Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Jokers began our session today by giving us a recap on all the exercises that we did yesterday. They had created an outline of the process that we went through yesterday. This was incredibly helpful for all of the students. It allowed us the opportunity to practice Jokering the exercises we had done. This process allowed us to see-identify the deficiencies in our techniques. The group chimed in and assisted the acting Jokers if they needed any assistance in the process. After this we followed up on a piece of forum theatre that we began yesterday.

This process began with the gifted and charming Barbara Santos asking us to pair up and share a story with one another. After we shared our stories she asked us to select one story. Then we joined another pair and shared stories as well. We then again chose one story and the group which has now grown to a total of four people merge with another group of four and share the selected stories and choose one. Ultimately this turned into three groups of eight people.

She assigned each group three different tasks. One group of people were responsible for creating a dramatic space. This space would be divided into three smaller spaces. The second space would be where the conflict in the story is manifested. The first space would be a short time before the climactic moment and the third would be the outcome. I realize this must sound very complex but hopefully the photos give you a sense of the work. I must say that Barbara gave us some great insight into the relationship of space and objects within a space before hand. She then told us that some members of the group would be responsible for painting the chosen story in three segments with the same instructions that applied to the dramatic space. Finally the person whose story was chosen would be responsible for creating a poem about the story. I have never experienced this process before in the development of forum theatre -- it is metaphoric, symbolic, poetic, and does not depend on literal-verbal words, indeed we are encouraged to think through symbols.

The Jokers have been slowly developing our skills in a wonderful progressive manner. Yesterday we learned to communicate through image theatre. Today's focus was learning to communicate through the dramatic space, the use of painting, and finally the incorporation of verbal language through a poem. What I loved about this process is that although we were a team we were not allowed to speak to the members which worked on the different tasks. Our communication was to be free of the others' influences. When the products were manifested they were presented in installments. Barbara asked the group to interpret what they had seen. I must mention that no one knew the stories the other groups had. It was great to hear how students interpreted the dramatic space. How they picked up on the messages that we wanted to convey. Then she allowed the artwork to be incorporated into the space. Asked us to observe how this changed the interpretation of the "story" the space was telling. She didn't tell us what to think, she urged the students to create their own stories based on their own perception and interpretation of the work. The final step was the actual verbal communication of the poem. This allowed people to understand the piece better and it it was great for them to see how close they were to the original story.

This step by step process allowed students to understand how people's interpretations of things change as elements are added to the work. The step by step progression of the piece was so revealing. I feel that we have learned so much from the Jokers in such a little time. These hands-on techniques are so much more revealing than any book could possibly do. They give us just enough information for us to absorb and internalize.

Tomorrow will be an extremely busy day for us as we head out to tour the "Favellas" in the morning, head to CTO in the afternoon and go to a Samba spot with Julian and the Jokers in the evening. Julian is leaving our program tomorrow but it has been so inspiring having him with us -- he is an inspirational, and very generous individual.

The pictures on this page speak more than I could possibly explain. Sorry if it sounds too abstract, but we all got it -- you need to be here!
Tomorrow Cornelius will help me attempt a new form of blogging where we can incorporate some video of the process!
Viva Augusto Boal!

Today we got the opportunity to visit CTO and begin our work with the Jokers,Julian Boal, Barbara Santos, and Geo Britta, Helen Sarapeck was out ill but we hope she is back for the next workshop. Julian began by giving us some insight into the purpose of Theatre of the Oppressed. He said that it was important for us to understand the purpose behind his father's work: TO is a rehearsal, and it is informed by change. They made clear to us that we are not solving people's problems with forum theatre but rather we are presenting different possible solutions to these issues. TO is problem-posing education, not problem-solving. He said once the rehearsal ends the real work starts. That is when you take what is rehearsed to the streets and apply it in your life. Barbara Santos told us that the progression in our workshop would be from the simple to the more complex. This allows everyone to slowly build confidence in their ability to participate. We began with some simple games making gestures with our bodies and adding sounds. Then we escalated to power games. One such game involved us seeking out our partners by listening to their sound with our eyes closed. One thing that was really great to see was a forum piece that I had originally been exposed to at NYU. Unfortunately it wasn't very successful back in the U.S. but it was fascinating to see how the Jokers did it here. I was able to see the mistakes in the original attempt at this forum piece. I feel that this experience provided me with some fantastic insight into Jokering. I would say this, "If you haven't worked with the knowledgeable Jokers then there is definitely something missing in your TO repertoire. They offer a wealth of insight into the techniques. Geo explained that we will be going to some field sites to see the multpliers using the techniques, including a psychiatiric center for prisoners. Tomorrow we are hopeful of visiting a favella. The group is bonding well. We had a great impromptu meal in Lapa. Everyone is very excited about this experience.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Day 2 - August 2, 2009 Orientation and Arrival of Julian and the Jokers

A new day began and I was off running my errands for the orientation. The hours seemed to fly by because I made it back with less than an hour to set up the room. Let’s just say a member of the staff dropped the ball (and it wasn’t Paulo). Luckily we were able to set up quickly and the students pitched in. It was great to actually see the people with whom I had communicated via email and seen in pictures. After a brief introduction and the resolution of some paperwork we took a break and enjoyed some food and drinks as we waited for the Jokers and Julian to arrive. They arrived right on time and I must say it was awesome to meet these people. They were so friendly and informative even providing students with some safety tips and travel advice. They discussed what we would be doing tomorrow and answered the student’s questions. This first encounter with them was really fantastic. I got the opportunity to chat with Julian and the Jokers after the briefing and was amazed at how kind and humble they were. So far we are off to a good start. I look forward to seeing them in action tomorrow.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hector’s Blog on Theatre of the Oppressed Trip in Brazil

Day 1 July 31, 2009 to August 1, 2009

I’ve never kept a blog before so I am excited to know how it will finally turn out. The trip officially began, well at least for the administrators on the July 31, 2009, but as my fellow students know we have been preparing for this monumental experience for months now -- an opportunity to work in Rio, the city where TO was developed, how exciting. Today my trip to JFK airport to board TAM Airlines on a direct flight to Rio de Janeiro Brazil was fraught with anxiety given the traffic jams into the midtown tunnel. I was skeptical about the long 10 hour flight. The weather in NY has had its ups and downs lately and this was definitely a down. Although the airline scheduled for an early boarding time the flight was still delayed for an hour. Once the flight took off it was a smooth ride. I must say that the airline provided great service and the food was actually pretty good. The movies were a little out dated but I enjoyed the fact that they were in Portuguese given my upcoming translation duties. I was able to get a good three hours of sleep and the flight wasn’t nearly as bad as I had presumed.
Once we arrived at Rio de Janeiro GIG International Airport we made a stop at the currency exchange. It just so happened that they had a better exchange rate than in NY. We booked a cab at the airport and took a short twenty minute ride to the hotel Copacabana Rio Hotel on Ave Nossa Senhora. We passed the amazing statue of the Christ on the mountain top. This city is so majestic and I fully understood why Boal would have to return after his long period of exile in Argentina and France. I am sorry I am not going to be able to meet him but it is such an incredible moment for me to be working with his jokers and to be seeing TO in action.
The hotel is literally a block from the beach. Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to enjoy the beach just yet. We spent the morning coordinating orientation with the staff from the hotel who spoke mainly Portuguese. This endeavor was headed by a lady named Flavia who was extremely keen to make the orientation as comfortable as possible for us. A gentleman named Paulo (this name reminded me of Freire, how appropriate) gave us some advice on where we could go and get our cell phones connected. This took up most of our morning. Good piece of information to know is that when buying a prepaid phone in Brazil you are required to bring you passport. Well for safety purposes we locked ours up in a safe in the hotel, and this meant another trip back to the mall. That is another venture for tomorrow. On another note Dr. Taylor was notified that Julian may join us for the orientation. I think that will be an exciting experience for me and the students. Brazil has a beautiful presence about it. You can feel the emotion and energy as you drive through the streets. I was finally able to take a stroll on the beach in the afternoon. I might add that the locals seem very comfortable in their skin. There were multitudes of people everywhere swimming, surfing, and sun bathing. That is definitely on my agenda for tomorrow. Well that’s it for now I’ll continue to keep you posted on our adventures in Brazil.