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Creative Change: Theater of the Oppressed

There are many ways to fight against oppression and social injustices. You can start a revolution, hold a protest, send a letter to congress. But the fighters that really inspire me are not necessarily the ones out there making rousing speeches or heading the charge, but rather the artists who are using their craft to bolster change and awareness and strength. 

Theater of the oppressed is a technique developed by Augusto Boal. Boal in an artist, and activist and a director and he believes that each human being is their own self contained theater. We have the rather unique ability to take action and interact with the world around us as well as observe those same actions. It was Boal’s belief. since we are our own audience, that we have the power to edit and change our actions and the impact of those action on the world.

Theater Of The Oppressed was Originally developed out of Boal’s work with peasant and worker populations, it is now used all over the world for social and political activism, conflict resolution, community building, therapy, and government legislation. Its is a beautiful and active way of bringing change into communities.

There are many techniques used to facilitate dialogues and to plant these seeds of change. One technique, Forum Theater, struck me as particularly moving. Actors present and play out a scene of oppression, but throughout the scene audience members are encouraged to pause the scene and jump in with different solutions and ideas that could change the outcome of the scene. Th spectator becomes what Boal calls the spect-actor. This exercise allows audience members to have fun while also bolstering a dialogue about methods of change and a different approach oppression of any kind.

So lets all be spect-actors. That would be pretty swell.


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#1 POSTED BY Madeline Hanna Robles, 03/06 9:14 PM

What kind of changes does Augusto Boal want to see? Are his inspirations for society similar to yours?

#2 POSTED BY Hannah Heffernan Johnson, 03/10 9:55 PM

Do you think there is anyway to implement this method on a larger scale? Perhaps with political leaders? What do you think the implication of this played out on a large scale would be if you think it is applicable?

#3 POSTED BY Wade Wallerstein, 03/23 2:16 AM

I think it's interesting that Boal's vision of the individual as a theater is similar to Goffman's model of impression management, where we are all actors on a stage and the "backstage" is what goes on out of the public's view. It would be cool to see where they agree, but also where they disagree, more exactly defining what exactly comprises Boal's "theater."

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