Like any profession or educational system, Theatre of the Oppressed has its own terminology. Some terms are derived from traditional forms of drama, others from anti-oppression pedagogy, such as popular education. One of Theatre of the Oppressed's goals is to "multiplicate" (from the Portuguese verb "multiplicar"—to multiply), meaning to make its language and methodology accessible to as many people as possible. So far this aim has been largely successful: Theatre of the Oppressed is now used by millions of people in more than 70 countries.
In hopes that more people will put Theatre of the Oppressed into practice, we have started a glossary of terms here—"started" because this is an open document. If you want to add an entry or alter a definition, leave a comment on this page!
Terms Commonly Used in Theatre of the Oppressed:
- Actor: A person who performs an action, whether onstage or off.
- Ally: A person with privilege who takes action in support of oppressed people. (Also see potential ally.)
- Antagonist: A character in conflict with the story’s protagonist.
- Cop in the Head: A Theatre of the Oppressed technique aimed at dismantling internalized oppression.
- Difficultator: A facilitator who offers challenges to a group as part of a workshop process.
- Dynamization: The process of adding movements, sounds and words into a piece of Image Theatre.
- Facilitator: A person who directs the flow of a discussion or workshop. Literally “one who makes things easy.”
- Forum Theatre: A play performed in front of an audience in which audience members can step onstage, take the place of a character or characters and change the story’s outcome.
- Games/Gamesercizes: Group activities that get people comfortable with themselves and each other, build trust and develop skills necessary for working with the language of Theatre of the Oppressed.
- Ideal image: A desired, improved variation on the Real Image in Image Theatre.
- Image: A motionless sculpture made from human figures.
- Image Theatre: A form of Theatre of the Oppressed that uses collectively constructed still images to convey meaning.
Institutional power: The ability or authority to decide what's best for others, to decide who can access resources, and to exercise control over others.
- Joker: The facilitator/difficultator in a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop.
- Kinesthetic: Relating to the body and/or movement.
- Mask: An image that an actor takes on to embody a character.
- Mirror: When an actor or actors take on the image, movements, sounds, words, characteristics and/or actions of another actor.
- Objective observation: Responding to an image with commentary on its physical nature alone.
- Oppressed: Anyone who is subject to others having power over them.
Oppression: The combination of prejudice and institutional power which creates a system that discriminates against some groups (often called “target groups”) and benefits other groups (often called “dominant groups”).
- Oppressor: A person who exerts power over another person. (Also see passive oppressor.)
- Passive oppressor: A person who oppresses by taking actions that support oppression and/or failing to take action to help the oppressed.
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed: A practice of teaching and learning developed by Paolo Friere that inspired his friend Augusto Boal to create Theatre of the Oppressed.
- Player: Participant in a theatre workshop or performance.
- Potential ally: A person who has the power to help an oppressed individual or group but may not have taken actions to actually help.
- Power: See institutional power.
Privilege: Personal, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional systems that benefit members of dominant groups at the expense of members of target groups. Literally means "Private law."
- Protagonist: A main character from whose perspective a story is told.
- Rainbow of Desire: A specific therapeutic theatre technique, and also a family of techniques, aimed at dismantling internalized oppression.
- Real image: A representation of an oppressive situation as seen by the people who create the image.
- Sculpt: The process of creating images with people’s bodies.
- Self-sculpt: To create an image with one’s own body.
- Spect-actor: A participant in the Theatre of the Oppressed, both spectator and actor.
- Subjective observation: Responding to an image with commentary based on perception, speculation and intuition.
- Technique: An intricate Theatre of the Oppressed exercise, more complicated than games.
- Theatre of the Oppressed: A system of theatrical games and techniques that examine and dismantle dynamics of oppression.
- Theatre pedagogy: The use of theatre to develop language and social awareness; Theatre of the Oppressed is a form of theatre pedagogy.
- TO: Abbreviation for "Theatre of the Oppressed."
Again, this is an open document: If you want to add an entry or alter a definition, leave a comment on this page!