Augusto Boal: Rehearsing the Revolution

Augusto Boal

Photo by AnnMari — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Augusto Boal died this past weekend. He was a genuine revolutionary. A genuine artist. He was a peaceful man who saw theatre as a weapon — for liberation.

Boal experienced torture for his beliefs, exile for his art, and a high price for his cultural activism. His collection of writings in Theatre of the Oppressed has continued to spark three generations of artists’ creativity, politics, and world view.

Here for inspiration, argument, and a smile are some his words:

All theater is necessarily political, because all the activities of man are political and theater is one of them.

…the differences between the bourgeois artist-high priest, elite artist, the unique individual (who, precisely because his is unique, can be sold at a better price: the star, whose name appears before the title of the work, before the subject and theme, before the contents of what is going to be seen) — and, by contrast, the other artist, the man: the man, who because he is a man, is capable of being what men are capable of being. Art is immanent to all men, and not only to a select few; art is not be sold, no more than are breathing, thinking, loving. Art is not merchandise. But for the bourgeoisie everything is a commodity: man is a commodity. And this being so, all the things that man produces will likewise be commodities. Everything is prostituted in the bourgeois system, art as well as love. Man is the supreme prostitute of the bourgeoisie!

In the beginning the theater was the dithyrambic song: free people singing in the open air. The carnival. The feast.
Later, the ruling classes took possession of the theater and built their dividing walls.
First, they divided the people, separating actors from spectators: people who act and people who watch — the party is over! Secondly, among the actors, they separated the protagonists from the mass. The coercive indoctrination began!
Now the oppressed people are liberated themselves and, once more, are making the theater their own.

…the spectator no longer delegates power to the characters either to think or to act in his place. The spectator frees himself; he thinks and acts for himself! Theatre is action!

When we look beyond appearances, we see oppressors and oppressed people, in all societies, ethnic groups, genders, social classes and casts; we see an unfair and cruel world. 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.

Perhaps the theatre is not revolutionary in itself; but have no doubts, it is a rehearsal of revolution!

The rehearsal continues.

- Bill Reichblum

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