I find Boal to be a genius. There is something innately functional about this “theater of the people” that just makes it effective. I had the privilege of immersing myself in a lot of this work and I was trained as a “joker” over the summer. I think all of the techniques that Boal has talked about all succeed in destroying the separation between the actor and spectator and they create this realistic “rehearsal for life.”
Boal brings up a very interesting point in the intro to Games for Actors/non-actors. He recognized that his Forum Theater techniques worked very well when the oppressor/oppressed dichotomy is very clear, but it falls short when we are in less obvious and more covert situations of oppression. Often these situations can be seen as “less severe” or “less urgent” or maybe just more complex. For example social issues in America do not have an intense sense of urgency (maybe they should) as Boal described in Peru. Boal then says that the “Rainbow of Desire” was created to unpack and analyze these other, highly personal and complex situations.
I found this interesting because in my workshop I had the privilege to study under a man named Marc Weinblatt who was one of Boal’s original “multipliers” as he called them. Marc brought the work of Theater of the Oppressed to Seattle where he lives and has since done work overseas and all across the states. The reason I found Boal’s little excerpt on the short comings of Forum to be interesting is because of Marc’s description of him (Boal has since passed, 2009) was always that he wanted to be able to concretely identify the oppressed and that these plays were about the oppressed at all times. I remember Marc telling a story of a play he performed in that was really confusing and had many different oppressors and oppressed peoples. Boal was supposed to “joke” the piece for an audience but after seeing the play Marc tells us he said “But who is ze Oppressed” in a playful but mocking Brazilian accent.
From what I have heard Boal has been very methodical with his joking style and focuses on the oppressed people in order to empower them as this is their theater. From what I have gathered this has come to be known as “Classical Boalian Theater of the Oppressed.” Since there are so many multipliers the forms have changed and have been molded to fit certain situations. I had the chance to mess around with the “Rainbow of Desire” and I saw exactly what Boal meant. I won’t explain the whole thing but essentially the rainbow is where you play a scene (usually someones story of a time they felt oppressed) and then expand a “rainbow” of images off of what that character is feeling or felt at any time during the scene. The scene is then replayed with these different “masks” (a very crude description). Classical Boalian jokers will focus only on the character that is oppressed and go through the rehearsal of that character under these different masks. I am interested in possibly uncovering and exploring the psyche of the oppressor as well. This “Theater of the Oppressor” is something that Marc spoke about and I found it interesting yet I am cautious. Allowing ourselves to dig into these other characters will help us sort out some of the complexities but it could also give way to the mentality that oppressors need to “help” liberate the oppressed.