This online dialogue featured how theater is being used to promote, educate, motivate and move people to action regarding human rights, development and issues "screaming for" change. This dialogue was an opportunity for you to ask questions, share experiences, and build connections with practitioners using theatre. Practitioners shared stories of how theatre is used as a powerful tool in human rights work and theatre exercises and tools that have been useful for groups and communities looking to solve their problems.
Our featured resource practitioners come from human rights organizations and theatre groups around the world. Click here for biographical information on these practitioners.
What is the GOAL of this dialogue?
The goal of this 7-day conversation among practitioners (with or without experience using theatre) is to encourage participants to reflect on their work and share their experiences, stories, challenges, etc with one another, in order to strengthen the use of theatre for human rights work. By sharing these experiences, conversations may emerge around a challenge shared by several practitioners, or around feedback on a particular resource or tool, or a number of other topics! These conversations will be captured in this dialogue space that you and others can access again in the future.
Summary of dialogue
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.
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
- Analytical framework for assessment of theatre.
- A matrix for measuring impact.
- The Change Cycle™ Model.
- Theater of the Oppressed - Complete the Image.
- Making images.
- Organize a puppet parade.
- Elicit images on a theme.
- Assorted resources.
- Enabling children through the theatre.
[Photo credit: Drama for Life 2008]