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Augusto Boal Feedback

Augusto Boal is amazing. He has produced brilliant techniques for a community to deal with immediate political and social problems/events through reconsidering the role of the spectator. He writes, “the poetics of Aristotle is the poetics of oppression: the world is known, perfect or about to be perfected, and all its values are imposed on the spectators, who passively delegate power to the characters to act and think in their place” . . . “Brecht’s poetics is that of the enlightened vanguard: the world is revealed as subject to change, and the change starts in the theatre itself, for the spectator does not delegate power to the characters to think in his place, although he continues to delegate power to them to act in his place” (p 96-97). In this chapter Boal presents seven exercises for performance, which range from mask work to staging a scene when no one knows it is actually a piece of theatre. Boal aims to engage the spectator as an active participant and thinker in the performance space. He works to reveal class and communal problems not through linear, patriarchal story-telling, but through the use of current events, news articles, familiar class situations, and myths. He developed the “Theatre of the Oppressed,” and constructs the People’s Theatre.

One of his exercises is for a participant to recall a moment of repression in his life and have it acted out by actors. He explains, “It also gives the protagonist the opportunity of trying once more and carrying out, in fiction, what he had not been able to do in reality” (p 92). This reminds me very much of my work with Elizabeth Kemp in New York. We relived and ritualized past experiences in order to live them out differently and find a side of light to the darkness of the experience. This is my kind of theatre. I am not quite sure yet how to apply this to my project, because I feel its purpose lies more in dealing with immediate issues, though perhaps the repression of Aboriginals and Aboriginal myth are two parallels I can draw to my project. As Boal says, “It is necessary to pass from the particular to the general, not vice versa, and to deal with something that has happened to someone in particular, but which at the same time is typical of what happens to others” (p 92). Grappling with specific stories of oppression from Australian Aboriginal cultures may then lead me to the general, expanding the experience of oppression into related experiences in American culture.

Something I am considering using for my project is the first exercise he describes, which is “Newspaper Theatre,” which is different ways of reading a news article aloud. You can use it out of context, use parallel action, rhythmical reading, etc all in order to reveal other perspectives and the POV and truth beneath the words. I feel using real historical stories and articles and messing with the structure of them may be a fun experiment to use for my project. This also makes me think the project may be more of an ensemble piece or written short play rather than a solo performance.

Thanks for staying updated! I have a show opening next week so you may not hear from me for a few weeks, but after that I plan to be posting regularly!

(Quotes on this and previous posts are excerpted from The Twentieth Century Performance Reader, edited by Michael Huxley and Noel Witts.)

Best,

Ariana

Back to the Project / Reading Eugenio Barba

I am back to blogging! I have taken a few steps back for the past couple of months, but now I am back on the project. The traveling is over, reflecting has been practiced, and now it is time to start researching styles of theatre for me to present my piece. I am brainstorming how my time traveling lends itself to the ultimate goal: the performance.

Today I began reading excepts from The Twentieth Century Performance Reader, edited by Michael Huxley and Noel Witts, which my mentor, Gretchen, assigned me. I began with a chapter on Eugenio Barba, an Italian/Norwegian theatre theorist and director. He founded the International School of Theatre Anthropology, which really excites me because I had no idea this field already existed! Something he wrote actually reminded me a lot of my motivations for this performance project. He wrote, “Like a melting pot in which the most disparate metals fuse, so inside me at the outset I tried to blend together the most diverse influences, the impressions which for me had been the most fertile” (p 39). Though he is speaking of different influences than those that apply to my project, I too feel as though I am drawn to diverse areas of study for reasons I am not necessarily conscious of, but for an inner need that I must seek to fulfill.

What I am currently working on is research for HOW to present my piece. I have decided to narrow my “performance project” into the category of “solo performance.” Right now Gretchen has me researching different methods and approaches to theatre, which will guide me in the creation of the piece. I have a lot of content, but now is the time to find the structure for communicating it.

Something that I think of often from my trip is when a man told me a story of his friends’ father. He said, “Black fella, white fella, yellow fella, pink fella. You cut-a the skin, we all the same.” I think I want this to be one of the major pinpoints of my piece. I will most likely use characters loosely based off of those people I met on my trip. One of the challenges I am facing is how to make my research in Australia relevant to an American audience. I think I can illuminate that bridge by bringing my attention back to the reason I myself was drawn to this project in the first place: I am drawn to the Indigenous knowledge and spirituality. I think in America too there is landscape, history, indigenous knowledge, and spiritual life that has direct parallels to the Aboriginals in Australia.

Now to continuing reading . . . I will be posting my responses over this weekend. 🙂

Thank you for reading along!

Ariana