Boal- Theater of the Oppressed

I enjoyed the way Boal’s writing presented such a negative topic, oppression, with so much hope. I thought that his perspective on this type of theater, that “it shows reality not only as it is, but as it could be” was refreshing. His presentation of the actor/non-actor dialectic was also very intruiging. The story about the theatrical performances in the prison especially drew my attention. The results of those experiences proved just how influential theater can be- even when those performing are not necessarily actors. The way the prison performances impacted the relations between prisoners and guards by opening their eyes to each other’s situations shows that sometimes you don’t need to change something as drastic as a policy or law, sometimes you only need to increase awareness of and sensitivity to the people around you.

This example reminded me of the Occupy movements that we discussed in class last week. Likely, the people participating in these movements are not actors, but they are attempting to enact change through their performances. Their sign-holding, chanting, camping out and protesting is all part of their attempt to increase awareness of the struggles they are facing. They all have the same hope as Boal- to increase understanding of basic human rights, “the respect for one’s neighbor.”

Organizing for Social Change

I found this week’s readings to be very insightful and informative. The dialectic that stood out to me most was that of dissemination and dialogue. This specific dialectic reminded me of several cases I’ve witnessed while working in my current internship. The internship, which I’m participating in through another class (PUBA 401- I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in public service) is with Durham Early Head Start. If you haven’t heard of the Head Start programs, this one in particular provides subsidized childcare and health, family and education services to low-income families in the Durham area. Though the situations vary, most of the families who receive services from this organization are very poor and disadvantaged. Some of them are out of work, some are homeless, some are worrying with legal matters such as deportation, and some are struggling to finish high school or high college. The one thing these families all have in common, however, is that they are seeking out DEHS for services to better the lives of their child(ren). What has struck me as the most odd in my time at this internship is not the lack of resources to meet the needs of these families, but the lack of awareness that such resources exist. More often than not, the DEHS staff can have a conversation with a parent or guardian, assess their situation, and immediately connect them with the resources they are in need of whether that be a health clinic or specialist or a scholarship program or simply a subsidized bus pass. I have come to realize that these people need not face the circumstances they are in with despair and hopelessness as we so often see, they need only an advocate to explain that the resources are available to assist them. Given the knowledge and understanding that people receive from DEHS, they can go on to better the lives of their family. DEHS is not there to maniuplate their clients into belieiving that they are disadvantaged for some purpose or by their own fault as we see often in society, but to advocate on their behalf and open lines of communication (dialogue) that can faciliate social change.

Here is the link to the Durham Early Head Start website if you are interested in more information: http://www.dpfc.net/EarlyHeadStart.aspx

Symbol and Ritual

In class we defined a symbol to be “something that represents something else,” or “a simplistic representation of something more complex,” or something with shared meaning. I loved the way the poem, Black Mother, used an individual slave mother as a symbol to represent the suffering of the entire slave population. Using one woman as a symbol helps bring the suffering to a real, relatable point that hits home for everyone. No one would want to imagine their mother enduring the things described in that poem and on that level we can empathize with the people who suffered from this- even if we ourselves are somewhat detached.

This poem is a great example of understanding “who gets to share what meaning.” As I referenced earlier, with regards to the particular subject of slavery, it is not likely that many readers in today’s society can relate to suffering or pain on this level. Therefore it would be logical to assume that no one could “share” or understand the “meaning” or purpose of the literature. However, with the use of a mother as a symbol to represent the suffering and pain, we are instantly connected to the material. Everyone can relate to her as a symbol and therefore everyone is able to understand the meaning of this work. Through the use of symbols, I would argue that everyone is able to share the meaning of the poem.

Reading this poem evoked strong memories of being with my mother when I was a child. Though not exactly related to the ways in which the mother is represented in the poem, my empirical example of ritual is my mother reading me bedtime stories. I’m sure at times she felt as though she were suffering having to read the same silly stories I loved over and over, I’ll never forget or take for granted those memories.

Performance as Activism- Greenpeace

As the reading explained, Greenpeace has made significant progress through their activism regarding issues of environmental safety. I enjoyed the parallel that was drawn between their activism and other forms of performance. One of Durland’s main points that I found very intriguing was that the types of activism and protest that Greenpeace demonstrates are not recognized as “art” in our culture. He details the merits of their demonstrations and provides multiple examples of people in power, who should be reprimanding the organization, actually supporting and encouraging their acts. At first I struggled with the notion that perhaps it was because many of the risky, bold Greenpeace demonstrations are illegal and that was why people hesitate to appreciate them as art. But after tossing that idea around for a while, I decided it couldn’t be true because acts of graffiti (that are often illegal) are frequently considered to be artwork. So, I’m left still wondering where we, as Americans, draw the line between performance as artwork and performance as solely activism? If it is not a matter of legality, then what?

Here is an image of Greenpeace graffiti that kind of brings together these two forms of activism and performance:

Greenpeace Action