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May 07, 2009
This Sunday I found out Augusto Boal died. I didn't expect to feel as shaken up as I did, after all plenty of the other practitioners who have influenced me are no longer around.
If you recall, I began this blog with an extract from Boal's autobiography, which I read this Christmas. As well as the inspirational enthusiasm, eloquence and advocacy I found in all his books. I felt as if I had really begun to have a dialogue with him. Empathising as his experiences of education echoed my own, shock and sympathy at his periods of exile and persecution, bringing my own voice to the question he constantly debated - 'how can you truely create a people's theatre?'
And so, in part, my grief is that of an evolving friendship and dialogue that is suddenly cut short. Except, of course, it isn't. Boal's writing still, and always will, exist for us to engage in. And more than that, the living legacy he leaves behind in groups such as The International Theatre of The Oppressed Organisation, Cardboard Citizens, Mind The Gap... means we can continue to debate and strive towards answers to that all important question.
I have just described my relationship with Boal as new and evolving. But in some ways it isn't. In my pioneering days of my undergraduate Independent Practical Project (the wild west of Millfield's primary school drama club and me the loan gunslinger, armed only with shakey workshop plans and my wits) Boal was one of the first theorists I came across - advised by my tutor: 'you will have done Boal, you just don't know it.'
And this, I discovered, was the thing about Boal, the ideas from Theatre of The Oppressed; Games For Actors and Non-Actors are so pervasive that I wonder if we could conceive of a theatre in education without them. I don't mean that Boal has all the answers, or fool proof techniques. But I think that so many practitioners, as I did, cut their TiE practitioner teeth on Boal to the extent this his ideas have become part of the language we share.
We can disagree with him, reshape or reject his ideas, but we cannot ignore the fact his work has shaped the very landscape we inhabit.
It could be stated Boal didn't always spend a lot time crediting those who in turn inspired him, notably the pedagogic work of Friere. None the less it is, for many of us through the invigorationg rhetoric of Boal that these ideas have reached us. I will leave you with a shining example of that rhetoric, written shortly before his death and now being shared amongst those for whom he has been such a key figure in both their professional and personal lives:
"We have to create another world because we know it is possible. But it is up to us to build this
other world with our hands and by acting on the stage and in our own life.
Participate in the “spectacle” which is about to begin and once you are back home, with your friends act your own plays and look at what you were never able to see: that which is obvious. Theatre is not just an event; it is a way of life!
We are all actors: being a citizen is not living in society, it is changing it."