The “Forum Theatre” is a specific kind of performance developed by Augusto Boal, the inventor of “Theatre of the Oppressed”, a philosophical and methodological approach influenced by the work of the educator Paulo Freire and his “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”.
Through its techniques and styles - Image Theatre, Invisible Theatre, Forum Theatre, etc. - the Theatre of the Oppressed tries to show and to face our big and small “oppressions” that are, in Boal’s words, “the opposite of happiness”.
And that is exactly what we are trying to do with a group of women (most of them mothers) in a small city near Trento called Pergine. All these women aren’t professional actresses and they have chosen to try this experience in order to share their lives with other women coming from different cultures and backgrounds.
Women from Morocco, Chile, Colombia, Somalia, Southern and Northern Italy are sharing spaces and moments and are putting in common their experiences and their emotions. In a country like Italy, where the “fear of the other”, the prejudices and the “closeness” are spreding over, this experience is an amazing challenge and a great experiment of “living together”, “talking together” and “listening together”.
Me and Chiara - the girl I’m carrying out the workshops with - are the facilitators (or the jokers in Boal’s word) of these theatrical workshops. Last year, after some Theatre of the Oppressed sessions, we played a theatrical performance called “Let’s help each other” focused on topics such discriminations, prejudices, cultural and social conflicts but also solidarity and togetherness.
This year (from September 2011 on) we’ve tried a new way to talk about oppressions, happiness and desires. We’ve started to create Forum Theatre session. Briefly a Forum Theatre is a scene where we represent a real fact that includes an oppression. So far we’ve played some scenes with different kind of oppressions: a Somalian woman discriminated by Italian people, an unemployed woman that chooses to get a job without regular contract to earn some money, a group of immigrant women insulted by Italian women in a public office, … All these scenes are based on true facts lived by the women and are related with the oppressions of “being woman” - therefore not only immigrants but also Italians - and most of these oppressions show some social and cultural “clashes” and misunderstandings. So during our performance we propose these daily episodes and oppressions to the audience.
And here it comes the “magic”, here it is possible to find the real power of Forum Theatre. We ask the audience to become “spect-actors”: they can enter inside the scene replacing the “oppressed” actors and becoming new actors. The aim is overcoming the oppressions through a change or an “evolution” of the scene where the “oppressed” tries to change his/her aptitude and approach towards his/her oppression and his/her oppressor. The audience can also suggest to the actors some changes or can add some new characters (a friend, a relative) into the scene that can help the oppressed in her/his challenge. “Everything is possible, everything can be changed. Just no violent solutions” says Augusto Boal.
So far we’ve involved a good number of women and also a good number of “spect-actors” but, above all, we’ve shown through theatre an incredible and surprising way to talk about oppressions and to do it in a creative and concrete way.
Maybe it is just theatre but we think and we hope that it can be a small step to talk about (and to fight) gender discrimination, racial discrimination and all kind of oppressions that obstruct our way to happiness.