FAQ

What is your mission?

Theatre of the Oppressed NYC partners with communities fighting against oppression to inspire transformative action through theatre.

What communities do you work with?

We serve and work with people of color, LGBTQ youth, criminally-involved youth, homeless people, people living with HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking survivors, recent immigrants, young women, and more.

What is Theatre of the Oppressed/how do you use Theatre of the Oppressed?

Theatre of the Oppressed is an interactive, physical, and playful process used to investigate alternative responses to situations in which people encounter oppressive situations. Participants from affected communities come together as actors, directors, playwrights, designers, and producers to create, and eventually facilitate, their own original Forum Theater performances. 

This is the format of a TONYC performance: a troupe performs their original play, in which each scene depicts a specific obstacle based on actors’ real-life experiences; this is followed by a “forum” in which a facilitator asks audience members to come on stage and step into the role of the protagonist to try out an alternative response to the problem(s) depicted onstage. Throughout the forum a trained TO ‘joker’ facilitates dialogue about the potential of each alternative, and what social, legal, legislative, and/or institutional changes could make various alternatives viable. These interactive forums have proven to be an effective, inspiring way to engage audiences in a laboratory to ‘rehearse’ practical, creative actions that we can individually and collectively take to  challenge systems of oppression.

What is the origin of TONYC?

TONYC was founded in November 2010, by Katy Rubin. After training with Augusto Boal, creator of the Theatre of the Oppressed methodology, in Rio in 2008, Katy returned to New York to find a lack of "popular theatre" (interactive theatre created by communities facing oppression) here. After working for several years as a teaching artist and actor, Katy started our first popular theatre troupe, Concrete Justice, in 2010. 

What is your creative process?

Theatre of the Oppressed is an interactive, physical, and playful process used to investigate alternative responses to situations in which people encounter oppressive situations. Participants from affected communities come together as actors, directors, playwrights, designers, and producers to create, and eventually facilitate, their own original Forum Theater performances.

In building the plays as a community, we start by playing games, largely from the arsenal of games outlined by Augusto Boal in Games for Actors and Non-Actors. The games serve to introduce “de-mechanization”, Boal’s term for breaking down the way that we have been trained to understand and interact with the world. Participants develop solidarity as a community through playful exercises that introduce silliness, confusion, and “failure” to the creative process. Actors let go of perceived expectations or limitations on their identity through re-imagining new possibilities.

How do you navigate conflict and difference when talking about controversial issues in your plays?

Augusto Boal talked about inviting dissent as a part of TO, and using TO as a way to address differences, so as a staff we try to practice what we preach and use a lot of TO in working out organizational challenges.

 

 

 

 

What is the purpose of the games in Theatre of the Oppressed?

The games each have a purpose in the TO process. Some are more for breaking the ice and allowing participants to connect, while others are concerned with “de-mechanization”, Boal’s term for allowing your mind to open to different possibilities. For example, one game that we use often is “Opposite of Jackson”. In this game participants are asked to do the opposite of a movement they usually do “automatically” (like stopping when instructed to walk). In order to do this participants realize they have to re-activate their thinking so that they can follow the game.

What is Forum Theatre?

Forum Theatre is what makes us different from other theatre organizations in NYC. The interactive aspect is liberating for both the forum actors and the audience (spect-actors). We work with both audiences of peers, such as clients of HIV clinics and homeless shelters, and also audiences of diverse allies who may not be personally affected by the problems addressed. In these circumstances, we occasionally get reluctant audiences but we experiment with creative ways to inspire the audience to join the action. Forum theatre is the cornerstone of our work and central to our mission.

What is Legislative Theatre?

Legislative Theatre operates as means of creating laws, through theatre, that are developed by the people directly affected by these laws. This practice was a later development in the Theatre of the Oppressed canon. It emerged as an outgrowth of a shift in Augusto Boal’s means of challenging existing power structures. In 1992, Boal was elected Vereador of Rio, a position similar to that of a City Council Member in the United States. This position and his prior experiences advocating against oppressive laws inspired him to create a theatre form that would turn the true will of the people into law. The core idea of Legislative Theatre is that often the root of an oppressive problem is found in oppressive laws, which necessitates a change in the law to resolve the problem.

Boal’s membership of an existing legislative body was key to the ability of the theatrical process to produce ideas that would be considered and potentially acted on by the elected officials of Rio. As Vereador, Boal used half of his staff budget to hire Jokers that then pioneered Legislative Theatre with community groups. During these legislative events, the community created proposals which were submitted as potential laws to Boal who in turn brought them before the legislature. Thirteen laws resulted from this process.

What are your intentions/goals?

- Within troupes?
Community Building, Benefits to Actors’ Lives, Enabling actors to become activists 
- For spectators?
Open Shows: Building solidarity, awareness, and audiences who can take action
Shelter/Clinic Shows: Allowing members of the community to participate in the brainstorming process
- Different areas of the tree of TO?
Legislative Theatre
Documentary, Poetry Book, Other Art Forms

How are you funded?

- Individuals: Membership, Events, Online Campaigns
- Grants: Government, Corporate, Foundation
- Earned Income: Workshops, Troupes, Joker Training Weekends, T-shirt and Book Sales

How can I get involved?

- Come to a performance or event
- Come to or host a workshop
- Sign up to volunteer


Can't find what you're looking for? Contact us.

Design: Risa Takeuchi '16; Design Corps
Pratt Institute, designcorps.pratt.edu

© 2015 Theatre of the Oppressed NYC
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68 Jay St, Suite 220
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(646) 504-4582
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© 2015 Theatre of the Oppressed NYC
Design: Risa Takeuchi '16; Pratt Institute, designcorps.pratt.edu
Created with NationBuilder