Tag Archives: Theatre of the Oppressed

Theatre Of The Oppressed Training, Ecodharma, 2016

Theatre Of The Oppressed Training, Ecodharma, 2016

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Has it really been over a year since our first full training in Theatre of the Oppressed up the beautiful mountain in Cataluyna? And to think of all the adventures in between, where me met old friends and new in Paris for the COP21, went twice to Budapest for the Alternative Actors Series and Rainbow of Desire training, plus returning twice to Spain for Creative Tools of Social Transformation and to attend the Creating Resilience course in Eroles …

But indeed, next week we return to Ecodharma for another intensive training session, this time with TotO graduate Lex Titterington and new-comer Richard Loizou to facilitate alongside George. Richard has this to share:

 

“I am on a journey to explore explore how I can best bring my gifts to create change in the world. This sounds impressive eh? But it has basically involved me being belligerent and doing exactly what I want most of the time. Occupying buildings so I can be free to occupy myself as I liked led me to making jewellery out of scrap copper, this was fun. Friends invited me to share my skills at a social center they had created. An idea was born, “I good at this and its fun” I will buy a van and travel round music festivals teaching people how to make jewellery. And I did, and it was fun. Then I moved into Embercombe, a land based Learning and personal development center. I was planning to spend a winter there, they have lots of wood to burn, I thought. I stayed for seventeen months and became an Education Assistant facilitating their residential school programs. Personal growth and transofmation are now personal and professional passion. By facilitating on Theatre of the Opressed I hope to deepen my understanding of humanity and help create a space in which people can explore themselves and society. I hope to take the skills and techniques I learn and apply them to working with all kinds of people from all kinds of places.”

 

Thanks for sharing Rich!

 

The course is totally booked out after a massive and enthusiastic response, but don’t worry, next year we will be running even more training sessions in the UK, Spain and beyond in an attempt to meet the ongoing demand. Get in touch to bring Reboot the Root’s infamous Theatre of the Oppressed training to a location near you!

The act of transforming …

The act of transforming

Five years ago today we were in Malaysia … here’s what happened …

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The act of transforming, I always say, transforms she or he who acts. So to use the theater as a rehearsal for transformation of reality.”

– Augusto Boal

Today, 8 trainees from Malaysian Care joined us at the Batu Arang Social Centre for a day’s introduction to the praxis of theatre of the oppressed.

The day was co-facilitated by Azahar, Argus and Nurul, and ran through a series of games and exercises aimed at producing an original forum theatre piece related to the common experience of the group.

The piece that emerged was as follows:

Attitude In The Office – a workplace forum

1st Action:

Fred works in an office. He is hard at work, his chair facing away from his colleagues Sam and Daniel. A large box is centre stage. Sam stands, and sees the box. He asks Fred to move it to the store cupboard, and Fred initially resists. All the way through, Daniel is beavering away with his headphones on. Sam convinces Fred to help him move the box, but when they both stand, Sam suddenly remembers he has something else to do. He looks at his watch and leaves. Fred tries to get Daniel to help him move it, but Daniel ignores him. Eventually, Fred tries to lift the box, and injures his back doing so.

2nd Action:

In the next scene, Boss Yong asks Sam to pick up a VIP from Subang airport. Sam is distracted, and barely listens to his boss. The boss returns to his office, and Sam calls Prakash to pick up the VIP. He tells Prakash to go to KLIA. Prakash sets off, and waits patiently at the airport. Boss Yong returns, saying it is 5 o’clock and he is waiting for the VIP. Sam realises he has sent Prakash to the wrong airport, but lies and covers up the mistake. Prakash returns and is blamed for the mistake.

3rd Action:

In the third scene, Fred returns from the hospital and finds Prakash very upset by what happened, Daniel is still ignoring everything, the Boss Yong is sat in his office, and Sam is still pretending to work.

This scene emerged from a process of image work based around the ideas suggested by the group of office integration and people saying negative things about co-workers.

We played with the initial images for sometime, debating whether the initial image (Sam looking at his watch, his other hand held up in supplication as Fred attempts to lift the box) showed equals or a manager/employee relationship. The group decided co-worker relationships were more pertinent to them. The third action developed organically as we laid the background for the story, and a number of actions were attempted to both solve the issue of Sam’s attitude (identified as more important than the actual moving of the box) and examine the technique in general – a classic dilemma of subjective/objective analysis.

The forum produced the following:

First Intervention: Fred returns from hospital, limping, and immediately speaks to Sam, asking him about the box and what happened. Sam defends himself, reasoning that he has to delegate and Fred could have asked Daniel. Fred acquiesces, and goes to speak to Prakash. Prakash is crying, and explains what happened with the airport and the VIP. Meanwhile, Sam goes to whisper in the ear of Boss Yong. Fred goes to speak to the boss alone. The Boss explains that Sam has reported Fred saying bad things about him. Fred explains what happened. The Boss calls Sam back into the office. At this point, Fred wanted to leave, not wanting to damage his good working relationship with Sam. The Boss listens to both people, and then warns Sam that he will be ‘keeping an eye on him from now on’. The Boss seemed largely unmoved by the plight of his workers.

Second Intervention: In this intervention, everything was the same, except Rufus (Fred) chose to take Prakash immediately with him to confront Boss Yong. Boss Yong again seemed unmoved by his workers situation, and gave the same warning as previously.

At this point, we had some discussion about the Boss character, and Sheila opted to take his place to show a different approach as boss. The group accepted Boss Yong’s interpretation, but it felt like he would remain largely neutral throughout. Boss Sheila’s character was more sympathetic and dynamic in solving the problem. The third intervention produced the most interesting results, and was played out with Sue Lyn as Fred.

Third Intervention: After speaking to Sam, Fred’s character goes to speak with Prakash, and this time, Daniel was motivated by compassion to join them and confirm he witnessed Sam telling Prakash to go to KLIA, not Subang. The three of them formed a unit, that then marched in to see the Boss Sheila. Overhearing this, Sam packed his bag and snuck out of the office, only to receive a phone call from Sheila summoning him back. Sheila then dismissed the others and there followed a quite sensitive scene where Boss Sheila tried to speak to Sam about his attitude and how he should behave in the workplace.

This for me was the most interesting moment: seeing Daniel, who had previously sat mutely, passively at the rear of the ‘office’, watching amusedly whilst his colleagues had battled it out, was suddenly motivated to act. He tried to catch my eye to ask permission first, which I gave, interested to see what he intended, and he joined in solidarity with Fred and Prakash – who was making a convincing display of upset over the injustice of his accusation. Similarly, once this happened, it tipped the balance of pressure on Sam, who wanted to escape and avoid the whole scenario.

This is one of the first forums I have come across where multiple people have actively been ‘oppressed’ by the actions of an oppressor: everyone in the office suffers because of the actions of a single co-worker. Not the traditional boss archetype, but a supposed equal, because of whose actions the others suffer collectively.

Throughout the devising process, it became increasingly blurred what was reality and what was ‘acting’, as the assembled group shares a workplace environment and were familiar with scenarios and characters being represented – albeit in a respectful and indirect way. I checked throughout and the group confirmed that they recognised the different boss characters, the different co-worker characters, and indeed each aspect of the scenario was familiar to them.

On analysis, the propensity to avoid confrontation was apparent (Fred fleeing a direct confrontation with Sam, and Sam trying to avoid one as well). Also, the culture of gossip and backbiting was represented, with people in the office frequently eavesdropping on one another, whispering things privately to each other, and favouring 1-2-1 communication over group discussion. However, I believe there were a few key moments when the balance swung towards open communication and directness, however, the boss character did dismiss the others when the opportunity came to speak directly to Sam.

I liked how enthusiastic today’s group was – they were hungry to learn. Apparently they had already tried out a rough forum with a group on Saturday, and it was obvious from how they delved into the technique that they were keen to explore and discover the process. It is my hope that through more sessions like this we can further embed the principles and praxis of Theatre of the Oppressed into the Malaysian NGO and outreach community.

As ever, I ended the session rather abruptly. No need for a cosy wrap-up – let the participants wander out into the jungle blinking and confused – what just happened? Let the aesthetics of the experience come back to haunt them as they return to their office …

For the first time in months, I was able to join in the image session as well. Immediately the profound feeling of being ‘objectified’ struck me as I was modelled into a bizarre shape. It gave me an insight into the process of switching object/subject that the image work is designed for. For a brief moment, I was a thing, an object, for the others to cast their subjective visions upon – a lucid shape to catch the colours of their mind. I must engage more in the exercises run by the others, as the experience is invaluable in terms of internalising the technique.

Despite my megalomaniac urges, the others, of course, ran a superlative process of games and exercises, nicely timed and soundly coordinated. Azhar continues to impress.

So, what next? The group can definitely handle more complicated subject matter, and needs assistance shaping a truly utilitarian forum piece for an audience to hammer home. I shall let it rest awhile, and report back soon with ideas on how we can push the group further.

Solidarity Is Our Weapon – RtR Newsletter August

Solidarity Is Our Weapon – RtR Newsletter August

Dear friends, allies and accomplices,

Hello to you all! Welcome to our irregular Reboot The Roots newsletter …

In these times of Brexit and growing hostility to persons from other places, RTR proudly stands for solidarity with all oppressed peoples, and continues to champion the use of creative arts practices to promote multicultural harmony. We believe in direct action and unremitting creative resistance to all forms of domineering behaviour.

As long as there is an oppressed, we are on their side.

It has been one of our busiest years yet, with over a dozen new associate artists and facilitators sponsored by RtR to do what they do best – create and facilitate social and personal transformation through the arts! However, a key feature of that work this year has been to do with self-care, burnout, and creating resilience.

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Highlights include:

-workshops for 60+ people at the COP21 protests in Paris in December, taking a de-escalation bloc (BEEVA BLOC!) to the streets in clown-army fashion to keep the cops on their best behaviour whilst supporting the family friendly and accessible atmosphere.

– a dozen change-agents from across Europe trained in theatre of the oppressed at Ecodharmain October, exploring how we can use Rainbow of Desire and forum theatre to promote unity and liberation.

– we visited Budapest twice to deliver a two-week theatre project around the theme of response to the refugee crisis, returning again to explore therapeutic theatre for healing in February.

– we funded artists to attend festivals in Switzerland and Greece to exhibit their artworks and perform in autonomous spaces, in support of anti-elitism and prisoner solidarity.

– we supported facilitators to return to Cluj in Romania to deliver workshops on the feedback method, feminist history and theatre for social change.

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But we’re not through yet!– in August, RtR is partnering with the Eroles Project to facilitate two weeks of arts-activism on the theme of borders and creating resilience in these troubled times, providing funding and training for a team of facilitators to work with a team members to explore how to keep on keeping on in the face of burn-out and sometimes overwhelming resistance.

– still upcoming this year, we will rejoin Focus Atelier for the inaugural platform event in Chiesenau, in the Republic of Moldava. This will be the first time RtR and Associatia Reciproca are holding this event in one of the poorest countries in Europe.

– we hope to attend the Berlin Tattoo Circus in September with associate artist Sierra Weppla and Creative Director George Wielgus to support prisoners and generate dialogue around the injustice system through Theatre of the Oppressed.

– for this year’s Theatre of the Oppressed Training Week in Ecodharma, Cataluyna, we want to sponsor two emerging facilitators to attend to expand our network and support their development as trainers and artists.

– in 2017, we will launch the Ouroboros Exhibition in London – our first major UK Project – featuring a range of multidisciplinary artists with experience of social exclusion. The theme is around creative responses to the destructive nature of crisis. Watch this space for the upcoming indiegogo campaign and future updates.

 

 

How You CaTeatru-Forum-si-Teatru-Invizibil-Focus-Atelier-44n Help

– join us! On September 4th we are having our annual general meeting for all our members and supporters. More details to follow but feel free to write to us to express an interest.

Solidarity is our weapon. Come vote on our decisions, stand to be a trustee, pitch us an idea, get involved, you are most welcome, the house is yours!

– share our website & social media to promote our work

– write something for our blog on your experience. Did you attend a workshop or performance? Has RtR helped you? We would love to hear about it …

sign up as a regular donor … as little as £2 a week will help us to continue to support the development of artists with experience of social cohesion, assisting them to gain access to new audiences and achieve our vision of a united, multicultural society.

bung us some cash … one-off donations make up nearly 50% of our funding each year. Maybe you participated in one of our free workshops and enjoyed it, maybe you were funded yourself to attend something, now we need your contributions to make these amazing events keep happening!

– watch out for our upcoming indiegogo campaign to raise £3500 to host a multidisciplinary arts exhibition in Tower Bridge in 2017, featuring a range of artists from socially excluded backgrounds.

We couldn’t do this without each other,

Love and solidarity, and many thanks to all the people who have touched our lives,

The RtR Bloc

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A Threshold Moment – from Ruth in Budapest

A Threshold Moment – from Ruth in Budapest

A threshold moment.

After a feisty 2 weeks in Budapest last November Reboot the Roots were invited back to explore Augusto Boal’s transformative techniques with The Alternative Workshop Series Budapest. Last week, late February 2016, George Wielgus and myself facilitated the group for 3 days focusing on Rainbow of Desire.

This was the first time I had co-facilitated with Reboot the Roots and even though George and I had had detailed conversations about the form and content, I arrived on the first day nervous and expectant. What I found was a keen, smiling, (and late) group of social workers, teachers, people working with refugees, in human rights NGOs and drama students.

My role was to facilitate the mornings, preparing the group physically, emotionally and mentally for the afternoons and cultivating a culture of care within the space. Not everyone knew each other or the techniques, and I had concerns that newcomers might be overwhelmed. However the group bonded with ease and we reached a better-than-planned threshold moment by day three.

In the mornings we played trust games in pairs and in groups. We tried out how it feels to make physical connections, to touch and be touched, lift and be lifted. We played many power games some I’d devised to work alongside Rainbow of Desire, so I’m looking forward to trying them again when I facilitate with George in May.

In the afternoons George lead us through Rainbow of Desire including Analytical Mirror and Cop in the Head, all forms of Theatre of the Oppressed that focus on oppressions we experience from within. Augusto Boal, developed these technique in response to his time in Europe when he found the oppressions many people faced were internal more than external (different, he writes, to in the South American cultures with which he originally designed Forum Theatre.)

To give a surface overview George would ask a protagonist to perform an unfulfilled desire in front of the group. Then following a specific structure and involving other participants, the situation was explored from many angles. By the end the whole group is acting / (spect)acting resulting often in the protagonist reimagining their situation.

George is great at holding everyone’s attention, keeping sight of the structure while allowing spontaneity space to play. This for me was where the magic began. When the protagonists, antagonists and spectactors were moved to get involved, when without instruction people intuitively knew what to do, how they wanted to move, speak and relate to others in the space. In these moments there was a tangible sense of flow.

Sometimes however I felt the lines were not so clear. For example deciding when to step in and when to step out of commanding the space, balancing the linear versus nonlinear aspect of the technique, knowing where duty of care ends and self responsibility begins, and when the structure of the technique can be adapted and when its order needs to be kept… All this perhaps comes down to being present listening and intuitive. I’ve become interested in tracking what shifts the energy or mood. Noticing what actions and comments instigate change or reveal another layer of understanding and learning how we can use this to change the dynamics of a situation.
The threshold moment came on Sunday as a result of some well structured pedagogy and a fantastically open group. In the morning we went quite deep into personal boundaries by practicing saying no / stop to physical touch before it became too much. In the feedback people expressed appreciation for the clarity this gave them in how they asserted their boundaries in real life settings. People reflected on how hard it was to say stop because they didn’t want to be seen as weak, others were surprised by how much weight and pressure their partner enjoyed. There was a conversation about how the memory of this simple exercise would be helpful in real life in moments of physical, mental or emotional abuse of power. This series of exercises can be very triggering so it was beautiful to see a sense of respect and quiet collective appreciation. This vulnerable and honest state made the perfect foundation for an afternoon of the intense but palpably transformative Cop in the Head technique. What a workshop!!!!

And so to the future… After telling participants about my work with Eroles Project a learning centre in Spain, which this year explores the theme of Borders, many are keen on participating in the programme. What’s more two of the participants happened to work with Utilapu a Hungarian organisation working with refugees and migrants in Budapest and we are now in conversations about forming a partnership.

As I travel back to Madrid exhausted and enlivened, I am in the midst of designing a training using techniques from Theatre of the Oppressed. I’d like to zoom into boundaries and personal experiences of power to explore the universal imbalance of power. I am hoping to offer this to women’s groups and organisations in Madrid working with refugees. My experience in Budapest with Reboot the Roots has given me the confidence to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t. There is no reason for my life to be controlled by the Cops in my Head.

Over The Rainbow

Over The Rainbow

George, the Creative Director of RtR, was in Budapest for three days delivering an intensive course about Rainbow of Desire …

The Budapest crew!

Expect to cry. I now understand the emotional release of tears during a workshop is a sign that things are going well. It sounds bizarre, borderline perverse, but I now suspect if I ran a course in Rainbow and someone didn’t cry, I must be doing something wrong.

From Friday we used the Analytical Mirror to explore moments of indecision (which job to take, whether to move to another country with a partner), to Saturday when we applied the Rainbow itself to discussing a moment of rejection by a former lover, to Sunday’s exploration of ending a relationship that has become addictive, but toxic, through the Cop In The Head. Each time, despite moments of levity and joy, a palpable atmosphere descended upon the group, one of intense listening and focus as the protagonist battled with concrete versions of their doubts, fears, desires, talking them around into transformation.

My heart was in my throat throughout each presentation, as the responsibility of bringing people into some highly emotive states rested squarely on my shoulders, but I am relieved and joyful to report that, as ever, people emerged from the experience reporting release and relief, and often, a little better understanding of themselves.

Collaborating with Ruth Cross also provided a great foundation to the emotional work involved in the afternoons. Ruth facilitated some incredible sessions involving massage and power, and I look forward to working with her again in Ecodharma in May.

Equally, organiser Andras was amazing, managing with the help of his team to clean out and prepare a semi-derelict cafe space for us to use the basement of- replete with carpet tiles, heaters and lights!

I was thrilled to see so many of the people we worked with in November return, and hope to see them all again very soon to continue our journey. There are plans for subseqent workshops in Budapest, plus I have invited them all to join me in Cluj next month for a week of forum theatre training, and aswell there is Tu Fuokan festival coming up in June. It’s shaping up to be quite a year!

 

“True power lies within finding compassion … “

“True power lies within finding compassion”

Ruth Cross of Cross Collaborations and the Eroles Project joins us in our return to Budapest to deliver a course in Rainbow of Desire.

 

It’s 10pm on Wednesday night and I’m in the basement of an old club in the heart of Budapest. It’s covered in a thick layer of dust & colourful graffiti and now used for underground parties and workshops. Thanks to the connections of Andras the workshop coordinator here in Hungary, we’ll be using this space for the Theatre of the Oppressed workshop on Friday, Saturday & Sunday. We’ are moving piles of wood and strange 80’s club furniture, finding lighting, sweeping, mopping… Andras finds some speakers and Ludovico Einaudi‘s soaring melodies giving our mopping a performative rhythm.

I arrived in Budapest yesterday morning, it’s my first time here, and my first time facilitating with Reboot the Roots. Walking round the city at dusk the streets are calm and empty in a way particular to February’s, even in capital cities. The people I’ve met are friendly, couples holding hands and laughing, groups of tourists taking photos of each other in the rain, market stalls vibrant. The architecture is strong, and much more beautiful than I had imagined, the bridges over the river light up the night and give a magical feeling to the divide between Buda and Pest – the two towns that once upon a time joined to make Budapest.

As we work I think of the conversations we’ve been having today about the migrant crisis, oppression, xenophobia, sexual abuse, some of the improvisation themes that I’m told have surfaced in workshops with this group before. I think of the research I have been doing about the lives of women and children refugees as they try to cross borders. I think about the fact that these thing are happening now. I feel the uncomfortableness that thinking about these oppressor/oppressed situations is creating in my body.

I wonder what we will share together in this space during the workshop. What topics will surface as we dive into Boal’s techniques of ‘Rainbow of Desire’, ‘Analytical Mirror’ & ‘Cop in the Head’. I’m aware of the power and depth that these processes hold. I meet an edge within myself of not wanting to experience the pain of other people’s suffering. I breathe and try to stay open to the sensation, not turn away or become numb. This practice of mindfulness sustains my engagement through my waves of nervousness, self doubt, rage.

I reflect that for me true power lies within finding compassion. Feeling the suffering of another (whether the oppressed or oppressor), whilst staying centred, present and grounded in myself. Not reaching in to catch nor running away.

This weekend I hope that we will touch on some real topics of concern for people in the group, and that the techniques we use in the afternoons not only help to reimagine their own situation, but to give people the confidence to take this methodology into the social work they do in Budapest. I hope that trainings like this help changemakers, theatre makers, activists better understand the complexity through which social transformation happens, arming ourselves with the tools and compassion that can forge the radical changes we see are needed in the world. I have come back to working with theatre after many years because I have experienced the potential of methods like Boal’s in creating the right conditions for the dance to begin between transforming oneself and the transformation of society.

Four hours and a considerable amount of dust later, the space is transformed. Still needing a second mop, but pretty much ready for the workshop. As am I.

Rainbow of Desire in Budapest – from George

Rainbow of Desire in Budapest – from George

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So it’s another 6 hours until I take my bus from Liverpool Street to Stansted. Have double-checked my passport and ticket and now just looking over the details on what’s planned for this weekend. This is the first time I’ve run a 3-day Rainbow of Desire course, though I’ve done the individual exercises innumerable times in different forms. I’m very excited to see how it feels to dedicate a whole weekend to this technique. We are planning to look at Cop-In-The-Head, the Multiple Mirror and of course, the Rainbow of Desire itself, but I’d also like to try out such techniques as the Multiple Images of Happiness (what joy) and some others. But time is always so short! Am really glad that Ruth Cross from the Ecodharma/Eroles project/COP21/Beeva change crew is along to co-facilitate. Will let you all know how it goes!

For any of you not so familiar with RoD, you can read more here. It’s a good resource with some nice break-downs of the techniques. I’ll also be sure to post my own notes and responses to what happens on the RtR resources page afterwards. It’s essentially a theatrical technique for examining internalised oppressions – what happens when the cop leaves the ideological barracks and moves directly into our heads. You can read about some of the previous experiences we had with this technique in Ecodharma in our report here and also in Cluj last year, but I’ve included an extract below …

The RoD Technique – a woman has dinner with a man, they are both happy to be reunited after so long. The man invites the woman to sit on his knee, which she does, and then he reveals a ring and proposes to her.

The participant was invited to make images of the emotions she felt at this time: Excited, Shock, Nervousness. The audience suggested two more – Suspicion and Contentment – which the participant accepted. The scene was then replayed with each of these images in the protagonists place. The participant then arranged them into an image, then an ideal image, then dialogued with each of them trying to convince them to become ideal. The images then battled each other.

Participant reported the experience ‘fascinating’ and ‘powerful’, and that it allowed her to reflect on how she was then, compared to how she is now, and what areas of her life she still needs to work on.

The Analytical Image – a mother and child ride home in a car from visiting a friend who hosts many children. A conversation ensues whereby we learn that there is domestic violence between the absent parent and the child, and that the mother does not wish to discuss it. The mother suggests that the only solution is to call social services, who will take the child away and not punish the abusive parent.

The audience made images of the protagonist and the antagonist, which were then pairred off together and the scene replayed. The participant whose scene is was also played the part of the mother, and reported that it helped her understand a good deal more about the dilemma of her mother. She also reported that it was encouraging for her to be able to analyse the images rationally without succombing to emotion.

 

Let’s see what happens in Budapest …