Documentary Screening: Image to Lifeworld

Technical difficulties have set back the finishing of the film Image to Lifeworld. Sign up for our email list to find out when we'll be showing the film.

Image to Lifeword is an ethnographic film exploring how Theatre of the Oppressed is fostering community in West Philadelphia. Focusing on workshops held in the spring of 2012, the film follows how participants use Image Theatre—one of the many modalities developed under the umbrella of Theatre of the Oppressed—to parse issues of injustice that the group works on together. Interspersing interviews with workshop footage, Image to Lifeworld shows how these dynamic and sometimes challenging exchanges connect to lived and embodied experiences, producing personal growth, new relationships, and a stronger sense of collective belonging.

Due to a hard drive crash (and we do mean crash—a collision with the floor resulted in a loss of footage and other data) this screening of Image to Lifeworld has been postponed for some time later in 2012. For more info, contact or call 215-730-0982.

Spring 2012 Workshops

"Turning Issues & Isms Inside-Out"
A 5-part T.O. Workshop Series
Tuesdays 4/17, 4/24, 5/1, 5/8 & 5/15
7:00-9:00pm at the Rotunda
4014 Walnut Street, West Philly
(Series closed to new participants)

Theatre of the Oppressed uses words, sounds, images, movement and the art of playfulness as ways to examine society from different perspectives. In this workshop series, the group will pick a handful of target issues and "isms" (e.g.: racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, etc.) and develop some tools for collectively deconstructing and rearranging this stuff in new ways. From there we'll strategize on how to replicate these transformations in the wider world.

Week-By-Week—What We Did: Click on the links below for rules and variations on a few games and techniques we explored each week, along with some notes on facilitation:

Week 1: Concentric Circles
Week 2: Cut-Ups
Week 4: Status by Number

...and if you have your own games or things you've discovered through Theatre of the Oppressed, let us know by leaving us a comment!

Status by Number

This exercise comes to us from Jana Sanskriti, the movement for Theatre of the Oppressed in West Bengal, India. Jana Sanskriti uses it to facilitate the creation of their plays, as well as creating societal dialogues in the communities where they practice. It works best with large groups.

Part 1—Interactions of Status: Each member of the group is assigned a secret number from 1 to 7. Each begins to walk around the space, thinking about this number in terms of status with 1 being the lowest and 7 being the highest. On this scale, how does someone with this status walk? How do they carry themselves? What actions do they perform in daily life? In silence, each person develops a character based on their assigned status and begins to interact with others, solidifying these status roles though wordless dialogues of gesture. At the end of this part, the group discuss experiences playing their roles and interacting with others.

Part 2—Images of Status: The group sorts itself out into smaller groups with an even distribution of status levels. Each smaller group then creates an image—a still, human sculpture—that portrays these expressions of status. Members of the other groups then share observations about each image, comparing both the status of individuals, as well as the expressions of status as created by each group.

Variation—Vampires of Disparity: In the first part of the exercise, everyone freezes except for those with highest status. These elites can touch those of lesser status and "absorb" status points, lowering the status of those touched with their own status become even greater. All resume motion, performing according to their new status. This can also be used in the still image in the second part of the exercise, with those who have top status remain as they are, while all others assume images of lower status than they originally had.

Got more variations? Tell us about them by leaving a comment below!

2 × 3 × Bradford Variations

This Theatre of the Oppressed game (named for a town in England where it was developed) is one of Boal's "classics" and can be found in the book Games for Actors and Non-Actors. Here's a version with a guessing game twist:
  1. In pairs, each person picks and issue or -ism, and then chooses which one they will work on first.
  2. Pairs count 1–2–3–1–2–3... alternating who says which number,
  3. When signaled, one person replaces saying #1 with a movement and sound based on the chosen theme. #2 and #3 are subsequently replaced as well.
  4. One this rhythm of sounds and movements is established, each pair shows their work to the rest of the group who then tries to guess what issue or -ism was being communicated. 
  5. Each pair then goes back to create another sequence, based on their other theme.
Group Movement Variation: To everyone moving together, other members of the group can add themselves in to a paired rhythm, choosing sides or forming groups that copy the sound/gesture. This can highlight different sorts of societal relationships: What's it like to have one vs. many? Women vs. men? Some standing onstage while others lie down on the floor? There are many possibilities.

Facilitator's Note: In the spring of 2012 we discovered an incidental variation on this technique when one pair chose "white guilt" as their theme. They had created their 3 sound/gestures, but each performed sound/gesture #3 quite differently—one from the perspective of someone dealing with their own guilt, the other in response to that person's expression of guilt. So the "1–2–3–1–2–3" pattern became a "1–2–3–1–2–4" pattern!