Augusto Boal was born in 1931 in the Penha neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, the son of a baker. He first became a chemical engineer and later a theatre director, playwright, essayist, and creator of the Theater of the Oppressed. Boal was director of the Arena Theater from 1956 to 1971 where he performed a theatrical revolution in Brazil. In 1971, he was imprisoned, tortured, and exiled. Between 1971 and 1986 during his exile, travelled extensively and taught at several universities around the world, truly becoming a citizen of the world. At this stage, Boal developed theatrical experiences that would bring him international recognition.
Boal returned to Brazil in 1986 to direct the Popular Theater Factory. The goal was to make theatrical language accessible to all, as a stimulus to dialogue and for the transformation of social reality. Together with popular artists in Brazil, he created the Center of Theater of the Oppressed (CTO) to spread Theater of the Oppressed across the country. Boal was the mentor and artistic director of CTO for 23 years. The first class of Curingas were Claudete Felix, Licko Turle, Luiz Vaz, Silvia Balestreri, Valeria Vicente. Into the 1990s and 2000s, the class grew with the additions of Bárbara Santos, Cláudia Simone, Flávio Sanctum, Geo Britto, Helen Sarapeck, Olivar Bendelak, Alessandro Conceição, and Monique Rodrigues, many of whom collaborated with Boal in the rewriting of Aesthetics of the Oppressed.
At CTO, Boal developed projects with NGOs, trade unions, universities and prefectures. In 1992, he was nominated and elected counselor of the City of Rio de Janeiro by PT (Workers’ Party) to develop Forum Theater which involved the intervention of spectators. Forum Theater was followed by Legislative Theater which sought to influence legislative action in the city. Between 1997 and 2009 Boal spread the work of CTO throughout Brazil and the world, focusing in the ares of education, human rights, health, and culture. In 2008, Boal was a pre-candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize and in March 2009 was appointed World Ambassador of Theater by UNESCO.
The main creation of Augusto Boal, the Theater of the Oppressed, is now a worldwide reality, with the theater methodology being best known and practiced on five continents. He left a vast written work that continues to be translated in over 30 languages. Augusto Boal passed away peacefully on May 2, 2009, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
To read more in Portuguese, click here.