This online dialogue highlighted how theater is being used to promote, educate, motivate and move people to action regarding human rights, development and issues "screaming for" change. Practitioners shared stories of how theater is used as a powerful tool in human rights work, and theatre exercises and tools that have been useful for groups and communities looking for ways to utilize theater in their work.
The answers to: “Why Theatre” were many, here are some of the insights shared in the dialogue: The power of theater as a way for people and communities to share their experiences, generate conversation, and enable new insights to emerge. The power of theatre to break down isolation and building hope. By working through theatre, both performers and spectators can engage difficult questions in a safe space. Theatre is also an ideal instrument to give witness to human rights violations. It is also an excellent tool for education and awareness raising. Lastly, these insights can be used to advocate for policy and legislative changes.
As a challenge to the use of theatre, many participants mentioned the need to be aware of its limitations as well:
- Potentials and limits of theater in fighting oppression
- Achieving change in real life
- Creating long term change
The discussion also touched upon the question of how/when/if to measure impact.
- It is hard to measure and quantify.
- How to measure impact in volatile conditions.
One participant expressed that assessing the impact through longer time is a way to give testimony for the power of theatre to have a real and lasting impact. Participants also shared the ways in which they gathered information to measure impact, both through a database and through consistently keeping in touch with past participants. Another important issue that was discussed by the participants was the role of the facilitator in creating the theatre project.
One participant pointed out that the most important role of the facilitator was to let the participants tell their own story. Another participant highlighted the need for the facilitator to not take too much control or try to dictate the process, but rather facilitate it. Yet another participant reemphasized that the role of the facilitator is to listen, to support the community they work in and to help them find a way to express that feels important to them.
Another issue highlighted in the role of the facilitator was to be aware of being culturally appropriate, and that the facilitator, especially if working in foreign context, be aware of their own baggage, privilege and expectation. This discussion led to one about the relative importance of process versus outcome, and the different approaches that favors one or the other. The importance of self care was also addressed and answered.
The discussion then turned to more practical matters such as discussing different mediums that could be useful.
- The use of technology to spread information about art and the use of culture.
- The impact of language versus images.
- The use of DVD recordings to extend the reach of the project.
- The use of puppets to present painful stories or themes.
- Use of entertainment and humor to get a political issues.
- Using traditional artistic practices for social commentary.
Another thread that was brought up was the use of theatre for social change with activists. An idea echoed and suggested as a means to work with activists. Though theatre was expressed as an ideal way in assisting activists in exploring, debriefing, sharing, celebrating, and generally processing "the work", one participant expressed the difficulty in getting activists involved due to lack of time and resources.
Share theatre exercises and tools that have been useful