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Theatre of the Oppressed as a democratizing agent in Education:
The journey that brought me to Theatre of the Oppressed originated in the classroom - traditionally a space that hegemonises the teacher. Teachers try innovative classroom strategies, new techniques of teaching etc, but are restricted by several factors, such as the structure of the traditional classroom, the requirements of the educational system that places so much importance on ‘completing the syllabus’, on exams and marks etc.
My authority as the English teacher was irrelevant when we were discussing strategies for real life: how to sneak a workshopped, student-scripted play into a ‘classic plays from Broadway/ West End’ culture or how to negotiate our own power and privilege while talking to a street child. Trying to solve problems such as these, we were all bringing our real world experiences to the situation, and using our critical thinking abilities- all of which led to exciting learning.
Theatre of the Oppressed deepened and further refined my insights from the classroom.
In the games and exercises in a typical TO workshop, we get into our bodies, and through the body into our minds. Our own previous privileging of the mind over body gets shaken up, as we awaken to new sensations, and the new insights that come with these new sensations. Strange and unfamiliar feelings accompany this realization, sometimes heady, sometimes disturbing.
This is dialogue within oneself, this process of realization, of reflecting, and deciding to move towards change.When you start truly dialoguing, and things start shifting inside you, the process is sometimes very unsettling. But that's necessary for growth, and that is a true democratic process- in the sense that you are moving of your own will, as a result of your own newly acquired insights. What comes to mind is the metaphor of the ground breaking after a long hard winter, and a little sapling trying to break its way through to the surface. A beautiful, natural and necessary process, but also painful, when deeply buried feelings emotions fight their way to the surface, claiming their rightful place within us.
*Image has been sourced from the Hindu Newspaper.