We’ve all been to a Christmas play, right? How about a reenactment of the crucifixion?
We’re familiar with drama in the church.
People rehearse a play and perform it for the body, and it always has some sort of message or moral obstacle that the lead character deals with. It usually has a presentation of the gospel put in there somewhere.
I want to introduce you, for those of you who are unaware, of a new form of drama – Forum Theatre.
Part of a Big Idea
Forum Theatre comes out of a larger umbrella of productions called Interactive Theatre. In general, interactive theatre changes the audience’s role in the play. It breaks the fourth wall and allows them to be more involved, rather than just passive watchers.
The audience might be asked to hold props or participate in giving suggestions to the cast or even taking on the role of one of the characters.
The specific goal of Forum Theatre is to give the spectators (or spect-actors as it is often called in this realm of drama) the power to change their world. It was originally known as the “Theatre of the Oppressed”, as it gives those who have no voice a very large voice during the production.The goal of #ForumTheatre is to give spectators the power to #change their world. Click To Tweet
This is done through the use of a few unique approaches –
Any spect-actor has the ability to pause the narrative. They yell out, “pause,” and all the actors freeze. The spect-actor then gives a suggestion or tells them to rewind to a certain line and make a specific change. This allows the spect-actors to try something different to see if a different result ensues. If the people don’t like the response in the play, then someone else is free to pause and rewind as well.
Spect-actors are also allowed to take the place of an actor and attempt to complete the scene (or part of it) in their own way to see what happens.
An open discussion is held, usually at the end of the scripted material, to discuss why people did what they did and what effect they had on the internal world. There’s never a judgmental statement made by the cast about which actions are right or wrong. It is simply presented and the spect-actors are free to make their own judgment.
All of this is allowed so that each person is able to deal with the problem in their own ways in a safe environment.
How Can We Use it?
The purpose of every Forum Theatre production is to present a difficult problem – whether it is a conflict or a moral dilemma. The solution is then created by the very people who are participating as spect-actors.
In America, this is often used in the business setting. Maybe the company faces a difficult decision or there has been a dividing conflict between the staff. A forum theatre company comes in and presents a similar conundrum and the people within the business are able to interact with the ideas in a safe way without hurting real people.
Around the world, its application is even more broad. In India, for example, there is an organization called The Centre for Community Dialogue and Change. They focus on many different realms, but primarily on medical education and patient care.
So for the church, we can just imagine the different uses. We can help to solve conflicts. We can give people practice in evangelism or counseling (I have personally done both with Forum Theatre). We can teach Scriptural lessons. And on and on.
Consider how Forum Theatre can enhance your church. And even more how it can enhance your community as you work to deal with problems and help people to change their world. It is, after all, the Theatre of the Oppressed.
Check out this video to see Forum Theatre in action.
Also published on Medium.