What is Forum Theatre ?

Augusto Boal’s Tool for Change

Augusto Boal created Forum Theatre as part his “Theatre of the Oppressed.”  He intended Forum Theatre as a forum for teaching people how to change their world. Earlier in his career, Boal applied ‘simultaneous dramaturgy’. In this process the actors or audience members could stop a performance, often a short scene in which a character was being oppressed in some way. The audience would suggest different actions for the actors on stage so that the actors could change the outcome of what the scene.  Eventually this ‘simultaneous dramaturgy’ became Forum Theatre.  In a Forum setting audience members come on stage to perform their own interventions.

Audience Participation

The spect-actor (audience member) attempts to overturn the oppression.  The actors portraying the oppressors attempt to bring the play to its original, scripted ending. If the audience believes that the spect-actor’s actions are too unrealistic, they may call out “magic!”.  The spect-actor must then modify his/her actions accordingly. If this spect-actor fails to overthrow the oppression, the actors continue the play until another spect-actor calls out “freeze” and tries a different method.

Theplay changes if and when the spec-actors overthrow the oppression. The spect-actors now have the opportunity to play the oppressors.  The oppressing spect-actors find new ways to challenge the oppressed character. In this way the audience, who are often victims of oppression, depict the oppression more realistically. The whole process is designed so that the audience can reach a conclusion by considering opposing arguments, rather than the actors forcing a one-sided conclusion on the audience with no chance of reply or counter-argument.

Nowadays practitioners often pre-write portions of the play. The play stops at a controversial point and the spect-actors decide on the actors’ fates. Spect-actors frequently join the play as new characters or replace older characters and then try to find a solution.

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