The Act 2 Workshop drew on PAN Intercultural Arts’ expertise in Image and Forum Theatre. PAN’s methodology is partly informed by the work of the late Brazilian writer and director Augusto Boal, and partly the result of over a decade of applied art and performance work with people in post-trauma and post-conflict contexts around the world.
Boal devised the Image Theatre model in the 1970s ‘to establish dialogue among Indigenous Nations and Spanish descendants in Colombia, Venezuela [and] Mexico’ . It was part of a wider project called the ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ and is one of several models of ‘simultaneous dramaturgy’, including Invisible Theatre and Forum Theatre. It is simultaneous in the sense that the audience has the opportunity to intervene in the drama and ‘rewrite’ in real time the conditions and outcomes of the play.
The commonality between these theatrical forms is the pursuit of social change through conscious and ethical affirmative action. As tool sets they facilitate a shift in the conditions of the individual’s relationship with conflict from spectator to actor: ‘in Image Theatre everyone takes part physically in the exploration of an agreed theme – exploitation, unemployment, oppressions within the family – revealing the diverse meanings it holds for them through “sculptures” made with their own and each other’s bodies’ . In Forum Theatre, trained actors stage conflict plays based on issues pertaining to a specific community. In watching the play, the community audience has the ability to halt the action on stage, replace an oppressed character, and act out an alternative narrative.
Both forms seek to reveal structures of oppression, and open the way for new ideas and strategies that can help break patterns of abuse. John Martin refers to this function as the capacity to ‘rehearse alternative futures’. It is important to stress that the impetus for change is carried out by the community and on its own terms. Forum theatre workers may help facilitate dialogue or help train others to become facilitators, but the onus is always on change occurring from within. This ethical position was no different for the workshop in Ueberstorf.
Background Photo credit: Augusto Boal during a workshop on the Theatre of the Oppressed at the Riverside Church, New York, May 13th 2008. Creative Commons license. Courtesy of WikiMedia. View original.