Using Theatre of the Oppressed for Community Mobilization and Advocacy
Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) is a technique developed in the 1970’s in Brazil by actor and politician Augusto Boal. Boal created this form of theatre with the aim of involving those who were oppressed by the Brazilian dictatorship in their own liberation. He envisioned the theatre as a way to rehearse revolutionary actions that would free the oppressed.
There are many different styles of TO, but the main idea is that the audience can engage in the play. For example, in Forum Theatre, the actors first perform a short play which ends in conflict and has no resolution. Then, the actors perform the play again. The second time, however, audience members can yell “freeze”! Upon yelling freeze, they take responsibility to come on to the stage, replace one of the actors with whom they identify, and attempt to make the situation better. Because the audience can participate in the theatre as actors, they are called spect-actors.
Another form of TO, Legislative Theatre is similar to Forum Theatre, but asks the spect-actors to consider what kinds of laws or policies would make good solutions or prevent the situation all together. In the early 2000’s, Legislative Theatre was used in Vancouver to create responses to the cuts to welfare coming from the provincial government.
Currently, TO and its offshoots such as Vancouver’s Theatre for Living are used internationally to create community based dialogue about relevant social and environmental issues. They are also used to explore ways to act on these issues through providing ways for people to trial their ideas for solutions. They are an engaging way to involve the public in talking about the issues that impact them, and to ask them what would improve their situations.
For more information, I have included my PowerPoint: Theatre of the Oppressed
And, here are some readings on the topic:
Boal, A. (1974). Theatre of the Oppressed. London: Pluto Press.
Boal, A. (2002). Games for actors and non-actors (2nd ed). New York: Routeledge.
Diamond, D. (2007). Theatre for living: The art and science of community-based dialogue. Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing.
Headlines Theatre (no date). Theatre for living. Retrieved from: http://headlinestheatre.com/
The Forum Project (2013). The Forum Project: creative tools for creating change. Retrieved from:
Written by: Christie Wall