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The Courage to Be Happy - Augusto Boal, Legislative Theatre, And the 7th International (1146376)

The Courage to Be Happy - Augusto Boal, Legislative Theatre, And the 7th International (1146376)

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The Courage to Be Happy: Augusto Boal, Legislative Theatre, and the 7th International Festival of the Theatre of the

Oppressed Author(s): Paul Heritage Reviewed work(s): Source: TDR (1988-), Vol. 38, No. 3 (Autumn, 1994), pp. 25-34 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1146376 . Accessed: 09/04/2012 05:11
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rich for the theatre and for politics: I propose a democratic theatre where the spectator transTl7eDrama Review38. Boal. 25 . My proposition consists in this union. has emphasized the continuity and interaction of the two functions: I want to make politics but I don't want to change my professionI am a man of the theatre! For me. at the moment of voting. recent theatrical candidates include examples as diverse as Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia. In the context of Brazil. where an estimated 70 percent of the population lives in poverty (their situation more graphically described by the Portuguese word miseria). Boal said in one of his election leaflets. "is a paradoxical power: at the moment of exercising it. 3 (TI43). on the contrary. they all have been anxious to separate their former theatrical careers from their new role. Thus he has proposed.]. the slogan is as radical as the campaign that accompanied it. a new stage in the Theatre of the Oppressed to be known as "Legislative Theatre.. Legislative Theatre. Copyright? I994 New York Universityand the Massachusetts Instituteof Technology.. and is now in the process of creating. His slogan was "Have the courage to be happy!" His name was Augusto Boal (plate I). The political significance of the slogan would probably be missed by most politicians and dismissed by the majority of "serious" political commentators. Boal was successfully elected as a vereador'for the Workers' Party (PT) on a mandate that proposed a democratization of the political process through theatre. Fall 1994. Voting. and Ronald Reagan in the USA. and the 7th InternationalFestival of the Theatre of the Oppressed Paul Heritage Candidate number 13669 in the 1992 elections for Rio de Janeiro's City Council announced himself to the public in a way unfamiliar to most electorates.The Courage to Be Happy Augusto Boal. this power disappears" (I992a). this was always possible and now it is necessary: theatre is political and politics is theatre [. Glenda Jackson in Britain." Artists throughout history have become active politicians. While it may be debatable how far any of them actually went in giving up their former profession.

Boal's team is divided between the theatrical members (the five full-time and ten part-time Jokers) and the legislative members that might form part of the mandate of any other vereador (lawyers. [. seeking to find practical and legislative solutions through Forum Theatre: e. Leaflets are handed out describing not only the process of Forum Theatre but also the context in which it is being operated-the hows. street children. street children. if someone's house is about to collapse because of the rains. shop workers. journalists. and. teachers.] Theatre is Political and Politics is Theatre. the moment has arrived to theatricalize politics. These Forums are given multiple performances at different points of the city with one person recording all the solutions that are made.). (Boal I992a) From a field of I. to take office for four years. more than ten groups of the Theatre of the . We use theatre to discuss problems of communities. simply watching. then the Mayor can direct the work necessary under existing legislation). drivers. on the contrary. We have.e. A New Method of Making Politics. We don't want a passive audience. We are the political-theatrical mandate of the vereador Augusto Boal. the unemployed. At each of the performances in the street. The way in which Boal is implementing his mandateand thus Legislative Theatre-is by using the Center of the Theatre of the Oppressed (CTO) in Rio. Thus we intend to denounce the irregularities. enter on to the stage and propose alternatives for the plot: create a new story. discovers and experiments with possible solutions-on the stage. Our plays portray the problems that we live with day-to-day. secretaries. the elector becomes a legislator and proposes the law.26 Paul Heritage forms himself into the protagonist. etc.OOOcandidates Boal was elected. today in the 'gos... and the wherefores. These are then entered into a computer and analyzed by the Workers' Party to decide what action is most appropriate in the Council.. to protect pregnant women's rights in the workplace). CTO has developed a small number of key Forum models in association with local groups.. The Jokers' team works with approximately 12 community groups. protest against the indifference of the public authorities.. women. the Joker explains to the audience who the actors are and how the audience will be able to participate in the legislative process. In the '6os theatre politicized itself.]. We are working with different people in various parts of the city. the homeless. workers. Sometimes there will be the clear necessity for a new law (for example.. with 41 other vereadors. Both the campaign and the mandate will be explosively theatrical: street theatre becomes the Chamber and the Chamber is in the street [. theatrically: and this is a political activity! The spectator is transformed into Protagonist and acts. the whys. Blacks. that the public participate. etc. interfere. We propose. to look for the possible solutions for the questions presented. sometimes they will put pressure on the Mayor to solve a specific problem (i.g. Each vereador brings a staff of up to 30 workers to their team which assists in the implementation of their mandate. today. together with the audience. The following extract is taken from one such leaflet: A New Way to Make Theatre.

We intend to democratize Politics through theatre! We want to help you to demand your rights! Now we have taken to the field: amongst you! Liberty is not a gift of the gods: Liberty is fought for. We want to create a network of Theatre of the Oppressed groups in every city. (Photos by Miguel Villafafie) . speakingtes at the 7th IterInternationalFestival of the The ironiclocationof the Oppessed Bival FesTo was the marbledosa of the lobbyance downPuertown Bank of Brazil. "Theslogan national Festival the of "formance ouage to of the in ulyAugust Rireros Rico-based 2.Boal Festival 27 Oppressed rehearsing and presenting Forum Theatre plays about the main problems experienced by the people of Rio. Top Tealection in 993. We intend to remain in permanent contact with the population. presenting our plays in the streets and squares.t 5 _ 5 00 ~~~~~~~~~vereador electionin Rio To Boal's left is Rosath Bottom: thMdrquez. at the four corners of the city. where more and more people are reflecting and creating ways to liberate themselves from their oppressions. step by step! (Boal I992b) "Have the courageto X! 3i . This play that you will see now is already a demonstration of the work that we want to make.

The public events took place in the imperial edifice of the Cultural Centre of the Bank of Brazil (plate 2). and still are. The Festival.28 Paul Heritage The clarity and purpose of Boal's political/theatrical agenda provided a context for the 7th International Festival of the Theatre of the Oppressed. It is as a Brazilian that Boal is now working. colliding with those of other systems. The limited coverage of the Festival in the Brazilian media was indicative of the preconceptions and prejudices that still surround Boal's work. The significance and irony of the setting was apparent every day as the audience sat for three hours on the marble floors watching performances whose words floated inexorably up to be lost in the second and third galleries above.2 The three weeks of the Festival provided an opportunity to see the ways in which Boal's work has been adapted and transformed by different practitioners and how it has absorbed varied cultural influences. The space was unquestionably inadequate for performance purposes but it functioned admirably in other ways. Every day for three weeks the space was full and the work was received with great excitement by an extremely vocal. Theatre of the Oppressed's own culturally specific values were. his work has its own power to generate interest and activity at the most important level-in the street and with the people. but without television exposure in this vast country it is inconceivable to achieve a national reputation. people. All the present activities are focused towards the events of November I994. It provided a platform. he has been returning to Rio for various projects since 1986 (see Taussig and Schechner I990). Actually.A]s a relatively young body of techniques moving from Latin America (where it originated and flourished) to North America and Europe (where it is now experiencing its most rapid growth). not only for the work which the CTO is currently pioneering in Rio. Boal placed the Festival firmly within the cultural center of Rio and ensured more than just a sponsorship deal. and active audience. Many Brazilians remember him for his radical work of the '6os and are surprised to hear that he is back in the 'gos working in Brazil. The affirmation that the Festival provided for Boal and his present agenda in Rio was evident throughout. marked the importance of the Theatre of the Oppressed and Boal himself within a wider framework. workshops. (Schutzman and Cohen-Cruz I994:5) Questions now about the constructions of the models. movements. As Mady Schutzman and Jan Cohen-Cruz write in their introduction to Playing Boal: [.. Despite his strong international reputation. In I994 Brazil will elect a new president and at the moment (March 1994) the Workers' Party candidate Lula [Luis Inacio da Silva] is leading in the polls. Hosted by CTO (Rio) in July 1993. In fact. and lectures. Boal's position in Brazil is by no means certain. In all their political pamphlets they emphasize Boal's commitment to working in Rio and the end of his international travels for the period of his mandate. Boal returned to Brazil in I989 to support Lula's candidacy when he unexpectedly lost to Fernando Collor de Mello. the operation of . This has to be carefully handled by CTO and the party. however.. the techniques themselves [have] become the site of intercultural conflict. but it also showed Boal's ideas reverberated across the stages of the world. particularly in Europe and the United States. and will clearly have an important part to play in the new elections. By performing within the Bank of Brazil. it brought together representatives from over 20 countries to share their different experiences of Theatre of the Oppressed through performances.

The group from Burkina Faso. showing the growing tensions in a family after a father loses his job. was able to mix scenes of intense naturalism. and those were definitely the non-European groups: Burkinab6 from Burkina Faso. Left: The paper costumesand music/dance dramaof Teatreros Ambulantes of Puerto Rico burst throughthe boundaries self-imposed the Europeangroups of at the 7th International Festival. The construction of many of the models was dependent on easily identifiable Image Theatre techniques. with dance and ritual that dealt more thematically with the depicted oppressions. and most of the European work was not far removed from what had been experienced with Boal. These performances reminded all the groups present that the starting point of Forum still has to be the theatricality of the model. Their relationship with the audience. Each of them redefined Boal's work in ways that were particular to their own performance traditions. Similarly the Indian performances dispensed with lin- 3 & 4.Boal Festival 29 the Forum. (Photos by Miguel Villafane) . by this means the audience is engaged and brought into the debate. and the controlling function of the Joker could all find themselves not only being asked within the country from which they emerged. even as they engaged the audience in the complexity of contemporary oppressions. but being answered polyglotally. to allow for presentation in a situation where there would be little or no translation. Boal had originally asked all the participants to prepare pieces that were essentially nonverbal. in any of his workshops. Jana Sanskriti from India. Right: India's Jana Sanskriti dispensed with linear narrativein favor of a form that and mocked borrowed traditionalformsof dance and mask drama. The most interesting variations came from those groups where there was a more noticeable incorporation of national cultural forms. for example. This was achieved with varying degrees of success by the different groups. The Puerto Rican and the Indian troups performed their work in ways that expressed joy in the theatrical experience. was a quality to be found in the best of the work at the Festival. The paper costumes and music/dance dramas of Rosa Luisa's Teatreros Ambulantes (plate 3) burst through the self-imposed boundaries of the European groups. Teatreros Ambulantes from Puerto Rico. established through shared acts of eating and drinking in a prolog accompanied by fierce drumming.

as ever. This is certainly what Boal teaches in his workshops. This was only partially achieved. safe space. The Rio Festival tested all these things to the full. to let forms invent themselves as Forum itself develops and evolves. There was also nothing about the audience that necessarily gave them the sort of commonality that is usually associated with this form of work. However. Boal was prepared. The theatrical goal is to achieve a common purpose with the audience. CTO was able to achieve the most genuine sense of a Forum. The essence of Forum lies in the dialogic relationship between stage and audience constructed through the use of the space. Indeed. there is a reduction of Boal's methodology to the point where Forum becomes little more than simulated role-play. These served to show both the commonalities and particularities of oppressions. CTO provided some of the most charged moments of the Festival. Highly verbal. But all too frequently. The glorious exaggeration of the props and . Boal began the first evening with a talk entitled "Twenty-Two Years of the Theatre of the Oppressed. rather than an actual experiencing of the event. At the beginning it seemed like a demonstration of Forum Theatre performances and techniques. pantomime. or Indians intervened in a Brazilian marital dispute. but rather set up other theatrical conventions for meaning and intervention. as solutions are sought and rehearsed in a shared. and the conduct of the actors and the Joker. There were certainly memorable moments of international exchange as Swedish women demonstrated their idea of liberation within an African village. the performance style. Working in the language and forms recognized most readily by the majority of the audience. Performing daily before the International presentations. and buffon/carnival traditions but seemed also to be mocking the passionate intensity of the Brazilian TV soap operas. although there were some crushing moments of intervention where neither the actors or the spectators showed any respect for cultural difference. There seems a common expectation that the audience member who enters the stage to fight for liberation against the forces of oppression will find it easier within the bounds of naturalism to deal with situations in ways that are most common in their own lives. They did not obviously share the same oppressions. the models all used a heightened performance style that borrowed from commedia. either with each other or with those onstage. The space was not naturally conducive to any sort of performance-least of all the interactive nature of Forum." illustrated by re-presentations of the famous moments by CTO (Rio). The more naturalistic the model. The point of interest for most of the practitioners present was the capacity for intervention in each of the different models. More successful were certainly the models that did not require the audience to engage in the play's dialog. the harder this became as the restrictions of language imposed barriers of understanding and recognition. Boal emphasized that anyone could intervene in a language they did not speak because the manner of speech and the use of the body should ensure an understanding of the intervention. and many groups proved inadequate to the challenge of adapting their theatre to suit the demands of this particular situation.30 Paul Heritage ear narrative in favor of a form that borrowed and mocked traditional forms of dance and mask drama (plate 4). as the three weeks progressed new lessons were being learned as "rules" were tested and broken. The lack of a common verbal language ensured that the interventions in Rio had to be attempted within the theatrical convention of the piece.

felt a part of the debate. all of the Brazilian audience are in some way part of the debate and thus implicated in the situation. a Forum presentation by a group of the street children themselves had the greatest impact of the various responses. mourn. arising out of his time as a director at the Arena Theatre of Sao Paulo and his long pe- . The audience members recognized the situation. and fear them. The blood-stained pavement was only a few meters from the doors of the Festival and the impact on all the participants was profound. The most successful examples of their work reaffirmed the essential power of Forum-when the audience can work with the actors to solve common problems. CTO has been working with many groups.Boal Festival 31 costumes reflected well the performances of the actors and hugely entertained the audience. a simple piece of Forum Theatre provided one of the few actual dialogs between the children of the streets and the citizens of Brazil who daily pity. Working with CTO the children produced a play about the way in which one boy is forced to leave his family and live on the street. it is also possible to connect Boal's work into deeper currents in Brazilian cultural and political life. the majority of the middle-class audience shared little more than nationality with the performers-but the play produced surprising effects. ignore. The Festival coincided with one of the most concentrated and horrific massacres of street children on 23 July 1993 at the Church of the Candelaria when eight children were shot by members of the Military Police. On that day. In a society of such great divides. Using an eclectic style that mixed rap and capoeirawith naturalistic dialog. Hence the presentation by a group of teachers about oppressions in their workplace to an audience who had all experienced in some way the Brazilian education system (international guests excepted). they dispensed with many of the myths surrounding the street children while simultaneously presenting the individual trajectory of particular protagonist. the world gave more attention to this incident than it does to the daily onslaught that these children suffer. beneath the marble columns and balustrades of the Bank of Brazil. Boal proves over and again that theatre is a place of action beyond theory. This was the opportunity for those who have described and proposed solutions to the "problem of the street children" to act on those suggestions. It reminded the international participants of both the power and the reality of the techniques beyond the artificial hothouse of the Festival. Certainly it was not the "purest" of Forums: few if any of the audience had experience of the oppressions presented and thus by Boal's normal definitions would not be qualified to solve them. Perhaps with the blatant audacity of the murders outside a church in the very center of Rio. ensuring that whatever the struggle depicted or shared there was also a celebration of the coming together of audience and performer. but none captured the attention of the Festival as much as the street children. within the Festival. finding expression in various theatrical responses on the streets over the next few days (see plates 5 and 6). However. Many of the pieces were framed by traditional Brazilian songs and/or dances. The social ills and problems of Brazil are debated furiously in every bar and restaurant and on every street corner. Experiencing Theatre of the Oppressed in Rio. However. The development of Invisible Theatre and Forum Theatre as expressed by Boal is well known and documented. and were able to articulate their responses and rehearse their solutions within the framework of a play that genuinely asked difficult questions and demanded answers.

there is a special urgency to all parts of that agenda which seeks to broaden the involvement of those who are disempowered and essentially disenfranchised. (Photo by Miguel Villafaie) riod of exile from Brazil. It is a part of histories of human/social struggle. demonstrated in the streets. with a political elite taken from a conspicuously narrow base. and implemented.5. The most obvious example a the mo- . During the Festival. Hence the growing concept of Nova Cidadania3 (New Citizenship) in Brazil where social movements are working to create alternative ways for citizens to participate in the newly won democracy. eight street childrenof Rio were shot by the Military Police. for the country he was killing. The manner and form of that contest will clearly reflect the cultural habits of those societies. not by the craft of investigative journalism as in North America 20 years previously. However. on 23 July 993. it is possible to see the way in which the street has been the focal point of cultural representation and resistance. demonstrating with black streaks proudly worn like marks of war on their faces. Festivalgroups. The impeachment of a president in 1992 was brought about. In a society with such inequality as Brazil. Here Puerto Rico's TeatrerosAmbulates lay in silence as "birds of prey" stalk them. In looking at just the last two years in Brazil. at the encouragement of Augusto Boal. When President Collor called for the people to show their support and go on the streets wearing the national colors of green and yellow in August 1992. designed. but by a deeply theatrical street protest movement. For the rest of the impeachment process the protests were marked by the carapintadas (youths with painted faces). it is also fascinating to note the way in which other movements in Brazil reflect the theatre Boal has dreamed of. An Englishman participating in any form of political demonstration in Brazil finds himself in something more akin to carnival than the gray and tired politics he is accustomed to in Britain. The concept of social movements that contest the rights of the citizen in public spaces is by no means particularly Brazilian. Brazil decked itself out in black in an almost ritualistic funeral.

(Photo by Miguel Villafafe) . directors. During the Festival. but also are instrumental in establishing a national debate that is outside of the normal political. which has established committees in banks. technicians gather to discuss ways of using their particular skills to mobilize essential provisions and advance the political arguments. schools. At a weekly Monday meeting. upwards of 200 actors. In Rio de Janeiro the theatre community has mobilized strongly in support of the campaign. hospitals.Boal Festival 33 ment is the campaign Citizen's Action against Hunger and Poverty. factories. and workplaces across the country. These committees not only organize the collection and distribution of food and the construction of new facilities. Boal (pictured)and the Center of the Theatreof the Oppressedsponsored a Forum Theatrepresentation by a group of street childrenabout life on the streets of Rio. structures. 6. established by sociologist Herbert de Souza (commonly known as Betinho). and after the murderof a group of street children. Each night of the week various subcommittees meet to implement and develop the strategies decided at the general assembly.

Paoli. including the vanguard of the Brazilian theatre. Maria Celia. The pressures on Boal and CTO are bound to increase as they approach the election in November I994." Humanidades8. I992a "Vamos botar a boca no trombone. pressed for his removal from office on the grounds of procedural irregularities. Taussig. and inspires the gathered assembly in much the same way he has done for so long on the workshop circuit of the world. A vereador is the equivalent of a city councillor. Stories invented by the media in the final days of the campaign were instrumental in bringing Collor to the presidency in I989 when Lula was leading in the opinion polls. Paul Heritage isformerly a director the Gay Sweatshop Theatre Company. 2 August 1993. 3 (TI27):50-66.g. he is workingon developingtheatreprogramsin Brazilian prisons. Paoli and de Sousa 1992). 1992 Schutzman. On Monday. In Rio representatives are elected by the whole city's electorate as there is no constituency system. Vereador and theatre director are brought together as Boal instructs. and Jan Cohen-Cruz 1994 Playing Boal. 4:494-507. 3. the USA: An Interview with Augusto Boal. Instead. Five hundred artists. Augusto "Coragem de ser Feliz!" Election leaflet. Mady. Shakespeare. entertains.34 Paul Heritage In September 1993. and Jose Geraldo de Sousa "O direito achado na ma. see the work being done by the Department of Law and the Centre for Peace Studies and Human Rights at the University of Brasilia (e. Michael. London: Routledge. In the autumn of I993 he came under attack from the right wing press which. they mounted their biggest event yet with a week of activities throughout the city beginning on Brazilian Independence Day. 2. he was present at the weekly Monday meeting of theatre practitioners involved in the Citizen's Action against Hunger and Poverty. illuminates. and Richard Schechner "Boal in Brazil. after three exhausting weeks of the 7th International Festival of the Theatre of the Oppressed. Presently. References Boal." primarily in public spaces. Boal successfully defended his position. Boal was not to be found resting at any of the opportune places that Rio provides.and contemporary British theatre. France. He has published of in thefields of AIDS and culture. in allegiance with a group of Vereadores. addressing them on strategies and practicalities involved in making theatre in the streets." Pamphlet distributed at street I992b performances. Once again Lula is well ahead in all the polls and the attacks on Boal are ominously predictable. . For a documentation and analysis of this phenomenon. He is now back in Brazil enabling the spectator to become actor and the citizen to become legislator in the midst of social movements that are finding new ways to invent Brazil's present through a re-visioning of its future. Notes i." 1990 TDR 34. staged a variety of "Happenings. of He is currentlyLecturerin the Drama Departmentat ManchesterUniversity. He is also director the Theatre in Prisons and ProbationCentre..

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