Welcome to
    Paulo Freire                                                                Augusto Boal


National Theatre of the Oppressed Conference

Diversity Dialogues 2017

December 9-10, 2017, Bangalore, India

Why this conference

The Centre for Community Dialogue and Change (CCDC) was founded in 2011, as an organisation dedicated to the practice and promotion of Theatre of the Oppressed(TO) in India. Over 200 Theatre of the Oppressed facilitators - or Jokers as they are called - have attended our trainings in the last seven years. Known as Bangalore Jokers, or BJs for short, they are spread out across India and beyond its borders.  In celebration of and gratitude for the wonderful work this family of BJs is doing, CCDC is organising Diversity Dialogues 2017, a two-day National Theatre of the Oppressed conference on December 9 and 10, 2017.  

Diversity Dialogues 2017, "We Make the Road by Walking", will showcase the innovative work that many BJs have been doing with different communities across India,  examine the many challenges this work has thrown up, and the collective growth in our understanding of TO practice.

When we organised our first Diversity Dialogues in 2014, we felt it was necessary to bring together people working in the social justice arena in India- not only Theatre of the Oppressed practitioners, but artists, writers, performers, academics, and activists. It was important, three years ago, to place our practice firmly in the context
of social justice work in India. 

Three years on, we feel that it is time to take stock of our work, to understand what it means for us as Jokers, how it benefits the communities we work with, and what directions are emerging for our future. CCDC as an organisation and BJs in their individual capacities and/or as part of other organisations  have been using Theatre of the Oppressed to work with communities in education, healthcare, and other sites of struggle and conflict. In the course of our work, we have sometimes encountered lethargy, hostility even, but also felt energised and inspired by many men, women and children that we have met, people of great courage, visionaries, and trailblazers. Diversity Dialogues 2017 is a gathering to share our adventures, so that these stories of struggle, courage and hope are not lost.     

In the words of Augusto Boal “We must all do theatre, to find out who we are, and discover who we could become.”     

Bring your TO story. The world needs to hear it. 

If you have been wanting to start facilitating Theatre of the Oppressed workshops but didn’t quite know where to start or how to start, this conference is for you. 

If you want to meet people who are contributing to change through theatre, this conference is for you.

Welcome to Diversity Dialogues 2017! 

Radha Ramaswamy                                                                           Ravi Ramaswamy

Organising Chairperson                                                                          Organising Secretary

Note: We Make the Road by Walking is the title of a book of conversations between Paulo Freire and Miles Horton, ed by Bell, Gaventa and Peters, Temple University Press, Philadelphia,1990. Adapted from the line by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado “ se hace camino al andar” or “ you make the way as you go”. 

You can register for the conference at this link.

Registration fee for two days : Rs. 2,000

Registration fee for one day:     Rs 1000


Envisioning a New Classroom - TO in Education

The goal of TO workshops in schools and colleges is NOT to make students more confident, or
more creative, or more disciplined, or teachers more creative, more understanding etc- though all these things do happen . The purpose is to 
create a a dialogic ​culture that will transform the whole school environment . The presenters in this session will share their experiences of using TO to create such democratic  teaching/learning spaces. 

Asking the Right Questions-  TO and Healthcare
This session will throw light on TO workshops being used in medical education and in mental health, that explore how healthcare practices can become more humane, more patient-friendly, more just. The questions to ask are not just 'What's wrong with this patient?', but equally, 'What kind of a doctor do I want to be?' or 'How do we build a compassionate and caring community?'

TO and Communities in Conflict- Joker dilemmas and challenges

In this session we will hear stories of TO workshops in communities experiencing struggle because of harsh and repressive 
systems. Questioning established norms of   society - of caste, gender and class,  providing a platform for all voices to be heard- these general aims of TO practice take on an extra edge in such communities, and the Joker experiences serious challenges.




9 00 to

 9 30 AM




9 30-to

9 45 AM

Introducing the Conference



9 45 to

10 30 AM

Participants introduce themselves



10 30 to

 11 00 AM



Session 1


11 AM to 

1 00 PM

Envisioning A New Classroom - TO in Education

An interactive session where a group of presenters, working in very different contexts,  share their efforts to transform educational spaces through TO

Aishwarya Manjunath,  

Ashima Vishnoi, 

  Benson Issac,  

Neela Gupta, 

Ravi Ramaswamy


1 00 to

2 00 PM



Session 2


2 00 to

4 00 PM

Asking the Right Questions- TO in Healthcare

 A. The presenters narrate their experiences of introducing TO in medical education to explore how healthcare practices can become more humane, more patient-friendly, more just.

B. The speaker will share learnings from her experience of jokering  forums on issues in mental health.  


 Anitha Guru, 

Dr Navjeevan Singh,

 Dr Satendra Singh, 

Ravi Ramaswamy

Radha Ramaswamy


4 00 to

4 30 PM




4 30 to

5 30 PM

Diversity Dialogues 2014

Film screening




Session 3

9 30- 11 00 AM

Communities in conflict- The TO challenge

 Through an interactive narration, the speakers will highlight the challenges faced by the Joker when working with communities struggling under harsh and repressive systems.

Cecilia Davies, 

Ravi Ramaswamy, 

Shobha Raghavan


11- 11 30AM



Session 4


11 30AM- 1 PM

Building spaces for Dialogue –Bangalore Jokers share Forum experiences

Jokering Forums, being a Forum actor, and being a spect-actor in a Forum, can all offer unexpected learning moments. Such moments can trigger transformational processes within individuals and meaningful dialogues in communities.



1- 2 PM



Session 5


2- 4 PM

What Next?

Review, way forward, and closing



4- 4 30 PM




4 30- 6 PM





Aishwarya Manjunath has been teaching in urban low income schools since 2012. A trained  Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) practitioner, she   has been using TO extensively in classrooms both as part of teaching English and as a 10 day module to create forum plays. She has jokered 11 forum plays with her students, and used TO workshops with teachers to create democratic, inclusive spaces for reflection.

Besides English and TO, Aishwarya has used other empowerment models like Design for Change, dialogue as a tool for learning and conflict resolution in the classroom, and comprehensive gender and sexuality education. She has interned with Nancie Atwell, winner of the 2015 Global Teacher Prize, and adapted the workshop method of teaching language to the Indian urban low income context. 

A mental health survivor and care giver herself, Aishwarya has been working with The Red Door to address mental health issues and bullying among adolescents through peer support, creativity and communityAn avid reader and used-to-be-engineer, Aishwarya believes she is getting trained as a teacher.

Born in New Delhi, and growing up above and below the Tropic of Cancer, Anitha Guru calls her entire country her native, her home. She had the opportunity to study all boards through her schooling and graduated from St. Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, Bangalore(June 2006) with a triple major Bachelor’s degree and certificate courses in “7 habits of highly effective people” and “Neuro Linguistic Programming.” She did her Master’s in Medical Anatomy from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal(August 2009). She worked at the International Medical School(IMS), Bangalore and then joined Melaka Manipal Medical College, Manipal Campus and has 7 years of teaching and learning experience. She has also published 33 articles(case reports and original). She has completed a 2 year fellowship from MUFIILIPE, Manipal with a project of theatre in medical curriculum. With a keen interest in dance, books, anatomy, travel and cooking, she enjoys every aspect of her life. 

Ashima Vishnoi has a Master’s Degree in Education from the Azim Premji University and has been working with development organizations and grassroots movements. Following her internship with the Centre for Community Dialogue and Change (CCDC) in 2014, she attended CCDC’s facilitator training in Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) in 2015, and has since been using Theatre of the Oppressed to work with students and teachers.

As program assistant in Eklavya , she worked with schools and community in Tamia, Madhya Pradesh, and on strengthening different aspects of DIET , extensively using participatory methods and TO.

Currently, she is on a 2 year fellowship, under the mentorship of CCDC, using Theatre of the Oppressed to work with grassroots movements in India. 

Benson Issac
loves long conversations, walking in the mountains,  swiming in deep forest pools,  finding exciting places to eat and soaking in the sounds and smells of market places in small towns and  cities across India. Teaching has strangely enough helped bring all of this together. As Faculty in the School of Development at the Azim Premji University, he teaches courses on Social Interventions, Crtical Perspectives on Mental health and Illness, Contemporary Social Movements and has always worked using the class room itself as the first entry point into undestanding sociology, anthropology and politics.

 His association with Greenpeace, CIVIDEP, Samvada, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Mel Jol have shaped his understanding of the world and  the complexity and challenges of engaging in processes of change. 

 Working on issues of young people in Agriculture, Handicrafts, Mental Health  and exploring socially just and sustainable livelhoods through the platform that Samvada creates, has been at the core of his practice. After being reluctantly coaxed into exploring Theatre of the Oppressed by Radha Ramaswamy, its been an exciting journy and he has been working to integrate TO into the curricular and class room setting in the Higher Education space and work with TO and Theatre for Living in many other spaces including Organisation building, sensitisation around issues of sexual harasment, anti-communal efforts and mental health initiatives. 

Cecilia Davies
is a Social Worker involved in
the development sector for the last 17 years. Her special area of interest is the Criminal Justice System. 
Dr Navjeevan Singh is former Director-Professor of Pathology and coordinator of the Medical Education Unit at the University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, India.

 He stumbled into “Theatre of the Oppressed” (TO) at a workshop conducted by his mentor Radha Ramaswamy at his institution. Fascinated by the potential of TO to help bring about change in communities in attitudes, behaviour, and communication, and inculcate respect for human diversity and teach empathy, he has since been experimenting with TO among the medical fraternity. Having worked with students and teachers at medical institutions in India, he is convinced that TO can be an important vehicle for experiential learning of the Medical Humanities. 

In 2014, while working with Aura a Learning Place, Vadodara (www.auraplace.com), 
Neela Gupta had an opportunity to explore Theatre of the Oppressed(TO) which led her to reflect, share and develop this  life long learning experience especially because of her keen interest in school  education, conflict resolution,  and How Human mind works.  Trained under the able guidance of  Radha,  she facilitated several workshops with school children and college students and occasionally with care givers of the children i.e. teachers and mothers.

Her  belief and trust in the transformative power of TO grew even more  while participating in workshops and Forum theatre with David Diamond and Sanjoy Ganguly.

Neela  worked with school systems for over 3 decades and strongly supports inclusion of TO in school and college curriculum as a subject.  She is also exploring and practising Nonviolent Communication and wants to live a life leading to a  peaceful coexistence of all life forms on this planet.

After a teaching career of 25 years,  
Radha Ramaswamy discovered Theatre of the Oppressed in 2010, and found in it a way to integrate her three main areas of interest - education, theatre and social justice work. 

The Centre for Community Dialogue and Change, which Radha founded in 2011, has, in the last 7 years, established itself as an organisation for Theatre of the Oppressed practice, training, research and documentation. Radha enjoys the challenge of working with diverse communities, and creating spaces for dialogue and change.

Ravi Ramaswamy 
received training in Theatre of the Oppressed in 2010, from Marc Weinblatt of the Mandala Center for Change. He is a trustee at the Centre for Community Dialogue and Change (CCDC) and has been a Theatre of the Oppressed (TO)  practitioner and trainer for the last 5 years. His theatre pedagogy is informed by his 12 years’ experience of working on issues of Social Justice following his Master’s Degree in Social Work.

His efforts to introduce TO in educational spaces include:

1.Workshops with students and teachers from government schools, affordable private schools and International schools

2.Courses in Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed to students of Development Communication in Mount Carmel College, and Jain University, Bangalore.

3.Workshops in Medical Humanities, since 2014

4. A 3 year study with school students on the impact of Theatre of the Oppressed.

Recently, in probably the first initiative of  its kind in the country, the Department of Prisons, Government of Karnataka with the NGO Peacemakers, invited Ravi to lead a week long workshop for inmates of Bangalore Central Jail, focusing on their emotional and psychological wellbeing.

 Shobha is a human rights activist working on issues of social justice for the last 16 years. She has a post graduate degree in Social work and has been using interactive theatre from the past few years to work with people to create democratic platforms that allow for creative and free expressions. She is also interested in documenting and understanding performing art forms traditionally used by communities to express dissent and resilience when faced by atrocities and violations and also an as an expression of love for nature.