Using theater in education as a tool for transformational discussion and learning

2014 Guatemala
2014 Guatemala

One thing that makes Global Visionaries (GV) unique is how all participants receive the same experience, no matter their background. This used to be only true for our Seattle participants, but this year GV has moved towards equal programming for our participants both in Seattle and Guatemala. One example of this programming is in GV’s use of Theatre of the Oppressed (TO), a form of popular community based education that uses theater as a tool for transformation.

Originally this form of theatre was developed by actor and activist Augusto Boal, through his work with peasants and other worker populations. Boal was inspired by the vision of good friend, Paulo Freire, and Freire’s landmark treatise on education “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” Boal’s work has inspired others around the world to work toward social and political activism, conflict resolution, community building, and even government legislation.

Up until now, TO had primarily been utilized in Seattle by GV staff and its participants. But this year GV incorporated TO into its intensive program allowing both Guatemalans and “Gringos” to engage in an interactive theater based forum. Led by long-time GV friend and counselor, Marc Weinblatt, the group talked about sexism in Guatemala as experienced by our staff. The result was the creation of a play titled, “Lo que la vida me robo,” (translation: “what life stole from me”).

The play, and TO, is about analyzing rather than accepting what is presented and questioning rather than giving answers.  It is also about “acting” rather than just talking.  Throughout the experience of “Lo que la video me robo”, audience members were transformed from spectators into “spect-actors”.   Through the evocative language of theatre, everyone was invited to share their opinion on the issue at hand – sexism. And even though the play was in Spanish, it didn’t stop Seattle participants from engaging with one another as “spect-actors.”

Interested in learning more about Theatre of the Oppressed? Join us for a workshop December 6-7, where we partner with Marc Weinblatt’s organization at The Mandala Center for Change, on “Diversity: Evolving from Reality to Truth.” We’ll explore how our gender, ethnicity, and other social group memberships affect our experience in the world. Register here, and get a glimpse of what our students’ experience.

By Emma Shull, Global Visionaries

Global Visionaries views its youth as leaders of today, inspiring the leaders of tomorrow. As we strive to become a youth-led organization, we involve our young people in many facets of our organizational practice. Youth engagement and inspiring action to work towards a just and sustainable future are generated by conversations and participation in activities such as TO.

More about Marc Weinblatt

Marc has been a professional educator, theatre director, activist, and workshop facilitator since 1980. He is an internationally recognized leader in the use of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, and has trained thousands to utilize these techniques across the U.S. and from Afghanistan to South Africa. Most recently, Marc joined Global Visionaries (GV) during our intensive program and worked with the Guatemalan staff in creating a play for our GV participants.


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