Monday, May 04, 2009

On the Death of Augusto Boal

TOBLAB and organization devoted to the work of Mr. Boal, sent out this today in memory of this great THEATRICIAN

Excerpted from the book Theater of the Oppressed
(1974; first Englishedition, 1979) by Augusto Boal

We must emphasize: What Brecht does not want is that the spectators
continue to leave their brains with their hats upon entering the
theater, as do bourgeois spectators.

The Marxist poetics of Bertolt Brecht does not stand opposed to one or another formal aspect of the Hegelian idealist poetics but rather denies
its very essence, asserting that the character *is not absolute subject*but the object of economic or social forces to which he responds and in
virtue of which he acts...

In Brecht's objection [to idealist poetics], as well as in any otherMarxist objection, what is at stake is who, or which term, precedes the other: the subjective or the objective. For idealist poetics, socialthought conditions social being; for Marxist poetics, social being conditions social thought. In Hegel's view, the spirit creates the dramatic action; for Brecht, the character's social relations create the dramatic action....

Brecht was a Marxist; therefore, for him, a theatrical work cannot end in repose, in equilibrium. It must, on the contrary, show the ways in which society loses its equilibrium, which way society is moving, and how to hasten that transition.

Brecht contends that the popular artist must abandon the downtownstages and go to the neighborhoods, because only there will he findpeople who are truly interested in changing society: in the neighborhoods he should show his images of social life to the workers who are interested in changing that social life, since they are its victims. A theater that attempts to change the changers of society cannot lead to repose, cannot re-establish equilibrium. The bourgeois police tries to re-establish equilibrium, to enforce repose: a Marxist artist, on the other hand, must promote the movement toward national liberation and toward the liberation of classes oppressed by capital.

[Hegel and Aristotle] desire a quiet somnolence at the end of the spectacle; Brecht wants the theatrical spectacle to be the beginning of action: the equilibrium should be sought by transforming society, and not by purging the individual of his just demands and needs.

I believe that all the truly revolutionary theatrical groups should transfer to the people the means of production in the theater so that the people themselves may utilize them. The theater is a weapon, and it is the people who should wield it."--Augusto Boal, The Theater of the Oppressed**World Theater Day Messageby Augusto Boal. All human societies are "spectacular" in their daily life and produce"spectacles" at special moments. They are "spectacular" as a form ofsocial organization and produce "spectacles" like the one you have come tosee. Even if one is unaware of it, human relationships are structured in a theatrical way. The use of space, body language, choice of words and voice modulation, the confrontation of ideas and passions, everything that we demonstrate on the stage, we live in our lives. We are theater! Weddings and funerals are "spectacles", but so, also, are daily rituals so familiar that we are not conscious of this. Occasions of pomp andcircumstance, but also the morning coffee, the exchanged good-mornings, timid love and storms of passion, a senate session or a diplomatic meeting--all is theater. One of the main functions of our art is to make people sensitive to the"spectacles" of daily life in which the actors are their own spectators, performances in which the stage and the stalls coincide. We are all artists. By doing theater, we learn to see what is obvious but what weusually can't see because we are only used to looking at it. What isfamiliar to us becomes unseen: doing theater throws light on the stage ofdaily life.

Last September, we were surprised by a theatrical revelation: we, who thought that we were living in a safe world, despite wars, genocide, slaughter and torture which certainly exist, but far from us in remote andwild places. We, who were living in security with our money invested in some respectable bank or in some honest trader's hands in the stock exchange were told that this money did not exist, that it was virtual, a fictitious invention by some economists who were not fictitious at all andneither reliable nor respectable. Everything was just bad theater, a dark plot in which a few people won a lot and many people lost all. Some politicians from rich countries held secret meetings in which they foundsome magic solutions. And we, the victims of their decisions, have remained spectators in the last row of the balcony.Twenty years ago, I staged Racine's Phèdre in Rio de Janeiro. The stage setting was poor: cow skins on the ground, bamboos around. Before eachpresentation, I used to say to my actors: "The fiction we created day by day is over. When you cross those bamboos, none of you will have the right to lie. Theater is the Hidden Truth".When we look beyond appearances, we see oppressors and oppressed people, in all societies, ethnic groups, genders, social classes and casts; we seean unfair and cruel world. We have to create another world because we knowit is possible. But it is up to us to build this other world with our hands and by acting on the stage and in our own life.Participate in the "spectacle" which is about to begin and once you areback home, with your friends act your own plays and look at what you werenever able to see: that which is obvious.

Theater is not just an event; it is a way of life!
We are all actors: being a citizen is not living
in society,
changing it.


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