The school community in action: an introduction to the Theatre of the Oppressed

Tuesday 23 April 2024

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During a TEDx conference held in collaboration with South Carolina State University, professor Shannon Ivey decides to bring her theatre company STATE of Reality to the stage to question the public on the themes of diversity and conflict through a globally recognized theatrical methodology: The Theatre of the Oppressed.

The Theatre of the Oppressed was born in the 1970s from the work of Augusto Boal, a prolific Brazilian theater director, playwright and activist whose work spans different fields and disciplines such as psychology and sociology. The name of this form of theatre comes from the inspiration that Boal draws from “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, one of the founding texts of critical pedagogy in which the educator Paulo Freire tries to deconstruct the colonial dominated-dominant perspective that crosses educational systems in favor of the establishment of a process of co-creation in which the student is not the “recipient” of educational action, but is the protagonist.
Similarly, the deconstruction of theatrical script by Augusto Boal wants to find more democratic and politically participatory forms of stage representation. In particular, among one of the many forms in which the Theatre of the Oppressed is articulated, there is the Forum Theatre.

The Forum Theatre is based on the staging of a situation of conflict that sees the presence of a subject who suffers oppression (mobbing, bullying or discrimination on the basis of belonging to a specific social group) and one or more subjects who are supporters of oppression. Although classical theatre has seen the stage for centuries as a three-dimensional place but closed in itself, the main feature of the Forum Theatre is the total disappearance of the fourth wall: the audience is not only called to observe, but to burst onto the scene, comment on it, criticise it, invent new characters and find collective solutions, introducing the figure of the spectator-actor. The interaction between the audience and the main actors is mediated by another figure, the joker, who, always maintaining a perfectly neutral position, invites the audience to make their own intervention.

The Forum Theatre is one of the main methodologies used in the SOPHIE project. As the rapid spread of technology has revolutionized many aspects of our daily lives, including the education sector, the adoption of online learning as an integral part of education systems has accelerated in recent years (mainly due to the pandemic). However, this change is not without challenges, reflections and problems that we have tried to respond to by using tools such as theatre to involve parents, students and teachers in the simulation of difficult events that could be experienced by the school community (revenge porn, cyberbullying, addiction to digital devices).


It is essential to consider how to guide young people in the responsible use of digital tools, guaranteeing them a safe navigation in the vast sea of the web. While online resources offer greater flexibility and easier access to knowledge and materials, it is essential to integrate these tools with more traditional teaching approaches (Il Sole 24 Ore, 2023).

In Italy, as in many other countries, some critical issues related to online learning have emerged. One of the main ones is the lack of social interaction, which can lead students to isolation and limit the development of relationships typical of the traditional school environment. Moreover, the freedom offered by online learning can become a double-edged sword, as it easily exposes students to irrelevant or inappropriate ones.

Another significant problem is represented by the difficulty of teachers in providing personalized support to students. Interacting on online platforms with a large number of users can be complex and limit the ability of the teacher to closely monitor the progress of each individual, with the risk that some concepts may not be fully understood.

In order to create new paths for the future and have a moment of final reflection on the results achieved by the SOPHIE project at the end of its life cycle, on April 13th we met at the Interhortodox Church Center of Greece in Athens some professional figures such as psychologists, academics and digital security managers of the postal police who have gone through with us the potential risks that young people may encounter online.

Do you also want to know new ways to create more inclusive and safe digital environments? Discover our card game and the SOPHIE manual or contact Marco Gennaro for further information: marco.gennaro@cesie.org.

About the project

SOPHIE – Safe and Inclusive Online Learning in Primary Education is a project funded by the Erasmus+ programme: Key Action 2, Strategic Partnership in the field of school education

Partners

For further information

Read about SOPHIE, visit https://www.sophieproject.eu/ and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Contact Marco Gennaro: marco.gennaro@cesie.org.

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