Class Acts: Introducing Forum Theatre

McCarthy, Kate (2011) Class Acts: Introducing Forum Theatre. [Conference Proceedings]


The Applied Studies in Social Care programmes at Waterford Institute of Technology offer two drama electives to first-year students: Introduction to Community Drama, and Community and Performance. Forum theatre is a key concept in the field of community drama and performance. This presentation introduces participants to forum theatre as an applied theatre technique, which encourages students to reflect on their civic engagement and social responsibilities through the process of drama and theatre. Attendees are encouraged to engage with simple activities that illustrate how forum theatre can encourage active student engagement. Forum theatre is a technique developed by Brazilian practitioner Augusto Boal and forms part of his larger body of work, the Theatre of the Oppressed (2002, 2000). The technique is supported by research that illustrates how drama and theatre can bring about empowerment, and personal and social transformation (Prendergast and Saxton, 2009; Prentki and Preston, 2009; and Taylor, 2007, 2003). Forum theatre is an accessible technique that does not require prior drama or theatre experience as is evident from its implementation in a number of fields (e.g. prison theatre). The 'performance' aspect of forum theatre requires active engagement and interaction from the audience. In Boal's praxis, the audience become spect-actors- they must 'act' on what they see instead of merely spectating. In the community and performance module, the students devise, develop and present a scene to their peers based on the issues and concerns of their particular group. This semester, students presented scenes on the following topics: drug and alcohol abuse, homophobia, abuses of power, peer pressure, bullying and student services. The students work collaboratively to create the scene and are responsible for the development of the material, leading to a sense of empowerment and ownership.

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