Boal – Theater of the Oppressed

What I found most interesting about Boal’s article was the way that he described the differentiation of what it means to be oppressed, even within a single place. I thought the relationship of different interpretations of the photography project was most interesting. When asked “Where do you live?” those who answered with photography had such a variety of photos, each of them representing a different answer about what it means to live in Lima. I was most struck by the man who answered that question with a picture of a child’s face who’s watch dog had been taken from him so rats were able to eat his face when he slept. When I think about where I live, I can only think of the positive elements of my home–to read about what that man considered to be the place where he lived was so startling.

Relating the photography to theater, which Boal did quite nicely, lies within the idea that theater and photography are both a type of language. Each can create discourse and liberate a person from what ties them down or oppresses them. The idea that the spectator becomes the protagonist in this theater model can be so freeing for people who are stuck–stuck in the way that they must live because of history and because of other people who make those choices for them. The boy who’s dog was taken, a choice that was completely independent of what the boy wanted or needed, has no choice but to have his face eaten off? How can he show that pain and hurt to others so that they understand? How can his problems and his pain be reflected through different languages? After reading the Boal article, I can see how theater might give that boy and other people who are oppressed in different ways a method of speaking out and making their own choices. I really appreciated what Boal wrote about how theater can be a rehearsal for revolution. People can learn how to communicate their pain and suffering with the hope that when they do call out for change, people will hear them and want to walk beside them.

This article reminds me of a little girl from one of my cabins at camp. She was of lower socioeconomic status and she definitely had trouble fitting in and relating to the other girls in the cabin. She decided to audition for the camp play with some of our other girls, and she got the lead role. She was able, for the first time in two weeks, to express herself. She showed the rest of our girls who she was with her loud voice, and she said that is how her mother talks when they tell stories at home. Storytelling frees her from her troubles, and she found a way to express that to the other girls in our cabin who came from very different places. While I know this is not on the same scale as the problems in Lima, it is an easy comparison to make. The different ways that people communicate and express themselves are so integral in how people understand one another, and it was easy to see that come alive in my camper and in the article from Boal.


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