Theatre Studies BA and MA students recently had the opportunity to train on campus with Julian Boal, internationally renowned theater for social change practitioner. Julian Boal, son of the legendary Theater of the Oppressed founder Augusto Boal, continues his late father’s work at the Escola de Teatro Popular in Rio de Janeiro and at Theater of the Oppressed training sessions across the globe.
Boal worked with BA students in Theater Program Coordinator Jessica Brater’s Theater for Community Impact class and with MA students in her Modern & Contemporary Theater History course. Several BA and MA students also participated in an intensive 4-day Forum Theatre workshop that drew interdisciplinary participants. As MA student Sanjida Chowdhury described it, “The games that we played in class and in were useful, but I did not recognize that until the second time I played them when I was in the workshop with a group of individuals that I have never worked with before.
When I first arrived at the workshop, everyone was in their prospective corners, talking with people they came with. However, after a few games of contradictions, we were opening up and becoming more comfortable with each other. We were sharing jokes, stories, crossing the room to sit with new people. I realized that this was the first before actually doing Forum Theatre, we were becoming a community. I can see how this would be important to a group of individuals within a structure because it helps build relationships.”
Forum Theatre engages both creators and audiences in communal problem-solving around issues that impact local communities. The workshop culminated in a final public presentation of several Forum Theatre scenes that took on topics including the criminalization of Black and Brown youth and the burden of unpaid domestic labor on women.
BA Theatre Studies major Jordan Conklin-Yousef said of her participation in the workshop that “being a part of the Boal workshop was truly an experience I will never forget. Not only did I learn about Theatre of the Oppressed but I learned valuable skills on how to create a community and begin a conversation on challenging topics in an effort to create change. I also learned how to connect to not only an audience but to the people around me, which is important for everyone.”
In addition to the Department of Theatre and Dance, campus sponsors of Boal’s visit included Network for Education Renewal, the Departments of Teaching and Learning and Educational Foundations, the Center of Pedagogy, and the Dean’s Office of the College of Education and Human Services.