Theater of the oppressed or Forum theater

Yavor Kostov: At the Forum Theater, step one is to admit the other and his right to exist with his requirements

Forum – theater is one of the theatrical forms that directly engage the audience in what is happening on the stage. These are cases presented to the public in one form or another. There are certain techniques for the audience to take part in solving the problem. In general, problems or conflicts can be reduced to the fact that in life there is almost always some form of oppression, of some misuse of power. It can be quite personal and public. For example, I can rule over someone just because I’m stronger than him or because society puts me in that position. Such forms of power are unconscious. This type of theater aims to identify them first, show them, and then engage the audience in solving problems related to these conflicts. The other name of the Forum Theater is the Theater of the oppressed. It is understood that the oppressed often do not have a voice in the social system. The forum theater is one way the voice of the oppressed can be heard.

How do you challenge the audience to look for solutions to help suppress and engage actively in this type of theater?

Yavor Kostov: Actually, this is not a very simple job. There is one person in the Forum Theater, which is called a joker. He is an intermediary between the actors and the audience. There are a lot of things that depend on him and his behavior is extremely important at these forum-theater sessions. Augusto Boal himself has written many books on the subject, at least 10, in which there are different types of approaches, techniques, games. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, none has been translated into Bulgarian. So far, literature is available in English basically, but there is work to do and can start from simpler things and go to more sophisticated. There is a Forum – a theatrical form of this theater, which even deals with the creation of laws, so the future is ahead of us in this respect, and who really wants the field is huge for work.

In the Center of the Theater of the oppressed in Rio de Janeiro we worked with men who beated their wives. Ashamed of some of them, seeing themselves on the stage, was already the beginning of the path to some change. Can anyone say ” Big deal? ” Yes, very small, but the direction of the road is more important than the size of the step.

We worked with teachers who beated their disciples and fathers who made their children drank: the theatricalisation of oppression by them, made oppressors ashamed and many of them changed. Aesthetic Space is a magnifying glass that reveals behaviors that are nondescript, unconscious or hidden.

We should never be frightened or ashamed to work with people who perform functions or occupy positions that offer the power and authority to repress – we have to believe in ourselves and in the theater. But we have to be very careful … we know how to choose on which side to stand.

We experienced this new teaching practice on how people are treated in various situations like in the shop due to the colour of the skin, the recruitment for work and the attitide of the businessmen due to the disabled people, due to pregnant women, older and other social groups. There were some students that acted as spectactors because they performed another position different from the first shown performance.