Interview with a youth worker about an innovative method for civic engagement, the “forum theatre”
Have you ever wondered how youth workers can involve people to be more active citizens? Are you searching for an innovative method for civic engagement? Do you want to get more involved in society, but you don’t know where to start from?
If your answer is “yes” to any of the three questions mentioned above, then this interview is for you!
How would you describe forum theatre, what it is?
I would say it is an experience, a way to know and understand yourself better and also to become aware of other people’s feelings, thoughts and values. From a more technical point of view it is a tool for social intervention that can be used in various types of communities in addressing issues related to oppression (abuse of power) like: domestic violence, bullying, parent’s abuse etc.
How does the method contribute to civic engagement/social responsibility?
Forum Theatre is an invitation by itself to get involved and to become more responsible at a social level. Everything starts with a story, a very short story performed by actors (professionals or amateurs) that is mirroring a piece of reality: everyday life in a high school, current life in a family with an abusive parent… The play ends when the oppressed makes a choice that will have an impact on her/his future: drop school, give up a dream, stay in an abusive relationship, etc. From this point, the audience is invited to be part of the story, to come on the stage and to become one of the characters with the purpose of changing the story and find ways to empower the oppressed person to make good decisions for her/his life. Connecting the reality on the stage with their own reality and find ways to help the character on the stage and become self-conscious about how they can involve in real life in such situations is a central point of the method.
Some examples on how forum theatre was used for civic engagement/social responsibility within your institution?
We were partners in a project with Rroma beneficiaries from 4 rural areas of Romania where we passed on the method to local initiative groups of young and adults. They worked few months with children and young people from their village and produced a Forum Theatre play in each community, based on local problems, like parental abuse that leads to early marriage and school drop-out. These problems were put on the list of Local Administration to be solved.
Another example is a national campaign organized by The Agency for Chance Equality between Women and Men with the topic of Domestic Violence. We created a Forum Theatre play and we had performances in 28 cities from Romania where the audience was made of local authorities, police members, social services, school teachers and students. This was a way of putting people inside a situation that in most times is happening behind closed doors and to feel the drama of such a story and also to find solutions to change these situations.
If someone never used this method in the past where should he/she start?
Start reading about social theatre, forum theatre, theatre of the oppressed first (Augusto Boal, Paulo Freire). Get information about people that are using this method. Watch some videos on this topic. Participate in trainings on this topic and start applying the method using a manual, like the ones we developed.
The 15th of January 2015
Interviewed person: Gabriela Dinu-Teodorescu, A.R.T. Fusion
Interviewer: Gaspar Eniko, BLSH
Read more about the method at: http://artfusion.ro/index.php/en/