INTRODUCTION TO THEATER FORUM
In a stark difference from traditional drama performances, in the FORUM THEATRE the audience simultaneously serves as an actor, ie. Can influence the flow of the story by direct intervention and interaction. A particular problem is often staged in the form of a tableau; The participants freeze in meaningful, often exaggerated poses. The tableau is progressively expanded into the form of a short etude, including movement and sound, internal monologues and spontaneous dialogues. The images and scenes shown are aggravating by default, provoking dissent. The dissent is the crux of the matter. During the etude, audience can interrupt and react, stop the flow of events (‘freeze-frame’), propose an alternate action to the ‘spect-actor’, or even enter the stage and take the place of a ‘spect-actor’. A single show is performed at least 3 times, including audience’s ideas and proposals and verifying each of the scenarios.
A.Boal liked to say that ‘anyone can do theatre, even actors. And, forum can be done everywhere, even in a theatre.’ No acting skills or experience with theatre is needed. There is no part and lines to learn, no script to write. The Forum Theatre has nothing to do with the time-consuming preparation of school plays. A chair, possibly a table, and a classroom should entirely suffice.
That is why a group of teachers, pedagogues of theatre and didactitians from 4 countries decided to adapt the techniques of the Forum Theatre for use in school. Thanks to the Erasmus+ programme, we will spend the next 3 years testing practical solutions and mapping out efficient and applicative exercises ready to be used in classrooms. Their descriptions (in Polish), illustrated with a short video containing instructions, are available below.
What can be gained from Forum Theatre? A student in a ‘mantle of a role’ can access a wide spectrum of emotions. They can talk about anxiety, aggression, longing, frustration, without risking exposing themselves and without baring their intimate thoughts. Each of the participants can be both the oppressor and the oppressed. By that, they can better understand what led to their entanglement. A perspective of another, separate human, becomes a physical experience. As an author of many alternative scenarios, the student can follow the mechanisms of exclusion and interferes with their workings. Instead of making rushed judgements, the student creates their own opinion on the matter at hand through a reflection, taking both themselves and others into account. All in all, Forum Theatre provides a safe look at difficult feelings and allows students to express, analyse, and work through them in a structured and constructive manner; It teaches dialogue built on respect and awareness.
During the foreign languages acquisition class, Forum Theatre allows students up from intermediate level to express themselves in an authentic and thus motivating and satisfactory way. Their expression is spontaneous, which obviously positively influences the dynamic of the lesson. Thanks to the techniques described in here, and in particular the connection (Forum Theatre is exceptional at realising the potential of para-verbal communication) and the stream of consciousness, the students are able to overcome their language anxiety and, despite limited resources of expression, manifest their beliefs.
On the other hand, at the more advanced levels, Forum Theatre allows to break away from the routine of school debates and speeches. By introducing movement, it provides a vent for the energy of the middle-schoolers, and livens up the tired of impending maturity high-schoolers.
If you are teach a language, social sciences, or are eg. a homeroom teacher, who is willing to try out a simple and efficient tool which:
- makes auto-expression simpler, allows for authentic communication in a foreign language starting from the A1/A2 level;
- Motivates, reinvigorates, structures, widens the horizon of school debates;
- Teaches to be open to others, both cross-culturally and interpersonally;
- Allows to efficiently and safely discuss complex and controversial topics at school;
- Sensitises to human suffering and injustice, mobilises to take action, helps to create real solutions;
- Is a catalyst for deep and enduring change;
Then we very, very sincerely do recommend the FORUM THEATRE at school.