The Centre for Community Dialogue and Change was founded in 2011 by Radha Ramaswamy who has been, in a working life of 30 years, an English teacher, theatre researcher, dramaturg, an educational consultant to NGOs, and finally, a Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner and trainer. Radha has over 25 years of experience teaching English in Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru and Cambridge. Her lifelong interest in theatre, especially as it relates to its audience, led to her doctoral work on "Aspects of Performance in Contemporary Indian Drama in English” from the University of Bengaluru in 2004.
As a teacher, Radha encouraged her students to think beyond the classroom. While in Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru, she initiated and led several co-curricular programmes such as the Writing Group, and the Drama Club. She collaborated with the Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA) , a Bengaluru -based, child rights centred NGO, to design outreach projects for her students.
Prompted by a strong desire to engage with larger and more fundamental issues in education, Radha gave up her job as Head of the Department of English at Mount Carmel College, and joined the Mahindra United World College of India at Pune, where, besides teaching English, she founded the Department of Theater Arts and functioned as the Head of Aesthetics. The School's Community Interaction programmes helped Radha further develop and sharpen her own ideas for integrating development work into educational programmes. The next two years found her working with the Association for Promoting Social Action(APSA) and other NGOs, engaging in educational research and training.
Her experience in education, interest in theatre and passion for social justice work came together when she decided to train herself in Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, a tool for community education. Radha trained with Marc Weinblatt at the Mandala Center for Change in June 2010. Subsequently, she invited him to conduct workshops in India in January-February 2011, and shortly thereafter, launched the Centre for Community Dialogue and Change, an organization committed to the promotion of Theatre of the Oppressed in education.
Since founding the CCDC, Radha has worked with diverse communities of people: children, students, women activists, teachers, teacher-trainers, Senior citizens, medical students, doctors, medical teachers and others.
In this period, Radha has conducted numerous workshops – both short courses and multi-day sessions, in various cities in India, Nepal and the United States, mainly for those from the field of education. These have included sessions for teachers, teacher trainers, Medical students and faculty. Regular voluntary work with Senior citizens has also been an important part of her work, with forum performances on topics such as 'Elder Abuse', 'Dementia' and 'Retirement Blues'.The work with medical students and faculty - exploring the application of Theatre of the Oppressed in the field of Medical Humanities- is pioneering and has the potential to become a significant area of study for TO practitioners. Based on her work in this area, Radha presented a paper at the Global Medical Humanities Conference, in Aberdeen in Scotland in July 2013.
Encouraged by the widespread positive feedback from her workshops, and to meet the increasing demand for a full-fledged facilitator training, Radha has conducted six highly successful Six-day Theatre of the Oppressed facilitator trainings - in Bangalore iand Mumbai. She has also conducted a full-day Workshops in Joker training and in various Theatre of the Oppressed structures such as Rainbow of Desire, Image Theatre and Cop in the Head techniques.
In March 2014, Radha conducted a 7 day course in Theatre of the Oppressed techniques for Theatre in Education trainee teachers of the National School of Drama, Agartala.
In September 2014, Radha jokered a series of 12 Forum Theatre performances in Goa and New Delhi on the theme of Mental Health.
In November 2014, Radha organised,a 5 day National TO conference called Diversity Dialogues. This conference featured presentations and participation not only by TO practitioners but also those concerned with core issues of education and social justice using other forms of intervention.
Radha's main thrust remains the development of a TO based curriculum for mainstream schools and colleges in India.
The decision to take the six-day facilitator training workshop in Theatre of the Oppressed, along with his wife Radha Ramaswamy, at the Mandala Centre for Change in Port Townsend, Seattle, dramatically altered the course of Ram’s life.
With a doctorate in Organic Chemistry and 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry in India, Ram saw his life’s focus shift to using Theatre of the Oppressed as a tool for addressing issues in the community. This was both remarkable and completely understandable, for, throughout his career as a Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs professional, what set Ram apart from so many of his colleagues were his concern for genuine dialogue and democratic processes in communication, fostering critical thinking in the people who trained with him, and encouraging the exploration of multiple strategies for problem-solving.
Ram followed his six-day training in Theatre of the Oppressed with a four week intensive study period. He shadowed Marc Weinblatt during his residency in Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, where Ram, along with Radha, had organised trainings and shorter workshops to be conducted by Marc. The workshops for Non Government Organisation (NGO) staff, medical professionals, teachers and theatre students, as also the community performances for underprivileged sections of society that Marc conducted, helped crystallise Ram’s plans for seeking a different context for applying his skills, interest and experience.
"Theatre of the Oppressed helped me identify the soft underbelly lying dormant within me, obscured by the hard outer shell,” says Ram. “Having followed the path of scientific exploration all these years, Theatre of the Oppressed provided a complimentary process for additional self exploration. It is very exciting - although it could, at times, turn out to be unsettling.”
Ravi Ramaswamy received training in Theatre of the Oppressed in 2010, from Marc Weinblatt of the Mandala Center for Change and subsequently with the Centre for Community Dialogue and Change (CCDC). Ravi has been a Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner and trainer for the last 5 years, leading workshops in schools and colleges, across cities in India. Since 2014, Ravi has been facilitating workshops in Medical Humanities for faculty and students of medical colleges in India. Ravi has offered courses in Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed to students in Mount Carmel College, and Jain University, Bangalore. 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 well-being.
Breaking new ground, Ravi is launching a 3 year study on the impact of Theatre of Oppressed on high school students. With a Masters degree in Social Work and 10 years' experience of working in the development sector, Ravi brings to his theatre pedagogy a deep understanding of issues such as urban poverty, education, child and youth rights, gender and sexuality.
Ravi can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
A chance conversation with his school friend, Radha Ramaswamy, introduced Ravi Ramakantan to Theatre of the Oppressed.
Trained as a Radiologist, Ravi worked as a medical teacher and Consultant Radiologist at the GS Medical College and KEM Hospital in Bombay, India for over 30 years. He is at present attached to the Kolikaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Bombay.
In a career spanning over 30 years at a large public hospital catering mainly to the underprivileged segment of society, in Bombay, it was natural for Ravi to be moved by the havoc poverty and disease wreaked in the lives of patients and their families - something which he intuitively related to as a form of “oppression”. At the same time, he was acutely aware of his role as a medical teacher and the possibility of training medical students in tune with the teaching of the famous physician William Osler "do not just see the disease that the patient has but also the patient who has the disease".
Theatre of the Oppressed appealed to Ravi as one of the techniques that could help in fostering a healthy doctor-patient relationship.Techniques such as Image Theatre and Rainbow of Desire will likely promote greater understanding of doctors about themselves, not only as healers but also as human beings. Forum and Invisible theatre are likely to help in addressing issues related to medical education, the student teacher relationship as well as the role of doctors in community health.
Ravi hopes to facilitate the conduct of Theatre of the Oppressed Workshops by his colleagues at CCDC as a part of Medical Humanities courses in India and to research the long term benefits of Theatre of the Oppressed techniques in enriching the field of Medical Humanities. Hundreds of medical students and doctors including medical teachers have so far participated in T.O. workshops facilitated by Radha Ramaswamy and Ravi Ramaswamy.