Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism

Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism

Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism

Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism


Playing Boal examines the techniques in application of Augusto Boal, creator of Theatre of the Oppressed, Brazilian theatre maker and political activist.

This text looks at the use of the Theatre of the Oppressed exercises by a variety of practitioners and scholars working in Europe, North America and Canada. It explores the possibilities of these tools for "active learning and personal empowerment; co-operative education and healing; participatory theatre and community action."

This collection is designed to illuminate and invigorate discussion about Augusto Boal's work and the transformative potential of theatre. It includes two interviews with Boal, and two pieces of his own writing.


The year 1994 marks the twentieth anniversary of the original publication of Theatre of the Oppressed, the now well-known polemic in which Brazilian theatre activist Augusto Boal both analyzes western aesthetic philosophy since Aristotle and explicates his own system of political theatre. Influenced by Paulo Freire’s dialogic philosophy of education (Pedagogy of the Oppressed 1970), Boal’s vision is embodied in dramatic techniques that activate passive spectators to become spect-actors—engaged participants rehearsing strategies for personal and social change. Although founded in theatrical exploration, the techniques, all based on transitive learning and collective empowerment, are not limited to the stage; educators, political activists, therapists, and social workers devoted to critical thought and action have adapted the work to address issues ranging from racism and sexism to loneliness and political impotence. Having won acclaim for its social relevance and adaptability, the work has entered global circulation as a composite system known as Theatre of the Oppressed (TO).

It is this system that is profiled, analyzed, critiqued, celebrated, and reinvented in this collection. Those familiar with the work and complex issues raised by the growing TO diaspora will very likely engage these articles with many questions and concerns already formulated. For those new to the work of Augusto Boal, it is more likely the collusion of politics, art, and therapy that will be the entry point into the chapters that follow. One of our fundamental attractions to TO is that it blurs false boundaries between these disciplines; its philosophy and practices are in fact testimony to their inseparability when dealing with issues of change. We have found that TO exposes the insufferability of politics that are artless and dogmatic,

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