Forum Theater

During his exile from Brazil’s dictatorship (1969–1982) theater director Augusto Boal stopped dictating instructions to actors. Instead he began to train facilitators who invite oppressed people to represent their worst problems. Then they cajole “spec-actors” to de-rail the tragic movement in replays of particular scenes. Aristotle, for Boal, is the apologist for “coercive” theater (in a failing democracy) where tragedy is inevitable. Tragedy is the beginning, not the end, in Forum Theater which explores conflicts and generates clever interventions. Boal became an international legend in his own lifetime, not only because his innovations are brilliant and useful, but also because he practically gave them away, welcoming replication, insisting on it. Facilitators don’t presume to know where the pressure points are, but only that crises exist and can be represented onstage. For Boal, the dynamism of the word “crisis” comes out best in his understanding of its Chinese ideogram which juxtaposes danger with opportunity.