Category: Theatre of the Oppressed

Margi in HOME. Projection by Bev Jensen, Photo by Stephen Henry

Margi in HOME. Projection by Bev Jensen, Photo by Stephen Henry

It’s that Sunday morning. You know the one. The show has been bumped out ten hours before and you are sitting on the couch with coffee-in-hand wondering what has happened. Those of you who are not theatre makers, I will explain and you will see it is also something that happens in everyone’s life at transitional times. We all put all of our energies into our creative projects: every living hour is spent re-figuring lines, distilling images, questioning choices and every morning you awake with new inflections to old lines, new ideas to well oiled choreography. It simply does not stop. And the joy of being the writer as well as the performer of HOME is that you have the opportunity to test these ideas again and again.

So I am sitting. Wondering how we managed a delicious month of creative practice…as a team we know each other very well. We all have our roles and our strengths that we focus on. FORCE OF CIRCUMSTANCE and nest ensemble focus on strengths. How can we grow our strengths so that we can create the atmosphere of transformation, not just for the team but more importantly for our audience? Our objective is to provide the opportunity for audience members to remember, reconsider and reinvent…and we have a beautiful role model in Queen Isis, the Egyptian Goddess, who re-dreamed her own story…

Out of isolation, Queen Isis creates relationship
Out of ritual, she finds hope
And out of tragedy, she rebuilds her love again and again and again
Fourteen temples.
Fourteen homes.

HOME is an opportunity to re-dream through the lens of poetics.
In the latest Womankind Magazine, there is a quote from Michael Foley who wrote the book “Embracing the Ordinary” (available on Kindle) where he says

Understanding is itself transformative

So as we unfold story after story in HOME, both the performers and the audience are understanding more and more about life’s ordinary moments:

I will perform for you so that the extraordinariness of an ordinary life can laid bare

In the 90 minutes of HOME we are laid bare, given time to think and feel our stories, our huge and impactful stories that we sometimes forget, we are so busy focusing on improving our weaknesses, or getting on in this busy and fractious world. HOME’s antidote is to reflect, to understand:

Simply understand and your soul will be healed

says Michael Foley.

Photo by Carly Komp

Photo by Carly Komp

Queen Isis’s advice is just to love one another and love with excruciating vulnerability:

And I hear Queen Isis’s voice
Arise and uncover thyself
My story is your story
Love as I have loved
with excruciating vulnerability
love life
love the dead and each other
as long as we live
the dead shall live

Another article in Womankind talks about career paths and offers another option on page 12(No. 5):

Delightfully termed “desire lines”, these meandering trails-often dirt tracts within manicured parklands-are the natural pathways that humans walk…they are not straight, but drift, snake and wind all over the place. Like a career, the straight path from A to Z is not necessarily the most natural-or the best- course to take.

Perhaps Queen Isis’s advice would do well when one is executing one’s career…the winding of relationships, of places, of times, of story, because

Each show ten audience members become actors

Each show ten audience members become actors

Post 2: Theatre of The Oppressed Conference, Omaha Nebraska

Whenever I am away from home, I read. Lots. And find that my motivation to create is central. Reading things like:

The Ten Minute Rule: “if work is going well we can sit down and get something good done in ten minutes” and “What I do every day matters more than what i do once in a while” and “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit” (Aristotle).

These quotes from “Write it Slant” (Tell It Slant

Miller (and many writers/artists/performers) talk about how we straddle the ‘borderland’ between chaos and order: we create “artistic order out of life’s chaos”. Miller chose her title from an Emily Dickinson poem:

Tell all the Truth but tell it Slant
success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm delight
the Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
with explanation kind
the Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.

Tell the Truth but tell it slant

So I begin my days reading things like this before I hit the road to be awoken by public art, parklands, bookshops and the obligatory gallery (if the lines aren’t too long). In Omaha the conference was not close to the galleries but it was close to a beautiful parkland where I walked daily.

Elmwood Park is just next to University of Nebraska campus

Elmwood Park is just next to University of Nebraska campus

Pre-Conference: Legislative Theatre

The thing I liked most about the pre-conference were the people involved. We came from all over the world and our jokers (facilitators) were from Brazil (now living in Germany most of the time) and Portugal.

The second thing I liked most was the explanation of TO (Theatre of the Oppressed). This is how it was explained at the workshop and it made good sense to me: that we take a representation of the reality that exists, it is our own opinion of the reality. It is theatre, not reality, and we use word, image and sound to talk about this representation. we are the producers of beauty, of knowledge and of culture. In my representation of the situation, I can exercise the change in order to change the reality.

As per usual in TO, we began with games. These games are fun, simple and my experience was that they created connection among all the participants. We learned each other’s names, we got to know each other’s rhythms and style.

Another wonderful learning, or better to say re-learning and re-emphasis, was the talk about dialogue as opposed to monologue. Throughout the whole conference I became very aware of the monologue and the dialogue. It was most enjoyable when we were in dialogue, which is the basis of TO work. It is what distinguishes it from regular theatre. The audience and the artists (we are all artists together) remain in dialogue with each other and influence each other.

For legislative theatre to work, the participants need several things: desire and necessity to change the situation, to provoke change along with the motivation to change. Necessity is not enough. You need the desire to provoke change in this work.

In the zine 20 Years of Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed (20th PTO Conference June 26-29th 2014

Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed

I read the following, and I thought it was relevant to the people back home reading my blog post. Katherine Burke, our current president of PTO wrote this:


Where to start?

STEP 1: Get people together.
This can be the hardest part! Start with people you know. TO is theatre BY the oppressed, FOR the oppressed. So ti can be helpful if you have a group of peole who are concerned about oppression.

STEP 2: Look in Games for Actors and Non-Actors for some simple, fun games (GAMES FOR ACTORS AND NON ACTORS (PDF)

Katherine then writes “Talk about your experience with the games, try different variations. How are the games metaphors for life? how do they make your body feel? do they alter how you move through the world? do you see or feel things differently after the game?

STEP 3: DECIDE HOW YOU WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD. Becoming a Joker means that you want to change the world, in small and big ways. Start at home, in your own community. What needs to change?

STEP 4: Tell Stories:
Focus on the problem and tell your stories to each other. one or more of these stories may inspire a Forum Play. for those of you who want to use this in the classroom I\'ve added this link

STEP 5: Create a play
Everyone works together democratically. use Image Theatre to help you find clairyt and potency. rehearse, revise, play, perform.

STEP 6: Share your play
Invite more friends and people concerned about this problem to see your play. Where? Anywhere! in a school, park, church, living room, coffee shop…anywhere people can gather.

The work of the joker is to be a Difficultator, not a Facilitator. It is not your job to find the solution but to encourage hard questions.

STEP 8: Get out of the way.
Trust the group. Trust the games. Trust the process. And get out of the way. You don’t have to make it perfect.



Theatre of the Oppressed: Omaha Conference celebrating 20 years

I have just returned from Omaha, Nebraska where I attended a TO conference (Theatre of the Oppressed). It was a full six days of workshops, dialogue, performances and socialising. There was a three day Legislative Theatre pre-conference workshop and opportunities to work with practitioners including:
Charles Adams
Julian Boal
Mariana Leal Ferreira
Jesse Hagopian
Gloria J. Ladson-Billings
Barbara Santos
José Soeiro
Biographies can be accessed at KEYNOTE BIOGRAPHIES


WE explored Theatre of the Oppressed’s Legislative Theatre with jokers Barbara Santos (who worked with Augusto Boal at the original Center for the Theatre of the Oppressed in Rio de Janeiro) and Jose Soeiro, TO activist in Portugal. Our theme was Education, and we created Image Theatre, Forum Theatre and finally a full Legislative Theatre Session which was attended by invited guests and conference participants.

What is Legislative Theatre?

From The Forum Project’s website:

Legislative Theatre is an extension of Boal’s Forum Theatre techniques and functions to determine the need for, create, and enact laws. Beyond community building and issue awareness, Legislative Theatre uses theatrical techniques to create concrete and specific socio-political impact:

“In the Legislative Theatre the aim is to bring the theatre back to the heart of the city, to produce not catharsis but dynamisation…The Legislative Theatre seeks to go further [than Forum Theatre] and to transform that desire in to law” (A. Boal, Legislative Theatre 20).

After an intense three days we began the Conference at University of Omaha where Doug Patterson started TO twenty years ago. TO BE CONTINUED.