Using Forum Theater in the Fight for Justice

May 27th, 2017 10:00 AM   to   6:00 PM
Using Forum Theater in the Fight for Justice
This country is on a precipice. Much of the ruling class is moving rightward at an accelerated pace, yet society is moving to the left. Class awareness is becoming increasingly heightened, and socialism, once a dreaded bugaboo, is now a credible part of our political discourse.  "Resistance" has become a rallying cry.

This special Forum Theater two-day workshop, led by Brazil-based Julian Boal, will look at various forms of oppression to see how they interrelate with class, how class affects us collectively, and how awareness and consciousness of one's place and role in class society can be used as a tool for mobilizing and organizing people and communities to fight for social justice, economic equality and a world where wealth is shared by all, for the benefit of all, and not owned by a small clique of capitalists who have appropriated it for their own use. In this workshop, participants will learn games and exercises used in Forum Theater, as well as techniques from other TO forms, that can be taken back to their organizations, communities and constituencies to use in their mobilizing and organizing campaigns for radical transformation.
The workshop will be held on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm.

Forum Theater is one of the forms in the Theater of the Oppressed repertory developed by Brazilian director, popular educator and Workers Party activist Augusto Boal (1931-2009). Boal's interactive approach to theatrical expression emphasizes physical dialogues, non-verbal imagery, consensus-building and problem solving processes, and techniques for developing awareness of both external and internalized forms of oppression. An innovative approach to public forums and dialogue, Forum Theater is rooted in the Brazilian popular education and culture movements of the 1950s and 1960s and is especially useful as an organizing tool in movements seeking to affect social justice and radical social transformation. It is also a very useful tool for mobilizing people, teaching them the skills to self-organize, and for building social movements and creating a viable sense of egalitarian and democratic community.

In Forum Theater, workshop participants (the "actors") are asked to tell a story about oppression, taken from daily life and based on their real experiences of oppression, and where there was no resolution to the oppressive circumstance or condition. A skit presenting that problem is improvised and presented to an audience. The original solution attempted by the protagonist (the person who was the object of the oppressive behavior or circumstance) must contain at least one social or political pitfall that either contributed to the failure to eliminate the oppressive behavior or condition, or allowed it to continue to be perpetuated.

When the skit is over, the audience discusses the attempted solution as it was presented in the skit, and then the scene is performed once more. But now, audience members are urged to intervene by stopping the action, coming on stage to replace the protagonist, and enacting their own ideas about how to end the condition of oppression. Thus, instead of remaining passive, the people in the audience become active "spect-actors" who now create alternative solutions and control the dramatic action. The aim of the forum is not to find an ideal solution, but to invent new ways of confronting oppression. This workshop will look at the larger class structure that exists in capitalist society and the systemic causes of exploitation and oppression which are related to class, and try to understand how people and communities internalize the ideology of capitaland how they can take the first steps to creating self-organized caring communities as alternatives to the dominant system.
On the second day of this workshop we will put our newly-acquired skills to the test by offering a public performance-demonstration of Forum Theater, where workshop members will directly interact with audience members, i.e., "spect-actors" to seek solutions to problems that were posed during the workshop.

Suggested reading for this workshop: The Retreat from Class: A New "True" Socialism, by Ellen Meiksins Wood. London and New York: Verso, 1986, revised 1998, 202 pp. ISBN: 978-1-85984-270-6.

This workshop is open to all and no prior theater experience is necessary to participate. Pre-registration and pre-payment is required. Please write to with any questions.

Julian Boal is based in Rio de Janeiro and is an international practitioner of Theater of the Oppressed. He is a founder of Groupe du Théâtre de l'Opprimé and author of Images of a Popular Theatre.

Tuition—sliding scale: $200-$250

SPECIAL! Early Registration discount rate ($175) by Friday, May 5.

Pay online HERE.

The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB)
The Brooklyn Commons
388 Atlantic Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11217

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