Dr. Ellen Anne Schultz, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, is an expert in the techniques of Augosto Boal and his Theatre of the Oppressed. This video is an example of the techniques in action, at a community event in Aurora, Illinois, August 2o14.

Ellen spent the summer training the men: ex-prisoners and performers of A Day At Stateville, in the techniques of the theatre of the oppressed.

Theatre of the Oppressed is a theoretical framework and set of techniques developed by Brazilian director, artist and activist Augusto Boal.

TOP engages people in discovery, critical reflection and dialogue and the process of liberation! Through this methodology we can better understand ourselves, our communities and our world. There are a series of techniques, tools and expressions in the Theatre of the Oppressed.

Game playing is the core. An extensive arsenal of well-crafted and expertly facilitated games allows participants to stretch the limits of their imaginations, de-mechanise habitual behaviours and deconstruct and analyse societal structures of power and oppression. Plus, game playing is fun and builds community.

In Image Theatre participants explore issues of oppression by using nonverbal expression and sculpting their own and other participants’ bodies into static physical images that can depict anything concrete or abstract, such as a feeling, issue, or moment.

Forum Theatre is a performance that functions to transform from spectator (one who watches) to a spect-actor (one who watches and takes action). A short scene by Forum actors presents an issue of oppression and represents the world as it is–the anti-model. Audience members are then encouraged to stop the play and take the stage to address the oppression, attempting to change the outcome through action. The show engages Forum actors and audience members in fun, entertaining and enlightening community dialogue.

The Joker  is a key element in a forum performance – he welcomes and warms up the audience. He introduces the context and the members of the play to the audience. As the play begins, it takes us through the life of the protagonist. The cast build the scenes to portray the act of oppression and its consequences. The spect-actors are given a few minutes to absorb the gravity of the act and reflect upon it.

The Joker asks them if this kind of a social set up that is acceptable. Questions like, “Do you feel any empathy after watching this play?”   “Would you be prepared to fight it if this were a real life situation?” to provoke thought and finally the joker poses the question that urges them to act out any possible solution, “ Would you like to try out any solutions?”

The spectactor can do many things. He can come in as a new character, replace a bystander, fashion a new scene. An audience member is encouraged by the joker to shout STOP!  at a point where they they see a potential for change in the drama. The joker encourages the spectactor to replace a character who holds the power to liberate.  The spectactors (audience) inevitably come away from the performance seeing the problem unfold with the possibility of positive change.

Rainbow of Desire uses Image and Forum techniques to investigate internalized oppression. This highly therapeutic series of techniques asks participants to explore how external oppression causes us to oppress ourselves and helps to identify greater social issues and identify opportunities and even action for change.

If you don’t DO anything different, there won’t BE anything different! Theatre of Liberation!

Ellen, James Chapman and the readers from A Day At Stateville are successfully using and developing these techniques and this video is a snapshot of their adventure so far.