Biography of Boal Augusto
*No Works Cited
Brazilian Augusto Boal was raised in Rio de Janeiro. He was formally trained in chemical engineering and attended Columbia University in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Although his interest and participation in theatre began at an early age, it was just after he finished his doctorate at Columbia that he was asked to return to Brazil to work with the Arena Theatre in São Paulo. His work at the Arena Theatre led to his experimentation with new forms of theatre that would have an extraordinary impact on traditional practice.
Birth of the Spect-Actor Prior to his experimentation, and following tradition, audiences were invited to discuss a play at the end of the performance. In so doing, according to Boal, they remained viewers and "reactors" to the action before them. In the 1960's Boal developed a
process whereby audience members could stop a performance and suggest different actions for the actors, who would then carry out the audience suggestions. But in a now legendary development, a woman in the audience once was so outraged the actor could not understand her suggestion that she came onto the stage and showed what she meant. For Boal this was the birth of the spect-actor (not spectator) and his theatre was transformed. He began inviting audience members with suggestions for change onto the stage to demonstrate their ideas. In so doing, he discovered that through this participation the audience members became empowered not only to imagine change but to actually practice that change, reflect collectively on the suggestion, and thereby become empowered to generate social action. Theatre became a practical vehicle for grass-roots activism.
Boal as a Threat
Because of Boal's work, he drew attention as a cultural activist. But the military coups in Brazil during the 1960's looked upon such activity as a threat. Shortly after the publication of Boal's first book, The Theatre of the Oppressed, in 1971, Boal was arrested, tortured, and eventually exiled to Argentina, then self-exiled to Europe. While in Paris, Boal continued for a dozen years to teach his revolutionary approach to theatre, establishing several Centers for the Theatre of the Oppressed. In 1981 he organized the first International Festival of the Theatre of the Oppressed in Paris.
Return to Rio
Following the removal of the military junta in Brazil, Boal returned to Rio de Janeiro in 1986 where he continues to reside. He has established a major Center for the Theatre of the Oppressed there (CTO - Rio) and has formed over a dozen companies which develop community-based performances. The vehicles for these presentations are Forum Theatre and Image Theatre. Forum Theatre relies upon presentation of short scenes that represent problems of a given community such as gender for a conference on women or racial stereotyping for a class on racism. Audience members interact by replacing characters in scenes and by improvising new...