Open Access Capstone
Promoting social equity and justice, I think, are not just important but essential qualities in a good educator. My experience as a graduate student at University of Massachusetts helped me understand and practice different ways in which this could be done. For instance, I learnt how I could promote social justice through changes in curriculum, co-operative learning, inter-group dialogues or multicultural education. However, my search was for a method that did not require literacy as a pre-requisite and that went beyond mere conversations about social justice. One of the key elements of the power structures which lead to oppression, I felt, was the ability to read and write. Hence, fighting oppression with a tool which required proficiency in reading and writing, to me, was still buying into the oppression. Secondly, although engaging in dialogues about ethnic or racial differences was crucial, I felt it needed a more action-oriented element to complement it. What could this method be? It had to transcend the barriers of literacy and also have a strong action component.
As I reflected upon my experience in India, there was one art form which seemed to have both these qualities. Theatre. I had seen it performed across villages and cities alike in India. It had a universal appeal. Although, most of what I had seen seemed to serve a primarily entertainment purpose, there were a few plays which highlighted oppression. Plays like “Ismat Aapa ke Naam” [In the honor of Ismat] dealt with issues like society’s reaction to homosexuality. Others like “Zahareeli Hawa”[Poisonous Air] chronicled the Bhopal gas tragedy. In all these plays, though, the audience was a silent spectator and the purpose was to inform. Hence, when I came across a form of theatre which could lead to social equity by involving the audience actively, I wanted to learn it, to master it. It was a form of theatre attributed to the noted Brazilian activist Augusto Boal and was appropriately called the “Theatre of the Oppressed” (TO).
So, in January 2010, I spent almost a month in intense workshops with other participants and a teacher who had worked with Augusto Boal himself! It was a powerful experience of doing theatre and I searched for ways in which I could bring it to schools. I looked for books, articles videos, podcasts - anything that could send to my colleagues and educators. But I soon realized that I had been fortunate in finding a workshop on TO. It was the only way to learn this unique and intense form of theatre. I could find TO activities and theatre games but I could not find find anything on how one could proceed with these games and activities. A step-by-step approach to doing Theatre of the Oppressed was simply not available. It was then that the idea of writing a Manual on Theatre of the Oppressed took shape. As I thought more about it and talked to my colleagues in theatre, I felt that a manual that could serve as a “how-to” guide for those who would like to bring TO into a classroom/workshop environment was much needed. My colleagues encouraged me on this endeavor and I am deeply grateful for all their comments and help which went towards making this manual a reality.
Accessibility Commons, Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education Commons, Curriculum and Social Inquiry Commons, Educational Methods Commons, International and Comparative Education Commons, Teacher Education and Professional Development Commons, Theatre and Performance Studies Commons