About Us (EN)


THE THEATER

Located in a former furniture-shop-turned-theater, the Theater of the Oppressed organizes trainings and workshops, artistic research labs, rehearsals, and creations.

Since 1998, the company has been led by Rui Frati in ongoing training and development, while simultaneously welcoming and co-producing with other companies working in theater, music, and dance.

The company’s programming promotes contemporary drama and newly emerging troupes, while remaining focused on established directors and texts, as well as theater for young audiences.

Each season of the year is marked by a special event:

  • September/October: Spotlight on New Works (Pleins Feux sur la jeune création)
  • January: Blank Slate (Carte Blanche) – One new collective of artists is welcomed each year to present performances, lectures, etc. of their choosing
  • June: MigrActions – Collaborative festival between the entire company and visiting artists, aiming to foster interaction between the arts and people of all generations

 

Method

“To be a citizen is not to live in society, but to change it!”

Augusto Boal, director

 

Augusto Boal developed the methods of the Theater of the Oppressed in Latin America during the 1970’s. His goal was to draw visibility to social and political conflicts by giving a voice to marginalized groups, who were facing oppression under totalitarian regimes of the time.

The main dramatic technique is called ‘forum theater’: focusing on a current issue, the company of actors performs a scene with a negative outcome.

The audience, through questioning from the director, is then invited to reflect on how best to resolve the onstage conflict. Audience members become ‘spectActors’ and join the scene through confrontation with the other characters, thereby inspiring new ideas, alternatives, and a willingness to change the situation.

By confronting and creating together, actors and audience, new possible alternatives are discovered for the conflicts portrayed onstage.

 

Venue

Situated in a former furniture-shop-turned-theater, the Theater of the Oppressed organizes trainings and workshops, artistic research labs, rehearsals, and creations.

Since 1998, the company has been led by Rui Frati in ongoing training and development, while simultaneously welcoming and co-producing with other companies working in theater, music, and dance.

The company’s programming promotes contemporary drama and newly emerging troupes, while remaining focused on established directors and texts, as well as theater for young audiences.

 

Company

Each year, the stage professionals, eager to uphold their place as both artists and citizens, create and present a theatrical season featuring contemporary authors, with a special focus on performances which combine theater and music.

Other projects include theater forums, workshops, and trainings in different environments: prisons, schools and universities, community centers, local authorities, businesses, etc. These interventions allow the company to build and retain a new audience, as opposed to traditional theaters.

Though it is based primarily in France, the company has also brought performances and trainings to countries such as Italy, Brazil, Palestine, Burundi, Iran, Taiwan, Morocco, Romania, and Germany.

“To approach social and human conflicts through theater…to prompt a discussion, to think and understand together on stage, that is our commitment!”

Rui Frati, Artistic Director of Theater of the Oppressed

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Forum Theater

 

Forum Theater is the main theatrical technique used by the company of the Theater of the Oppressed.

Created and developed by Augusto Boal during his time practicing theater in Brazil, as well as during his time in exile in Europe and particularly in France, the ‘forum theater’ method is based on two beliefs:

  • The belief that theater can and should be a tool to change the world
  • The belief that to be human is to possess the language of theater

The role of the director in the scene, or “joker”

Fundamental as the facilitator of interactions between the audience and the stage, the director or the “joker” encourages debate with the audience and coordinates the audience interventions into the scene and the reactions of the actors. During the show, he/she guides the discussion as far as possible, and carries through the the audience’s lines of inquiry by helping them develop their points of view and clarify their intentions.

An example of an intervention in a ‘forum theater’ setting on the theme of “violence against women”. Documentary by Martin Veber: Three Blows Against Domestic Violence (FR)

 

*Download the mission statement of the Theatre of the Oppressed (FR)

 

What is forum theater?

It is a form of interactive theater which allows debate to emerge through the lens of theatrical play.

Initially, the actors perform several short scenes which reflect situations in daily life that are conflicted or obstructed in some way.

The scenes are then performed again, as many times as necessary, as members of the audience replace an onstage character (or create a new character) in order to achieve a more satisfactory outcome.

In facing the actors and confronting the initial scene, the spect-Actor will have to attempt to create new alternatives for the difficult situations at hand.

Responsibility for the performance is placed entirely on the audience. This avoids the imposition of a message or attempts to find a ‘right’ answer. Instead, by experimenting together onstage, solutions become possible.

 

Practical Information

Duration

One Forum Theater session lasts from one and a half to two hours. Fifteen minutes are for the presentation of the prepared scenes, and between one hour and fifteen minutes and one hour and 45 minutes are for debate and theatrical exchange.

Scenic Space

Forum Theater can be played in any type of room. It must provide good acoustics, otherwise the performers will require microphones and amplification equipment. There is no need for special lighting.

Scenery/Props

No specific set is necessary for a forum theater performance. The actors only require table and chairs.

 

What Sets Us Apart

Why Theater of the Oppressed?

  • Established in Paris in 1979 by Augusto Boal himself
  • Currently led by Rui Frati, who has more than 37 years of international experience, from all around the world
  • We have created more forum theater performances than any other company in France or in Europe
  • Our troupe is comprised of professional actors with many years of experiences, not amateurs or students
  • Our professional actors are paid according to the law
  • Our actors are experts in forum theater, as well as all techniques of Augusto Boal’s method
  • In our work, we have encountered nearly every type of social and political issue (and in all environments: work, family, friends, school, university, associations…). See list* below.
  • We have worked with diverse audiences, ages 8 to 99
  • We have worked for years with all types of organizations: nursery schools, primary schools, middle schools, high schools, universities, associations, businesses, hospitals, prisons, community centers, cultural centers, city councils, festivals…
  • We customize our shows (at no additional cost) to fit the specific needs of each social project/organization
  • We create as many forum theater performances as we do contemporary theater productions
  • We have our own space which allows us to remain permanently visible and accessible. We host various performances and workshops, through which people and organizations who wish to learn about and/or develop projects with us have the opportunity to meet us

*Previous themes and topics:

Being a citizen, citizen-government relations, public services, social insecurity, integration of foreigners, treatment of undocumented immigrants, social housing neighborhoods, neighborhood relations, gender equality, homophobia, secularism, discrimination (in the city, at work, etc.), racism, discriminatory behavior, justice, crime, family and domestic violence, sexual violence, violence against women, violence in the workplace, workplace conflicts, violence and antisocial behavior, parenting, school life, school violence, education, role of parents in education, youth issues, child protection, living together, suffering at work, burn-out, suicide prevention, management, globalization, north-south relations, sustainable development, public transportation, recycling, energy, health, sexuality, unplanned pregnancy, STDs, AIDs prevention, addiction, smoking, self-esteem, disability, living with chronic illness, elder abuse, elderly fall prevention, end-of-life care, human dignity, unemployment and job search, job interviews, personal and professional expression, climate change and global solidarity, sustainable development, harassment (school, work, home)…and many more

 

Artistic Interventions

We educate social workers, managers, students of all ages and all other members of the public in the methods of the theater of the oppressed, so that that they become skilled in interactive theater techniques (Image Theater, Rainbow of Desires, Forum Theater) in the professional world.

The distance that theater creates gives a sense of protection to the individual, allowing non-actors to express themselves with more freedom. This facilitates a better understanding of countless daily scenarios.

From games, stories, improvisations and the creation of scenes, we work with participants to develop their capacity for mutual listening, concentration, imagination, reflection…

These groups, depending on the work they do together, can finalize these workshops through the creation and performance of a forum theater show, or simply by collectively reflecting on their specific challenges.

 

General Content of the Trainings

 

  • Exercises for group relaxation and cohesion
  • Introduction to the Image Theater technique
  • By design, since it consists of living images frozen in place (“statues”), the need for the verbal mechanisms of daily life is eliminated. Consequently, by creating a distance from the onstage images our ability to listen and judge is no longer “impeded” and we can calmly explore the conflict. Utilized by both the facilitators and the recipients, this technique allows a better understanding of the individual from a humanist perspective and a more objective identification of the onstage conflicts.
  • Introduction to the Rainbow of Desire technique
  • This technique aims to explore and confront emotions by placing them at a distance and examining them through a character. It promotes self-expression and clarifies situations of conflict.
  • Introduction to the Forum Theater technique
  • This technique, which stages conflicts and explores them theatrically, is a powerful tool for individual expression and collective reflection. It challenges each individual’s point-of-view, and allows for alternatives to the conflict to develop collectively.

 

Methods and Educational Resources

Theoretical concepts. Theater games and exercises. Practical workshops in small groups (image theater, rainbow of desire).

Scenes of various scenarios (forum theater)

 

Practical Information

Audience: everyone

Instructors: 1 actor / director / instruction, specializing in Theater of the Oppressed techniques

Duration: from 12 – 30 hours with the same group

# of Participants: 12 maximum per group