Theater of the Oppressed

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Augusto Boal

The Theater of the Oppressed is a series of methods by Augusto Boal , Rio de Janeiro . It came to Germany during Boal's time in exile in the 1970s. After working with actors, theater has found its way into political education and is practiced in around 70 countries around the world.


The theater of the oppressed combines art and self-awareness with political trial-and-error. It offers many opportunities to activate social and communicative resources that are often suppressed or neglected in everyday life in playful, aesthetic and theatrical encounters with people. Augusto Boal's Theater of the Oppressed is based on two principles: The audience as a passive being and object should become the activist of the plot. The theater should not only deal with the past, but also with the future and its possibilities.

The dialogue in the interaction between trainers and directors as well as the participants is a central component. It is not the director who determines the content of the scenes and plays, but rather the participants who set the thematic priorities. Liberation from everyday constraints, insight into one's own actions, questioning of social rules of oppression etc. are important objectives in the work - they flow into the techniques and forms of this theater.

The forum theater wants to activate the passive audience. But activation is not an end in itself. Anyone who frees themselves from given (consumer) roles in the theater is also able to behave courageously in similar situations in everyday life. It can therefore convey impulses in (social) educational and social therapeutic work that a cognitively oriented teaching practice cannot provide.

In the forum theater, questions are raised through model scenes. The audience can switch to the scenes shown and replace the actors who play the weak, discriminated or disadvantaged. This is about the answers to questions: What would I do in the presented situation? How can we change the scenes through our ideas and our actions? Forum theater is therefore (aesthetic) training for future action in explosive conflict situations.

Legislative theater is a continuation of the forum theater in the political debate: In Rio de Janeiro with nineteen grassroots groups in the city quarters around 60 legislative proposals for the city parliament were drawn up, thirteen of which could be implemented immediately.

The application in the European area was discussed at international conferences, but also requires the reliable cooperation of parliamentarians, which has so far been lacking.

An older method is the invisible theater , which Boal adopted and adapted from the theater tradition of the post-revolutionary Soviet Union of the 1920s. Actors play theater scenes in public (e.g. on the street, in a department store, etc.) without the audience knowing that this is a staged event.

Even after such a performance is over, the audience is not informed. The purpose of the action is to use the played scenes to show suppression mechanisms in a society. It is the declared aim of the invisible theater to get the audience to interfere in the staged performance and thus actively participate in the processing of the topic (see also: street theater ).


The concrete experiments that Boal carried out with German actors on the occasion of the Theater der Welt in Hamburg in 1979 did not succeed as a method, but in fact failed. Boal, who fled a brutal and inhuman military dictatorship in Brazil in the 1970s , was able to transfer the technology of the invisible theater one-to-one to Europe, but not achieve the enlightening purpose that was hoped for. In the discussions that followed the experiments, Boal literally admitted that "the mechanisms of oppression in Germany are far too subtle to be made visible through the invisible theater."

The method of the invisible theater is today u. a. used by the Volxtheaterkarawane . The actions of the Viennese theater group repeatedly attracted great media attention, for example the “Biometric Measurements” which were carried out on schoolchildren as part of the Festival of Regions 2003 at the Benedictine high school in Lambach ( Upper Austria ). The Volxtheater activists pretended to be employees of a European Institute for Biometric Research and were thus initially able to access the pupils' personal data unhindered and to carry out iris scans and oral swabs on them.


  • Augusto Boal: Theater of the Oppressed. Exercises and games for actors and non-actors. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1979 and 1989, ISBN 3-518-11361-5 , (the basic knowledge, all backgrounds of the creation, examples of forum and invisible theater)
  • Augusto Boal: Legislative Theater: Using Performance to Make Politics. 1998, ISBN 0-415-18241-7 , (The Evolution of Legislative Theater in Rio and its Retransmission)
  • Augusto Boal: Hamlet and the baker's son. The autobiography, Mandelbaum kritik & utopie, Vienna 2013, ISBN 978-3-85476-626-1 .
  • Augusto Boal: The Rainbow of Desires. Kallmeyer, Velber 1999, ISBN 3-7800-5811-1 (the latest, most comprehensive compilation, especially of the psychologically-oriented methods)
  • Birgit Fritz: From revolution to auto-poise. On the trail of Augusto Boal into the 21st century. The theater of the oppressed in the context of peace work and an aesthetic of perception. Ibidem, Stuttgart 2013, ISBN 978-3-8382-0553-3 .
  • Birgit Fritz: InExActArt - The autopoietic theater Augusto Boals. A manual on the practice of the theater of the oppressed. Ibidem, Stuttgart 2013, ISBN 978-3-8382-0223-5 .
  • Henry Thorau: Invisible Theater. Alexander, Berlin / Cologne 2013, ISBN 978-3-89581-276-7 .
  • Armin Staffler: Augusto Boal. Introduction. Oldib-Verlag, Essen 2009, ISBN 978-3-939556-11-4 .
  • Thomas Haug: That (doesn't) play a role! Theater of Liberation according to Augusto Boal as an empowerment tool in the context of self-help. ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-89821-486-9 (connection of Boal's theater with the self-help idea and the empowerment concept, theoretical discussion, method description and concrete practical suggestions for social work)
  • Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichhorn: Tears into Energy - The Theater of the Oppressed in Afghanistan ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-8382-0172-6 (presentation and reflection of various project examples from the Theater of the Oppressed)
  • Reflections - Perspectives: 20 years of the theater of the oppressed in Germany. Correspondence of the Federal Association of Theater Education , ISSN  1865-9756 issue 34/1999 (specialist journal for theater pedagogues) ( PDF online )
  • Sanjoy Ganguly: Forum Theater and Democracy in India, Mandelbaum, Vienna, 2011, ISBN 3-854-76605-X .
  • Simone Odierna, Fritz Letsch: Theater makes politics. Forum theater based on Augusto Boal. A workshop book. AG SPAK , ISBN 978-3-930830-38-1 .
  • Anne Vogtmann: Augusto Boals Theater of the Oppressed: Revolutionary Ideas and their Implementation. An overview (PDF; 370 kB) . In: Helikon, A Multidisciplinary Online Journal, 1, 2010, pp. 23–34.
  • Helmut Wiegand (ed.): Theater in Dialogue: cheerful, rebellious and democratic. German and European applications of the theater of the oppressed . ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-89821-333-1 .
  • Daniel Feldhendler: Psychodrama and Theater of the Oppressed. Wilfried Nold Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 978-3-922220-60-2 .
  • Henry Thorau, Invisible Theater. Alexander Verlag Berlin / Cologne, 2013. ISBN 978-3-89581-276-7

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