Theatre of the Oppressed, created in the 1970s by a Brazilian, Augusto Boal, is now worldwide. As participants, you’ll act out a personal incident of oppression. Then you rerun the scene. An observer yells “Stop!” and takes over the role of the oppressed. You’ll dramatize social injustice and change outcomes.
Using Theatre of the Oppressed for Quaker Purposes
Theatre of the Oppressed was developed by the Brazilian playwright Augusto Boal during his years of exile in the 1970s.
This theatre does things that no other social theatre has ever done. It puts both actors and oppressed people on stage. It tears down the curtain between the audience and the actors.
Over the course of the week, you will acquire training and practice to perform this type of theatre in your meeting.
Following warm-up games, each participant will be encouraged to write a short script of an incident of oppression in their life - and to perform it. We’ll divide into actors and audience (called spect-actors). Any spect-actor can raise a hand and yell “Stop” and take the place of the oppressed person who has just acted out their oppression.
When you go back home, you can use this in at least three ways:
First, in activist social work; second, in a social movement to build a community; and third, as legislative theatre.
This third purpose was used by Boal – the man who developed Theatre of the Oppressed - out of necessity when he was unexpectedly elected to the city council of Sao Paolo.
You don’t need acting experience. Boal sometimes performed this with farmers who had never even been to a theatre.
Curious? Find out more about Theatre of the Oppressed from any of these links:
A two-page description:
Beating the Bystander Effect, Theatre of the Oppressed:
- Legislative Theatre by Theatre of the Oppressed NYC:
- Forum Theatre scene of worker oppression performed by South Carolina State University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcLcXeXJVDU
- Forum Theatre on Homelessness by Theatre of the Oppressed NYC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi1HfSiMxCU
- Forum Theatre on Oppression in the Educational System: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecwFetYMy5Y
- A Theatre of the Oppressed play with Augusto Boal himself as the Joker, Harvard University, 2003: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIM_wQay2vI
Carl is a writer, editor and board game creator in Ottawa, Canada. In 1986, he led a Junior High School workshop at the FGC Gathering – a simulation of a civil war in a Central American country. In 1991, he also organized a series of workshops on conflict resolution at the Ottawa Quaker Meeting House for the Canadian branch of Nonviolent Peaceforce. In 2015, with two others from the Ottawa Quaker Meeting – Jane Keeler and Carla Muschinske - he took an intensive training in Theatre of the Oppressed from Naomi Tessler of Branch Out Theatre. Carl then wrote two short plays dramatizing the proposed law that would grant huge powers to the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (Canada’s CIA). The three Friends then organized the Quaker Theatre Team. The Team performed the two plays in front of the Canadian Parliament during the demonstrations against this draft law. In the fall of 2018, he organized and led a three-evening workshop in Ottawa on how to do Theatre of the Oppressed.
KT is a fellow with Quaker Voluntary Service in the Twin Cities region in Minnesota where she works as a Permanent Supportive Housing Case Manager. She attends the Twin Cities Friends Meeting as well as Dance Church on Sundays. In her spare time, she facilitates Mindful Direct Action Trainings focusing on resistance to Pipeline 3, meditates, dances contact improv, makes music with her housemates, and rock climbs. Her theater experience includes studying acting in college and volunteering as an extra in Bread and Puppet Theatre when they came to the Twin Cities. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York in 2017 where she studied French and Women and Gender Studies.
Dillon is a fellow with Quaker Voluntary Service in the Twin Cities region in Minnesota, where she works for the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. There she runs an assortment of workshops, residencies and commissioned events. In the summer of 2017, she worked for Catoctin Quaker Camp where she supervised cabin counselors and facilitated camp operations including a three-day wilderness camp. While there, she also led training of new staff on outdoor safety and preparedness, youth safety, diversity and inclusion, emergency protocols, homesickness, fostering a positive community, eco-education, and youth leadership. In 2017, Dillon graduated with a B.A. from Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio. She is an attender at the Twin Cities Friends Meeting.