Introducing Forum Theatre
What is forum theatre?
An educational theatre pioneered by Brazilian radical Augusto Boal.
A play or scene, usually indicating some kind of oppression, is shown twice. The first is called 'state of reality', and the second is called 'intervention'. During the intervention, any member of the audience (‘spect-actor’) is allowed to shout ‘Stop!’, step forward and take the place of one of the oppressed characters, showing how they could change the situation to enable a different outcome. Several alternatives may be explored by different spect-actors. The other actors remain in character, improvising their responses. A facilitator (Joker) is necessary to enable communication between the players and the audience.
Why forum theatre?
Audiences are able to practice and discuss solutions of sexual harassment in schools, which is more fun and engaging than giving a lecture.
The acting crew can take the discussion session as an opportunity to educate audience on sexual harassment and cultivate gender awareness in audience by giving out suggestions and spotting out misconceptions during conversations.
How can I organise a forum theatre play at school?
Script and plot
What is the intention of the play?
The intentions should always include 'to educate the audience on sexual harassment and gender-related issues' and 'to provide a platform for the audience to practice and discuss solutions of sexual harassment in schools'.
Other intentions such as 'to encourage the audience to consider what to do when they encounter verbal sexual harassment' can be added based on the plot of your own play.
Who are my targeted audience?
Students at your school
What question do I want to present?
Situations of sexual harassment that are similar to the ones students encountered or would encounter in their daily lives.
Remember to only include one question to keep the situation as simple as possible for the audience to spot the conflict and resolve.
What characters should I include?
Any additional character necessary, e.g. friend of victim, teacher, parents
What language should I use?
Try to use the mother tongue of your audience and performers during the play so that they can feel more comfortable to improvise during interventions.
Otherwise, choose a language that is most commonly used in your school.
What is the composition of forum theatre cast members?
Designers (optional) e.g. lighting designers, set designers, costume designers
Since the plays are about day-to-day life of students, designers are usually not needed.
Director (optional) For most of the school devised plays, the acting crew members create and direct the play together. However, if you think it is necessary to include a director for your play, please feel free to do so.
What should I look for when recruiting cast members?
Cast members must have strong gender awareness.
Cast members must have strong improvisation skills.
How many cast members do I need?
Performers 3 to 6
Include as few performer as possible to keep the situation simple
Joker only one joker is needed
Designer(s) Include as many as you need (though not always needed)
What to include in rehearsal sessions?
Warm up Good warm up activities can bring your crew together immediately!
Introduction to forum theatre Include some professional files, websites and past performance clips for better understanding.
Activities to develop and practice improvisation skills e.g. improvise a scene from provided key words; 'how would your character react if...'
Activities to build the characters for greater depth and understanding e.g. write a paragraph about the family of your role; describe the personality of your role
Read the script together Remember to check details like emotion and pause in lines
Mock interventions To further develop improvisation skills and practice pace for performance
Get into character and Stay as the character
Invite people over to get feedback!
Size of the audience
Keep the size of audience around 15-20 per performance to make the discussion most efficient
How long should the performance be?
Normally, forum theatre performance could last from one to two hours. However, in school environment, the time for performance could be cut shorter according to your need. Try to keep the performance longer than 30 minutes to at least gain three effective rounds of intervention and discussion!
Contact your school teacher to advertise your performance through email, social media or physical posters!
Introduce the performance to your friends and welcome them to join you!
Try to include a warm up for your audience at the beginning of the performance if possible. It brings everyone together!
Turn your school into a theatre!
Where to perform?
Base your performance on realistic situations at schools. The form of sexual harassment has no limit -- physical, verbal, or even cyber. As long as the situation is possible to perform in person by the performers, go and do it!
What to perform?
Anywhere in your school can be a theatre. Choose the site of performance according to your plot and situation! For instance, we presented a conversation between a group of friends in their rehearsing studio, so our performing space was a dance studio. You could perform in a classroom, an auditorium, or even a canteen. Use your imagination!
Please remember to...
Know your boundary
Collect feedback from your audience if you can!
Have you heard of the Forum Theatre before?
How do you think of the way to approach gender issue with the Forum Theater?
It is more vivid and real than lectures. It allows participants to know more about their "limits".
What do you think we can improve on? (Process, experience, content, performance, etc.)
You can build character more deeply. At present, the characters are not comprehensively created. During the intervention process, the actors are easily be themselves instead of the characters. You can try to add some other sections, such as adding new characters and scenes. You also need to consider the harassment of men or the harassment between the same gender. These cases may be more difficult to be seen and dealt with than men harassing women.
What do you think such performances can bring to the audience?
Many students in our school have a certain understanding of gender issue, so those who are willing to participate should have a certain foundation. However, if they are not interested in gender issue, they may be unlikely to participate or gain.
If similar performances are held in other international schools or in Chinese public schools (i.e. with different audiences), what are the advantages and disadvantages?
Traditional Chinese public school students may feel that this activity will shorten their study time. These schools' approach to gender issue is to educate women, while it ignores the sex education for men. I think that it was very important to educate men, although it was difficult. However, if enough women can have a high level of gender awareness and stop sexual harassment in a timely manner, some men around them will probably change their behavior after witnessing her responses.
Personally, what did you gain/feel from this performance?
"After watching the intervention of one of the audiences, I realized that it is necessary to seize the opportunity to give feedback. Sometimes, if the best time is missed, communication may not be so smooth."
"I've learned how to defend myself. I didn't resist in similar situations before, but now at least I know how to protect myself."