After exile by the military regime, Augusto Boal devoted himself to search for theatrical forms which could be useful for the oppressed and downtrodden, creating conditions to overcome the role of consumers of cultural goods and assume the status of producers of culture and knowledge. For both, codified the Theater of the Oppressed, that could be called Theater of the dialog which, starting from the staging of a real situation, encourages the exchange of experience between actors and spectators, through the direct intervention in action theater, aiming at analysis and understanding of the structure represented and the search for concrete ways to effective actions that will lead to the transformation of that reality.
A theatrical method which is based on the principle that the act of transforming is transformative. How to say Boal, who turns words into verses is transformed into a poet; he who transforms the clay into a statue becomes a sculptor; to transform the social and human relations presented in a scene of theater, becomes a citizen. A method that seeks, through dialogue, to return to the oppressed your right to speak and the right to be.
Boal has always insisted that the techniques that make up the method of Theater of the Oppressed do not have emerged as individual invention, but rather as a result ofcollective discoveries, from concrete experiences that showed objective needs. Each one of the techniques of Theater of the Oppressed represents a response found by Boal and his colleagues and collaborators who accumulated throughout his career.
Major Branches of Theater of the Oppressed
Newspaper Theater was a response to the aesthetic censorship imposed, in Brazil, in the early 1970s, by the military, for escamotearem content, invent truths and evade. In this technique, Reenacts what is lost between the lines of news censorship, creating images that reveal the silences. Created in 1971, in an Arena Theater of São Paulo, this technique was widely used at the time of the Brazilian military dictatorship, to disclose information distorted by newspapers of the era, all under official censorship. Today it is still used to make explicit the manipulations used by the media.
The Invisible Theater which, being life, it is revealed as a theater and is carried out at the place where the situation staged should happen, emerged as a response to the impossibility, dictated by authoritarianism, to make theater within the theater, in Argentina. A scene from everyday life is staged and presented at the site where it could have happened without that identifies it as an event. In this way, viewers are real participants, reacting and now spontaneously to the discussion provoked by the theatrics.
In Image Theater, the staging is based in languages non-verbal. This was a departure found by Boal for working with indigenous peoples in Chile, of ethnic groups with different mother tongues, who participated in a literacy program and needed to communicate among themselves. This technique transforms theatrical questions, problems and feelings into concrete images. From the reading of body language, it seeks to understand the facts represented in the image, which is real while the image. The image is a reality and, at the same time, the representation of a reality.
The simultaneous dramaturgy was kind of a translation done by artists on the problems experienced by people. Until the day that a woman in Peru, did not accept the translation and dared to go on stage to say with your voice and through your body which would be the alternative to the problem staged. I was born The Teatro-Fórum, where the barrier between stage and audience is destroyed and the dialog implemented. There is a scenario based on real facts, in which characters are oppressed and oppressors are in conflict, clearly and objectively, in defense of their desires and interests. In comparison, the oppressed fails and the public is stimulated by the Joker (the facilitator of the Theater of the Oppressed), to come on the scene, replace the protagonist (overwhelmed) and seek alternatives to the problem staged.
Rainbow of Desire (Arco-Íris do Desejo)
In 1980 in France, Augusto Boal and Cecilia Boal encounter oppressions connected with subjectivity, unrelated to a physical or a concrete impediment in everyday life. An arsenal of techniques that analyze the oppressors internalized into the Rainbow of Desire, the response to this demand. Known as Boal Method of theatre and therapy is a therapeutic techniques and theatrical set used in the case studies where the oppressors have been internalized, inhabiting the minds of those who live oppressed by these ideas and attitudes.
“In the Legislative Theatre the aim is to bring the theatre back to the heart of the city, to produce not catharsis, but dynamisation. Its objective is not to pacify its audiences, to tranquilise them, to return them to a state of equilibrium and acceptance of society as it is, but, again contrarily, to develop their desire for change. The Theatre of the Oppressed seeks not only to develop this desire but to create a space in which it can be stimulated and experienced, and where future actions arising from it can be rehearsed. The Legislative Theatre seeks to go further and to transform that desire into law. (We must be aware that law is always someone’s desire – it is always the desire of the powerful: let’s democratise this desire, let’s make our desire become lay too!)” – Augusto Boal, Legislative Theatre: Using Performance to Make Politics, trans. Adrian Jackson (London and New York: Routledge, 2005).
Text by Bárbara Santos