Augusto Boal – Theatre of the Oppressed has no end

Here are some quotes by Augusto Boal about his notion of ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’, taken from his 1992 book ‘Games for Actors and Non-Actors’.   Agusto sadly died last week.

Inspired by Paulo Freire‘s Pedagogy of the Oppressed he understood the activist and emancipation role of culture for individuals and communities living in societies where power is in the hands of the few, where the majority are disenfranchised from being seen, heard or being in a position to affect change, which both Boal and Freire knew was basically every society in the world.  They both also understood how culture could be used as a tool to pacify and numb the masses.  For Freire his emancipation weapon was education – for Boal it was Theatre.  For community media education activists, it is essentially both.


“[In] its most archaic sense, theatre is the capacity possessed by human beings – and not by animals – to observe themselves in action. Humans are capable of seeing themselves in the act of seeing, of thinking their emotions, of being moved by their thoughts. They can see themselves here and imagine themselves there; they can see themselves today and imagine themselves tomorrow. This is why humans are able to identify (themselves and others) and not merely to recognise.”
Page xxvi

“The Theatre of the Oppressed is theatre in this most archaic application of the word. In this usage, all human beings are Actors (they act!) and Spectators (they observe!).”
Page xxx

“Theatre is a form of knowledge; it should and can also be a means of transforming society. Theatre can help us build our future, rather than just waiting for it.”
Page xxxi

“When does a session of The Theatre of the Oppressed end? Never – since the objective is not to close a cycle, to generate a catharsis, or to end a development. On the contrary, its objective is to encourage autonomous activity, to set a process in motion, to stimulate transformative creativity, to change spectators into protagonists. And it is precisely for these reasons that the Theatre of the Oppressed should be the initiator of changes the culmination of which is not the aesthetic phenomenon but real life.”
Page 245

“In truth the Theatre of the Oppressed has no end, because everything which happens in it must extend into life….The Theatre of the Oppressed is located precisely on the frontier between fiction and reality – and this border must be crossed. If the show starts in fiction, its objective is to become integrated into reality, into life.

Now in 1992, when so many certainties have become so many doubts, when so many dreams have withered on exposure to sunlight, and so many hopes have become as many deceptions – now that we are living through times and situations of great perplexity, full of doubts and uncertainties, now more than ever I believe it is time for a theatre which, at its best, will ask the right questions at the right times. Let us be democratic and ask our audiences to tell us their desires, and let us show them alternatives. Let us hope that one day – please, not too far in the future – we’ll be able to convince or force our governments, our leaders, to do the same; to ask their audiences – us – what they should do, so as to make this world a place to live and be happy in – yes, it is possible – rather than just a vast market in which we sell our goods and our souls. Let’s hope. Let’s work for it!”
Pages 246-247

Rest in Perfect Peace Augusto Boal – April 16, 1931 – May 2, 2009

A Luta Continua

6 thoughts on “Augusto Boal – Theatre of the Oppressed has no end

  1. I hope that more people can understand the importance of Theatre in reaching out to the population and the dissemination of information. Theatre is in fact the first form of community media and should be encouraged. Even as we talk about convergence; Theatre and broadcasting should be converged to be able to reach out to more and more people as well as keep them interested in the topics.

    The Kenya Community Media Network not only supports community media but all forms of communication including drama, song and dance. Majority of its membership consists of theatre groups. Besides acting on stage, they have been able to produce radio drama scripts to highlight issues affecting them.

    Theatre is indeed a powerful tool of communication and I am glad that there are others who appreciate it.

    Aluta Continua!!


  2. Pingback: Art World / Community Media World « Beyond Project: notes on media/education/society __ shawn sobers

  3. Shame that Theatre of the Oppressed techniques are now used by some theatre practitioners to make money helping businesses “promote communication” within businesses and that within theatre it has become another God with which to mystify & therefore oppress others with no notion of the mutuality of learning and no knowledge of the man from whom Boal learned so much – Paolo Friere. But, hey , that’s showbiz.

  4. Very true Morna. Workshop leaders looking for packages to sell to pay their rent, using a methodology in a context it was never intended for. Capitalism will appropriate anything that can make a profit. Che Guevara branded chewing gum can’t be far behind!

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