens roles) to focus on and, eventually, to change. I believe that having particular grievances that the group wants to rectify contributes to a more successful program. For instance, currently, there has been much criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement for its perceived lack of direction and specific demands. Whether this is true or not, it affects the outcomes of the protests and the public view of the movement when there is no clear goal to their efforts. As we saw in all three case studies the narrow focus and goals of each program made success more feasible. Therefor e, I believe that when creating a successor program to Boals Theatre of the Oppressed, it is important to think about the precise needs of the community in question and to be explicit in ones goals for transformation. At the same time, excluding Theatre of the Oppressed from sectors deemed institutional is a mistake. Though Boal believed strongly that his work was for a time
54 of revolution it has proved an important tool for day to day life as well. I believe that if Theatre of the Oppressed methods were more commonly found in institutions such as public school and government, the tone of these establishments would be fundamentally changed One example of this could be using Theatre of the Oppressed and Forum Theatre procedures in a town meeting environment. This is an occasion in which, presumably, the government and the public communicate their desires to one another. Thus, it is the p erfect situation for Boals methods. Using Theatre of the Oppressed in this way could help to eliminate hierarchical tendencies and privilege the voice of the citizen and his/her needs. T his adaptation might present difficulties such as maintaining the in tegrity of Theatre of the Oppressed even while working within an institution. It may, also, meet opposition from local government to open their proceedings and to engage in a more egalitarian process. However, it is still a venue worth exploring. As is c lear with my previous personal experience with the H.I.T.T. program, I am particularly intrigued by working with youth in Theatre of the Oppressed. I imagine a school in which Forum Theatre is used on a regular basis. The students come together once a week with issues that are facing them: bullying, peer pressure, etc. They then would turn these personal and community issues into Forum scenes and attempt to change their own daily lives by tryi ng new tactics and opening each others minds with new perspectiv es. These issues which are accepted as a part of growing up could be used as a framework for how to become better, more accepting people. I believe that a school like this would produce students who were less likely to buy into the negative aspects of so ciety and more likely to stand up for what is right.
55 Finally, with every group that uses Theatre of the Oppressed there is always the danger of stasis. Groups must not be lulled into a sense of comfort because they are airing their grievances on the stage Boals inte ntions for transition are vital to the work. Therefore, I believe that in the formation of an organization using Boals method, along with the procedures of Forum Theatre, there should also be a plan for implementation of change. An example o f this could be a group gathering around the issue of LGBTQ rights. The organization would present their scenes to the community, engage the public in a discussion of these specific issues.and then what? There has to be a level of oversight to ensure that the work doesnt end when the audience and actors leave. The first step to this could be as simple as surveys to gauge community response to the Forum Theatre presentations. Another step could be taking the scenes to legislators and community leaders in o rder to attempt to change homophobic legislation. This constant need to think proactively is a fundamental difficulty in the Theatre of the Oppressed and it must constantly be examined so that successor programs are indeed being makers of change. Theatr e of the Oppressed has a dynamic potential to permeate into every part of our lives. The outline that Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire have created for social trans formation can be adapted into many environments and for many just purposes. From these three, d istinct case studies we can draw lessons of the obstacles and benefits of successor organizations to Boals method and also see the broad application of Theatre of the Oppressed that already exists in our world. When we zoom out to the fundamentals of The atre of the Oppressed namely : empowerment of the underprivileged, critical
56 thinking, and enacting of social change, we see that this work provides countless possibilities and a refreshing sense of hope.
57 C h a p t e r 3 : Walking the Walk: My Ex perience Facilitating a Theatre of the Oppressed Workshop Adaptation To continue my study of the praxis of Augusto Boals Theatre of the Oppressed, I co instructed a four week long workshop during January, 2012, at New College of Florida. The project wa s a combined effort between two alumnae, Jamie Samowitz 7 and Laine Forman 8 and myself. The workshop was offered to the students of New College as a possible group Independent Study Project (ISP) during January. Samowitz and Forman had taught an ISP of thi s nature in 2011 and intended to repeat the same workshop for ISP of 2012. I had been planning on instructing a Theatre of the Oppressed related ISP for my thesis, with a particular focus on adaptation. We were then able to join forces for a united project and a larger group of students. The month was divided into two distinct segments. Samowitz and Forman facilitated the first two weeks, focusing on two of Boals techniques: Image Theatre and Rainbow of Desire. During this period, the students did reading s from Boal, Freire, and 7 Jamie Samowitz is a New York and Brazil based educator and workshop facilitator; she gr aduated from New College of Florida in 2008 with a degree in Anthropology. After studying with Augusto Boal in Brazil at the CTO Rio (Center for Theatre of the Oppressed in Rio de Janeiro), Samowitz continued to work in the T.O. field. Samowitz is currentl y completing her Masters of Science at Antioch University New England with a focus on sustainable development and climate change; she plans to develop curriculum utilizing interactive theater techniques to explore issues around global environmental change. 8 Laine Forman is a San Francisco based artist and educator. Forman was trained in Theatre of the Oppressed by Augusto Boal. She currently facilitates Theater of the Oppressed workshops with a variety of populations including at risk youth, prison inmates and immigrants. Forman graduated from New College of Florida in 2008 with a degree in Anthropology. She is currently completing her Masters in Expressive Arts in Conflict Transformation and Peace B uilding at the European Graduate School in Switzerland.
58 other secondary sources, wrote in their journals daily and, at the end of the two weeks, wrote a three page self evaluation. My role during this period was as an aid to the facilitators and an observer of the classs progress. Dur ing the second two weeks, the other facilitators returned home and I took over as facilitator of the group. I felt comfortable taking on a project of this magnitude because of my previous experience in theatre and my study of Theatre of the Oppressed. As d escribed in the case study involving the Hippodrome State Theatre (see ch. 2), I began my work with Boalian concepts in my early teens. Throughout high school I worked with the Hippodrome and grew from participant to facilitator. At their summer camp, I wa s an improv teacher and director for the childrens productions. During my first ISP at New college, I interned with the H.I.T.T. program as a co instructor, using Theatre of the Oppressed techniques in classrooms all over Alachua County for at risk yout hs. Additionally, I helped to organize and, subsequently, participated in a two day Forum Theatre workshop lead by Julian Boal (Augusto Boals son) in May of 2010. This leadership experience with theatre in general, and Theatre of the Oppressed specificall y, helped me to organize two weeks of lesson plans and a performance for the New College community. My half of the ISP focused on exercises in the form of games to improve group dynamics (both from the repertoire of Boal and elsewhere) and Boals Forum Th eatre. The Forum Theatre process culminated in an interactive performance for the New College community (see Figure 5 ). The students also kept up with their daily journaling and wrote a 3 5 page self evaluation at the end of the month.
59 The students were e valuated for this ISP process on the basis of satisfactory/unsatisfactory, as with all New College classes. Samowitz and Formans evaluations and my own were combined by Dr. Reid for the final evaluation. The students performance was assessed based on the ir attendance, participation in class discussion and activities, journaling, and their final self evaluations. The work shop demographics were a fairly accurate representation of the school at large. Although there were numerous group study projects avai lable on campus, our ISP was able to attract 14 students. Of the 14, we had four males, and ten females: this is close to the school gender ratio of about 62% females to 38% males. 9 As for ages, the group ranged from 18 to 23 years old, with eight first y ear students, three second year, one third year, and two fourth year students. The students Areas of Concentration (intended or declared) were also diverse, including students from the Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities. Broadening our gaz e to the New College community (the environment for this workshop), there are several notable differences to other college campuses. The New College population, around 800 students, creates an abnormally small community for a college campus. The campus is residential, with a majority of the full time students living on campus. Class sizes are proportionally small, lessoning the gap between students and professors. From my experience, the college, as a liberal arts school, is overwhelmingly liberal, in the p olitical sense. Also, the school population is, by large majority, 9 This year there was a total of 801 total students: 320 Males, 481 Females, New College Fact Book, 2011 2012
60 Caucasian. 1 0 All of these factors were important to the workshop process, as Boals techniques are defined by the community that they work within. The First Two Weeks: Theory, Image Theatr e, The Rainbow of Desire, etc. The first section of the ISP lasted two weeks and was lead by Jamie Samowitz and Laine Forman. As mentioned before, they had preciously taught an ISP at NCF in Theatre of the Oppressed and, therefore, had a pre constructed sy llabus. However, their lesson plans covered the span of a month, and in order to divide the workshop, they reduced their course material into two main techniques: Image Theatre and Rainbow of Desire. Samowitz and Forman began their workshop by setting seve ral rules. They made clear their expectations for the class: active participation, respectfulness, willingness to step outside of ones comfort zone, completing reading ass ignments and writing thoughtful reflections on the process and the theory in daily j ournals. They also pointed out their intention to hold class for a full three and a half hour period, insisting upon the breadth of material that needed to be covered in a short amount of time. From the start, the tone was pedagogical and a traditional cla ss room hierarchy was established. Even before the ISP began, I was concerned with what my role was to be in this first two weeks. Knowing that I would be facilitating alone later in the workshop, I wished to define my role for the students in such a way that they understood I was not just another participant, but that I was familiar and experienced in the content of the ISP. However, I also wanted them to feel comfortable with my presence and I wanted to 1 0 This year, 76.4% of total undergraduate population self identified as racially/ethnically, white, New College Fact Book, 2011 2012
61 contribute to the group dynamic in a positive manne r. I was able to introduce myself as a co facilitator and remind the group that I would be working with them, exclusively, in a few weeks. Still trying to reach this balance, I hesitated in the first few days about participating in all the games. I found, in a short amount of time, that this was not the right course of action. The students embraced my presence much more when they felt I was fully participatory and not just an objective observer. Forman and Samowitz made an effort to show my role by using me in examples and deferring to me for some organizational aspects of the class. Throughout the first two weeks, I was pleased with my role and benefited from watching Forman and Samowitzs facilitating skills. I learned more about the techniques experienti al qualities and was able to get a feel for how this particular group of students responded to different activities, etc. Returning to the procedural aspects of the ISP, in the first several days, the goal was to gently introduce the students to Theatre o f the Oppressed. Using high activity games and brief lectures, all of Boals techniques were concisely described. The students responded to the games and group activities with clear enthusiasm. Some of the students had entered the ISP with no knowledge of what Theatre of the Oppressed was and were pleasantly surprised to discover the fun aspects of the technique. When theory was being introduced through lectures by Samowitz and Forman, the students seemed genuinely intrigued and asked many questions. Whe n the process of teaching Image Theatre began, there was a palpable shift in the atmosphere o f the workshop. Before the transition began, I discussed with Samowitz and Forman the best way to introduce the students to the more serious portions of Boals tec hnique. We noticed from the beginning that some of the students had trouble knowing
62 when to take games seriously and when to just laugh and be silly. The solution we came to was that, when the time came to be sincere and focused, the facilitators would mak e that clear with a disclaimer: This next activity will be serious and evoke sensitive topics, such as when a student shared their personal experience of oppression with the group during the Rainbow of Desire technique. For the most part, the students re sponded respectfully, though remaining focused and sincere was a constant learning process for some. When the students were faced with activities in which they had to verbally and physically emote in front of the class, there was some resistance. Not all of the students had a theatrical background, and some had trouble breaking themselves of inhibitions. The facilitators stressed the importance of committing to these expressive techniques fully, again and again, until the students all began to step out of their comfort zones. As an active and invested observer, this was a particula rly proud moment in the process for me. Knowing some of the students personalities outside of the workshop process, I was thoroughly impressed with their progress and willingness to trust in the group and the leaders. When we transitioned into R ainbow of Desire techniques, their readiness to express emotion was even more apparent. Rainbow of Desire, as discussed in chapter 1 involves in depth personal reflection and a readiness to bare ones inner struggles for the group at large. Once again, my expectations for the participants were met and exceeded. Students willingly offered up stories of their own personal oppressions, engaged in group reflection and were visibly inspired to reevaluate their tactics in dealing with the oppressions. Though the facilitators had only been working with the group for a week at
63 this point, they had clearly fostered an atmosphere of acceptance and trust in which the students could easily share intim ate details of their lives. Watching this process lead me to think about the necessity of a trusting and supportive environment in the Theatre of the Oppressed workshop process. This ideal is not easily achieved. In our case, New College is already a clo se knit community though this does not necessarily imply openness. The students had the benefit of knowing each other at least peripherally before the process and shared a lot of common ground through the mere fact of attending the same small school and taking part in the same community. I believe that the facilitators being alumnae contributed to the ease with which the students expressed themselves. Often, Theatre of the Oppressed workshops consist of a group of community members that are unaffiliated or even strangers to one another. I wonder how well these techniques would have worked in that environment and how much more time it would have take n to create such a nonjudgmental atmosphere. At the conclusion of their time facilitating the ISP, Forman and Samowitz had helped to foster a cohesiveness in the group that provided a great boon to my own work with the group. T he students expressed their gratitude to the facilitators for the opportunity to tell their stories, become more genuinely close with s tudents from their community and generally feel a part of a united group. Also, the participants were asking questions that were crucial to the transition to Forum Theatre: How can we take these techniques into the community? I was excited to introduce them to the next phase of Theatre of the Oppressed and thankful to Forman and Samowitz for preparing them to do so.
64 The Second Two Weeks: Forum Theatre, etc. After two weeks, it was my turn to facilitate. My goals in approaching this portion of the ISP w ere distinctly different from those of the first two weeks. In conceiving the idea of the ISP, I had imagined a process loosely framed by Boals techniques, but with the fundamental intention of going beyond them. As my research has focused primarily on th e wide capacity for adaptation within the realm of Theatre of the Oppressed, this was to be my central goal: adaptation. Not having been formally trained in Theatre of the Oppressed workshop facilitation, I felt a distinct dis advantage. Even after particip ating in several Theatre of the Oppressed workshops and writing the first two, preparatory chapters of my thesis, I was still uncertain. I felt uncomfortable claiming knowledge on a topic when I had not learned directly from its founders. However, m y exper ience with theatre, pedagogy, activism and improvisation go outside the sphere of Boals work and allowed me a widened perspective on how to approach the ISP. Thus, my lesson plans were created as hybrids of the typical Forum Theatre workshop and several o ther influences. Along with adaptation, I also wanted to strive for a co learning process, referring back to the Freirian ideal of culture circles. I felt this to be crucial, as I was facilitating a group of my peers with no professional training. I w anted to present my part of the ISP with transparency and a desire for collaboration. Therefore, with the intent to adapt and the desire for an egalitarian approach, we began our process by creating lists of group guidelines and group goals. The group was noticeably empowered at this suggestion and made both lists with enthusiasm:
65 Our Group Guidelines : Step up, Step down (understood to mean, rise to challenges and let others have a chance to do the same) Be respectful Be present Keep an open mind Our Group Goals : To depart from our comfort zones To continuously learn To do our best To put on a good performance After compiling and debating the semantics of these lists, the group seemed even more cohesive. It was apparent that their worries about having a student facilitator were assuaged by the notion of a more democratic process. The lay out of a typical day in our workshop looked like this: Wednesday (1:00pm 4:00pm): 1:00pm 1:15pm Discussion of Homework Activities 1:15pm 2:10pm Games: Goal Keeper (10 min.) Who Said Ah? (5 min.) Find the Hand (10 min.) The Sirens Song (20 min.) Reflections on the Games (10 min.) 2:10pm 2:25pm BREAK 2:25pm 3:35pm Introduce Symbolic Scenes >5 min. (10 min.) Split into Groups and Create Symbolic Scen es (40 min.) Present Scenes, Critique (20 min.) 3:35pm 4:00pm In Class Journal Writing (25 min.) Topic #3: For you, what is the true role of a facilitator in the Forum Theatre
66 process? What are the benefits of having such a person? What are the drawb acks? How well do you think your facilitator (in this workshop) is meeting these goals? Class Dismissed Homework: Write a concrete, paragraph long description of a distinct moment in your recent past when you felt oppressed. Imagine how you would stage this as an image and then as a scene I structured the day so that all of the fun and energetic games were before the break and then the more serious or focused techniques were after. The class also had a daily period of in class journal writing, which I believed helped their entries to be more thoughtful and genuine. We began our work with a focus on group dynamics. Whereas the techniques presented in the first two weeks were more focused on inward reflection, this section would be heavily reliant on gr oup unity. I used a mixture of both Boalian games and some from my own repertoire (as an improv teacher) in order to achieve this sense of group harmony. Games During the mo nth, exercises (which Boal call s games) from both Boals arsenal and elsewhere made up a significant portion of the class time. As described in a previous chapter, the games (found in Augusto Boals Games for Actors and Non Actors ) have a wide variety of goals to prepare the students for the in depth techniques (such as Rainbow of De sire or Forum Theatre). The games chosen by Forman, Samowitz, and myself contributed to these main objectives for the group: stepping outside of ones comfort zone, being more expressive (physically, vocally, etc.), creating a close group
67 dynamic, honing o nes senses, and self reflection. Each of these was represented in the repertoire of games presented to the students, yet some were more effective then others. Fig. 4: The participants learn to express themselves and lose their inhibitions by playing h igh energy games. Theatre of the Oppressed and Beyond ISP. Photo by Taylor Meredith Forman and Samowitz used a lot of energy and enthusiasm boosting games in their portion of the ISP. These games, usually characterized by high physical activity and loud vocal expression, were essential on both a daily basis for energy boosting, and also for the long term goal of encouraging the students to lose their inhibitions and step out of their comfort zones. One game within this category is How Many Ways to say A from Boals Games for Actors and Non Actors The game begins with everyone standing in a circle. The facilitator then says a letter or a common word (such as A or Yes) and the group members must step into the circle and exclaim that letter or word with a different implied meaning and combine it with a physical motion. For example, one
68 student might step into the circle and say A with a very sad tone of voice while holding themselves and rocking side to side. This game helps students to understand that our bodies and voices can express universal emotions without explaining them with appropriate words. It also energizes the students and requires them to perform in front of the group, building their confidence. These games helped the students to pr epare themselves for the techniques of Theatre of the Oppressed which often use the non academic parts of our minds and bodies. Breaking the students of the barriers created within them by years of institutional education took time, but was clearly benefi cial. However, when the more serious techniques were being introduced, it was difficult to re focus the students into a more appropriate energy level. In my portion of the ISP, I divided the three hour period into two distinct sessions: one expressly for games, energy and fun, and the other for thoughtfulness and serious focus. I believe the students reacted well to this division, in that it was clear to them which behavior was appropriate at which moment. Forming a close group dynamic was a difficult ta sk throughout the process. I used games to foster this sense of unity, an essential prerequisite to Forum Theatre scene work. I chose certain games that involved the students working together to achieve a common goal. In one game, I had them stand in fron t of me and then asked them to order themselves by certain categorizations. I left the instructions intentionally unclear and up for interpretation. I began with easy suggestions (age, height, etc.). Then, I began to give them subjective qualities by whi ch to order themselves (happiness, wisdom, success). The intent of this kind of game is to see how the group functions/ works as a team (who
69 takes on a leadership position, etc.) and also to see how the group reacts when given nonsensical instructions (ord er by blue). The group dynamics were clearly observable from the game, although they were less than harmonious. Several of the students took an apathetic stance, angering some of the other students who wished to micromanage each persons position in the l ine. Some students stepped out of the activity entirely and said, I dont feel comfortable comparing myself to others on such a subjective scale. I deliberately did not respond to these comments, but instead simply repeated the vague instructions. The re s ults were interesting, yet some what divisive. In our discussion, I pointed out that, although there was not complete harmony, the group showed critical thinking skills and didnt hesitate to question the overarching structure of the game, just as they wou ld need to question the structures of society in which their oppressions existed. An example of a non Boalian game that I had learned in my experience as an improv teacher is Counting to Z. This game used to create a group mind, begins with the gro up sitting in a circle with their eyes closed. They were then asked to recite the alphabet together The rules were that there could be no pre established order and we would start over each time multiple people said a letter. The students heeded my sugge stions of taking their time and listening to the silence, and we got through the activity in one try! I have never seen this before in all of the times facilitating this game. The game usually takes between five and ten attemp ts before it is done correctly I t generally takes time for the group to learn that ther e is no strategy or formula, but they ha ve to focus on listening and using their intuition. After this success, the group
70 responded by agreeing that they felt united and were clearly inspired by their easy collaboration. Over all, the games were successful in creating a str ong group dynamic, although the r e was constantly the inherent paradox of trying to create group harmony while trying to empower the individual. This mirrors the Forum Theatre vs. Rainbow of Desire dynamic in that Boals initial goals were to empower communities to fight social oppressions (Forum) and then he transitioned to an internalized notion of oppression ( Rainbow of Desire) which focuses on the individual more than his/ her community. There had to be a clear shift from the way that Samowitz and Forman had structured their games (for the benefit of the individual) into more a group centric ideology. The necessity of games in the Theatre of the Oppressed workshop is clear to me. Being confronted with the depth of any one of Boals techniques without preparation could easily derail the process and undermine its goals. As with any activity, Theatre of the Oppressed requires a warm up period, which is achieved by playing Bo als games. However, I can imagine the difficulty of implementing these games, which require both physical exertion and high energy levels, in other situations. The demographic that I worked with took to these games easily. They were still young enough to put forth the physical effort and to let go of their inhibitions and regress. I believe that there is a significant need to adapt the original games, or even create new ones, in order to expand their accessibility to all demographics.
71 Forum Theatre Aft er five days of games and group dynamic work, we began the process of forming the Forum Theatre scenes. This process started with a day long discussion of possible topics. The group brainstormed all of the issues that faced them on their campus: homophobia racism, classism, able ism, life style discrimination, etc. The list was at least twenty items long in the end, showing the students aptitude for pointing out social problems. However, when we looked at this list, several of the students made the observ ation that few of these issues were actually present on campus/in their own lives. It seemed they had earnestly created a list with a more global mindset, failing to focus on their own environment. With some difficulty, the students eliminated several is sues from the list. Things like class ism were taken off the list because, within the New College communitys homogenously middle class population, the students had not personally experienced this kind of oppression. Certain students with more activist bac kgrounds had trouble with the idea of ignoring certain kinds of oppression such as this just because they werent visible on the New College campus. I made it clear that, for the purposes of this ISP, I wanted them to address only issues they had come in to contact with. I made this decision in hopes that the scenes they produced would be more genuine and the audience for the final performance would also find them to be understandable. After a long process of voting, we came to our three topics: queer ism, lifestyle discrimination, and sexual violence. For further explanation, queer ism enveloped all issues of discrimination involving the LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Asexual) community and lifestyle discriminatio n represented a conglomeration of issues which revolved around peoples lifestyle choices
72 not being accepted in certain environments (i.e. straightedge persons begin discriminated against for not drinking, smoking, taking drugs). The last group referred to themselves as the sexism group, but in light of the scene they created, I will refer to it as the sexual violence group. At this point, the participants easily divided into three groups (with students gravitating towards a certain issue that resona ted with them personally) and began to discuss their issue. I asked them to look at these f actors: who is the oppressed? ; who is the oppressor? ; what is the larger social framework of the issue? ; what are the weapons of the oppressor? ; and who are the allies to the oppressed? Also, I asked them to each share their own experiences with their issue in the New College community. This part of the process presented few difficulties to the group, who were clearly prepared and eager to discuss these topi cs. I found that, in this situation, the academic setting of an ISP was partly beneficial to the process as many of the students were informed about their topics and highly capable of critical analysis. However, this did not necessarily mean that the stude nts were more aware of the issues or specific instances, they were just well versed in the abstract concepts presented to them in their academic sphere. In order to move from discourse to the stage, I asked each group to create a symbolic scene. This is a technique Boal uses in preparation for the creation of a Forum Theatre scene. I used it as a method to prepare the students for creating their own scenes and also, to help them fully understand the metaphorical nature of their issues. The scene was to be five minutes long and present their issue in symbols and m etaphors. I asked them to zoom out of the microcosmic nature of the issue and see i t in broad terms. Quickly, it became clear that my instructions were too vague. The students were
73 having diffi culty with the grandiose nature of a symbolic scene. In other words, they werent exaggerating the concepts enough. Eventually, my explanations got through: No characte r is a character, but a symbol. The three symbolic scenes took about an hour of i ndividual group time to create. I was surprised by this and had to shift my lesson plans, to allow for much more time to create our Forum Scenes. I believe this slowing of the process is, again, due to the nature of the academic sphere in which the ISP too k place. The perfectionism of the students acted as an obstacle to their efforts Also, working in groups was difficult for many of them, as they each wanted it done their own way. These issues are largely indicative of the New College environment: indiv idualized education with an emphasis on detail. However, when the scenes were presented, I was satisfied with their ability to form coherent scenes and convey their message. The sexual violence group showed a scene in which a woman walked through the stre et and as she went different actors came and physically hung on her, representing different burdens that are placed on women in our society (objectification, motherhood, etc.). Eventually the actress portraying the everywoman was weighed down and encas ed in these burdens and, subsequently, silenced. The qu eer ism scene portrayed a classroom like setting, in which a figure of authority paced in front of two figures. One sat still, silently, and the other fidgeted about until reprimanded by the authority When the second figure continued to fidget, the first whispered a warning, stop, shell see you, and was shot dead by the authority for speaking To conclude, a third figure entered the scene and the process repeated, with the
74 formerly fidgeting charac ter now silent and motionless, trying to hint that the newcomer should conform. The lifestyle discrimination group formed a scene in which on actor mimed building a house, naming each brick, happiness, contentment, self esteem. Meanwhile other actors came by and added blocks of their own, naming them money, security, fami ly, etc., until the original actor was completely boxed in by the foreign blocks. Each group was able to portray a strong message. This represented both their rea diness to build the Forum scenes and the depth of understanding they had about their issues. At this point, my only concerns were that, as many of the participants did not have backgrounds in acting, we would need to work on the fundamentals of stage presence (many of the st udents didnt automatically understand the idea of keeping their body faced outward, towards the audience, etc.). On the whole, I was largely impressed by their enthusiasm and imagination. It seemed that all the work Forman and Samowitz had done to help th em to break out of their academic mind set and into one of unleashed creativity was a success. The next step was to begin to create our Forum Theatre scenes. Forum scenes, in theory, are exceedingly simple: they portray a single instance of an oppression in real life. The scene must have a clear protagonist and antagonist. Also, the protagonist (or the oppressed) must fail in the scene. In reality, Forum scenes are much more complicated to build. This was clear from the start when the students were giv en the task: find a single scene depicting your issue in which the scene comes to an unfortunate conclusion. They finally dove into the scenes with vigor and after a day or so, each had a loose story line.
75 The sexual violence group created a scene which revolved around a young female student who goes to a party. At the party she is peer pressured into drinking alcohol and is left alone with a stranger who sexually assaults her; she then wakes up the next day, (confused due to her inebriation the previous night) and is, unkindly, informed by her friends that she slept with the male in question. Confused and upset, she silences herself and endures the shaming comments of her friends. The next scene, that of the queer ism group, depicted a scenario in which a young pre operation transgender female goes to a friend s house; at the house, a male attempts to flirt with her to no avail; subsequently, she is seen in the bathroom by a host and discovered to be physically male. The host tells her admirer of this dis covery, but he refuses to believe it, not wanting to appear gay. He takes the protagonist outside to apologize for his forwardness but resumes his efforts to flirt with her. When she, again, refuses him, he pushes her down and calls h er derogatory, hom ophobic names The third scene, presented by the lifestyle discrimination group, portrayed a scene in which a young students room is located right next to an alcoholic refreshment table at an on campus party; the student, not a drinker or a partier, is t rying to sleep in her room, but she is unable to do so, due to the loud music. S he attempts to ask the hosts to turn down their music, but she is met with unkind resistanc e, even from her own roommate. S he tries to call the RA, but this effort fails and sh e finally decides to call the police; as she is calling, she overhears her roommate talking about her, saying how she shouldnt have gone to New College if she didnt want to party and how she wished her roommate would transfer schools. T his causes the s tudent to return to her bed, giving up hope of sleeping that night.
76 After seeing the scenes initially, I found some parts of them to be problematic. The technicalities of a Forum scene dictate that the scene take place in a single place and time, that all members of the scene have agency and that the scenes are believable portrayals of real life. The first of these was brought into question when I saw the scene pertaining to sexual violence and the one regarding life style discrimination. Both scenes want ed to use time skips in their scenes. Though good ideas, I had to reinforce the idea that, for a Forum scene to be understandable to the audience, there must be one clear instance of oppression. The sexual violence scene, clearly, has a time skip in which the actual sexual assault and the rest of the night is skipped over; the audience only sees the morning after. We debated the issue, and they argued that the morning after was to show another consequence to the instance of oppression (the acquaintance rape): that of slut shaming. They wanted to show that it was not only the actions of the male antagonist that caused the protagonist to fail, but also her female friends who fed into the oppression by blaming the protagonist for what happened to her. I agreed that this was a good point, and that in the spirit of adaptation, we would modify the rules for our purposes. The lifestyle discrimination group wanted to repeat their same scene over again, to demonstrate that the issue was cyclical and not solved easily (i.e. the student could have shut down the music one night, but the same thing would occur the next weekend). In this case, I asked them to amplify the intensity of the scene, so that the repetition was not necessary for the audience to understand the severity of the issue. Also, I explained to them that, in the audience participation process, the rules are inconsequential; if an
77 audience member offered a magical solution, they could easily repeat the scene in order to prove that the problem is no t easily solved. The next technicality, that of the agency of the protagonist, was brought into question with the sexual violence scene. In the scene, the protagonist was being forced to drink. Once inebriated, the protagonist loses all agency. This is an issue, because in the moment of audience participation, they cannot replace a character that is physically unable to control the action. I asked them if they could do the scene without alcohol, and they argued that alcohol was being used as a realistic fa ctor in the scene to explain the protagonist finding herself alone with the antagonist. This case brought to light a very interesting adaptation: allies. We decided that in each scene the pr otagonists would have an ally. This character was there to help the oppressed overcome the obstacles of the oppressor (the friend in the sexual violence scene, the RA in the lifestyle discrimination scene, and an accepting party goer in the q ueer ism scene). The ally could then be replaced by the audience as well, to s how that, even if we are not being directly oppressed, we are still active agents in the situation. Coming back to the sexual violence groups scene, the ally would be essential in their scenario, as the protagonist loses agency due to drinking. The ally c ould then change the series of events, by helping the protagonist to avoid the unfortunate conclusion. The third technicality brought up in the work shop phase of the Forum scenes was the idea of authenticity of plot. In the realm of Forum theatre, if th e scene is an inaccurate portrayal of life, the audience will not be able to relate, and therefore will not take part in changing the scene. The queer ism scene encountered some issues with this notion.
78 In the queer ism scene, the sudden change of behavio r in the antagonist (from flirting to battering) is somewhat unbelievable. We had to use one of Boals Forum Theatre rehearsal techniques called internal monologue in order to clarify the antagonists motivations and thus, justify the plot line. By spea king out loud the stream of consciousness thought process of his character, the actor playing the protagonist was able to discover the internal changes that lead to the external behaviors. The actor found that their character was trying to deny a lingering thought that he might be gay if he is attracted to a physically male being. He endeavors to assuage his discomfort by asserting his masculinity, trying to elicit a response from the protagonist. When she does not return his affection, he jumps to the conc lusion that she must be a man, as he was warned. He is sudde nly faced with a personal truth: if he doesnt save face, hell be found out. People will think he is gay. So, he takes this internal strife and physically beats the protagonist to avoid the humil iation. Although none of this made any difference in the script or staging of the scene, it made a monumental difference in the way the actor playing the antagonist approached his character, and as a result, his character and the scene as a whole were mor e believable to the audience. Though each of these changes respond to a specific issue, it is important to show these modifications to the Forum scenes in order to emphasize the amount of detail that goes in to their construction. It took the groups abou t four days to brainstorm, construct and perfect their Forum scenes. While developing the scenes, the democratic process out lined in our goals was tested and then strengthened, even as I attempted to maintain the traditional approach to Forum Theatre and also make room for change. My final goal was to prepare the scenes for the performance. While necessary, in all practicality, it is nearly
79 impossible to truly prepare the actors for audience intervention. We went through as many possible solutions as we co uld together, the outrageous and the tame, trying to arm ourselves for the game to come. On our final day, I was proud of the progress of the group. They seemed confident and, more than anything, excited about the upcoming task. I explained to them one la st time, even if we fail horribly, the performance will be a success. The idea is not to put on a polished, aesthetically pleasing play for the c ommunity. Even unrefined scenes, i f genuine and believable, would help us to achieve our goal. All we c ould hop e for is to inspire some change in our community and to do our best to train people for their own revolution. The Performance At the end of the month, the student s study of Forum Theatre culminated in a performance for the New College community on Februar y 2 n d 2012 The students agreed on the title Rehearsa l for Revolution, derived from a Boal quote pertaining to Forum Theatre (See Fig ure 5 ) We advertized the event via posters, email, banners, and social networking sites. The night of the performance, over 80 people were in attendance (around 10 percent of the New College student population). The performance was in the Black Box Theatre, an intimate space which I used in order to create a sense of comfort and security for the audience. The evening bega n with the joker, me, presenting the students, the I SP, and the rules of the game. Also, a trigger warning was given as several of the scenes depicted sensitive content. The audience was asked to watch the three scenes the students had created, and not to intervene Then, they were asked to vote on the scene which they
80 identified with the most. Once chosen, this scene would be repeated ; a t this point, audience members were allowed to raise their hand, or shout out stop! and then come into the scene and try to change the series of events. The audience was informed that they were allowed to replace the protagonist of the scene or the ally to the protagonist. After each alternate ending, we would discuss the tactics used by the spectactor, the possibl e solutions, and the reality of this representation in the macrocosm of society versus the microcosm of the scene. After the audience watched the three scenes, back to back, they voted to work on the sexual violence scene. This was the scene that depict ed an implied date rape of a female who went to a party and was drinking. The fear with Forum Theatre is that no one in the audience will stop the scene and it will proceed unchanged. This was not the case. When the scene was replayed, stop was heard onl y a minute in to the scene. The first intervention by the audience was a female who stood in for the protagonist and instead of drinking the alcohol she was offered, she refused. When pressured she secretly threw the shot over her shoulder, so as to stay sober. The actors made this difficult for her, by increasing their peer pressure and verbally attacking her for throwing alcohol on the carpet. This set a standard for the audience: the solution would not be found easily (as in reality). Throughout the performance the r e were several interventions and, after each one, several minutes of discussion lead by the joker. Spectactors tried a variety of tactics, from assertiveness to fleeing the scene entirely. Both the protagonist and the protagonists ally we re replaced. The audience questioned each alternate scene, questioning the authenticity of the spectactors tactics (would this actually work? what would happen the next
81 day, the next weekend? ) and praised the tactics they saw that were successful. A truly rewarding teaching moment occurred when the discussion was directed towards the resources available for people who have been sexually assaulted. Dr. Erin Robinson of the New College Counseling and Wellness Center was in attendance and acted as a so urce of information to the audience. When the time allotted for the performance ended, the audiences minds and spirits were clearly stimulated. I wrapped up the performance by saying that although we did not find the solution to the problem presented, we all had a chance to broaden our perspectives, and train for similar incidents in the future. In this way, we, as a community, we were able to rehearse for our own revolution. My intention was to truncate the performance at a moment when they were wanting more. Boals Forum Theatre is ended in this was so as to leave the spectactor unsatisfied, in a state of anti catharsis. This unrest is created with the intention of inspiring the audience into action, rather than releasing them, satiated and calm. The overall tone of the performance was incredibly positive. The audience was clearly energized and emotionally involved in the topic. Audience members who participated were clearly not limited by stage fright, but were opinionated and well informed. The actors (participants of the ISP) were incredibly effective in their roles. Those whose scenes were not chosen sat on either side of the stage and stayed actively engaged in the process, showing their support for their fellow actors. The students in the sce ne which was chosen showed their remarkable penchant for improvisation and were not visibly surprised by any of the audiences interventions.
82 As the joker, my role was as an objective facilitator. I was there to challenge the audience to think about all t he variables and not allow them to find any magical solutions. I was also there to encourage participation by creating a comfortable atmosphere. This was truly a difficult task. Leaving my own opinions out of the conversation was challenging, especially when audience member s offered solutions or ideas that were contrary to my beliefs. I found a sense of calm, though, in limiting myself to accepting their comments and challenging them to think critically. Although we didnt hear every side of the issue, wh ich was nearly impossible in the hour we had to work with the scene, I felt that we accurately portrayed the complexity of the issue and possible tactics for fighting this kind of oppression. Class Discussion and Journal Writing In both sections of the I SP, along with participating in the group exercises, games and scenes, the students were required to engage in class discussion and write in a daily journal. In the first two weeks, Forman and Samowitz included daily readings for the students. This added t o the goal of teaching them the theory behind the practice. The students were also asked to come prepared to speak in class about the readings. The students presented interesting issues within the text and displayed an aptitude for critical analysis. This was not shocking as the curriculum of New College courses had clearly prepared them for this kind of analytical thinking. However, in terms of the atmosphere of a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop, this aspect departed from the idea of all inclusive acces sibility emphasized by Boal. The students were pushed to think deeper and read closer, causing an interesting conflict that
83 appeared in some of their journal entries. The class was so heavily focused on physical means of expression that some students felt themselves lulled into a less academic attitude. Then, when forced to comprehend complex theory and explain it in class, they were caught off guard. Again, in the session facilitated by Forman and Samowitz, the students were asked to bring references to the reading into their journal entries and to write more critically. The students reacted defensively, not knowing how to approach a journal in which they were asked to write emotional reactions and also cite complex theory. This paradox generally speaks to the awkwardness of a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop in an academic setting, with clear pedagogical intentions. Witnessing this confusion, I made an attempt to focus on the practical and move away from the theory. This was mainly possible due to the broad survey of Boal and Freires writing the students had already been exposed to, but I found them to be more open when the pressure of academic performance was removed. Also, I asked them to be genuine and thoughtful in their journals. For most, this w as comprehensible and they were able to attain a level of depth that, while non academic, was clearly thoughtful. Some, however, remained at the surface of their thoughts, writing dry accounts of the process. Enforcing daily journal writings, while neces sary for the goal of education, was a difficult means of eliciting genuine reflection on the students part. Leadership In my previous chapters, I focused on leadership as a crucial facet of the success of a Theatre of the Oppressed based program. In obs erving the facilitation techniques of my co instructors and myself, I noticed distinct differences in our styles. Despite these
84 differences, throughout the workshop, the group maintained cohesion and achieved positive results. Samowitz and Forman, as trai ned Theatre of the Oppressed facilitators and adjunct faculty at New College, had significantly different backgrounds than myself. Each has a different focus within Theatre of the Oppressed, although they have united their efforts to co facilitate all over the U.S. and have collaborated to create the Wild Goat Theatre project ( a community based theater company using participatory arts for personal and social transformation ). Their relationship is clearly st rong and their ability to comple ment each others s kills is obvious. Over years of co facilitating, Samowitz and Forman have found a rhythm of sorts. They alternate lecture and the leading of games, according to each ones specialties. From my observation, Ive seen that their leadership styles are vastly different, with Forman taking a more dominant and strict approach, while Samowitz provides a sense of calm support. Forman, coming from a background of theatre, appears more comfortable on the stage, whereas Samowitz has learned over time, to appreciate the theatrical aspects of Theatre of the Oppressed but seems more comfortable in the theoretical realm. During the workshop, the students responded to the authoritative and knowledgeable leadership with an automatic deference. The students seemed eager to benefit from the extensive training their facilitators had received from working directly with Augusto Boal and were consistently respectful during periods of lecture. Still, at times the students responses reflected the contradiction of the open, ex pressive goals of the exercises with the contrasting authoritative and structured teaching style of Samowitz and Forman. At these moments, I felt that the students were confused by the need to
85 maintain the hierarchy of the classroom, but they then deferred to their previously instilled notions of classroom rules and correct manners. In the journals of the students, I came across several allusions to this divide between facilitator and participant. Some wished they had an opportunity to become closer to Sam owitz and Forman, feeling a distance between themselves and the instructors. Im not sure to what extent this hierarchy was necessary, but I benefited from the classes sense of respect in the second half of the ISP. In my opinion, Samowitz and Forman were reinforcing their role as adjunct faculty by creating this gap between student and teacher. This further suggests the difficulty of having a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop in an academic setting. In my own experience as a facilitator, I tried from the beginning to erase the idea of hierarchy. This was not only because it seemed contradictory to the ideas of Theatre of the Oppressed, but also because I was a peer to the students and I would have felt presumptuous putting myself on a higher level than th em. To achieve a sense of equality, as I previously outlined, I used a democratic method. We set group expectations together, decided on topics for scenes as a group and built the scenes together. Although I think the students appreciated being treated as equals, I did find some difficulty asserting myself as a facilitator. By this, I mean that it was necessary for me to have a clear role, distinct from the participants, in order to provide organization to the group and keep them on task. I also had to ach ieve my pedagogical goals of passing on what I have learned in the Theatre of the Oppressed field. I found it hard to have it both ways. Either the students would treat me as a student, or as a facilitator. I made the choice to open as many things up to a democratic process as I could, but to remain distinct from
86 the participants in order to maintain organization and harmony. The balance was difficult. Some students challenged me with both difficult and provocative comments in class. My method for reacting to such instances was to acknowledge the question or comment and express my appreciation for their input, then move on with the lesson plan. One such instance was when a student involved in activist work at New College asked me how Theatre of the Oppresse d actually enacted change. She wanted specific examples, which I didnt have. I could tell her that I had seen students become more expressive and empowered after using the technique, but this wasnt the kind of proof she wanted. I instead had to thank her for her question and redirect it as a segue into a discussion of the importance of action after the Forum process has ended. These questions were difficult in that they questioned my legitimacy as an instructor and expert in Theatre of the Oppressed, but I believe that they helped the students to see that this was a co learning process. In the end, I believe I gained the respect of the students and developed a confidence in my ability to lead a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop. Conclusion Looking ba ck on my experience planning, facilitating, and evaluating this ISP, I feel that I have been able to shift smoothly from the realm of theory into that of praxis. This is essential in understanding how social and political theatre methods work, because, if left on paper, they are of no use to us and are rendered esoteric. Improvement and expansion are always possible in these kinds of projects. I believe that the students had a well rounded experience but could have benefited from the continuity of one f acilitator throughout the period. I also think that, in order to
87 commit to the values of a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop, we must question all hierarchies to create an egalitarian environment, even in an academic institution. Also, encouraging diversi ty in the workshop participants is essential for representing a variety of opinions, perspectives, and personal experiences. I believe that my experiences have reflected the necessity of adaptation to the work. Theatre of the Oppressed is a living, breat hing art. With each group that approaches it, a new identity and process must be created organically for that given place and time. During the month of the ISP, Theatre of the Oppressed became a medium for expression for students within an academic context that can often stifle emotion. It transformed into a means for non judgmental dialogue with in our community. It became a way for me to feel confident in my abilities as a leader and comfortable in my role as a constant learner. For the students of the Th eatre of the Oppressed and Beyond ISP of 2012, this experience will be distinct from any other T.O. workshop.
88 Fig. 5: Flyer for the final performance, Rehearsal for Revolution on February 2 n d 2012
89 B i b l i o g r a p h y Andrews, M. F. P. "Celebrate People." JustSeeds: Artists N.P., 12 Apr 2010. Web. 1 Dec 2011.
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