Creative Conflict Transformation
The topic of Creative Conflict Transformation is tackled using the theatre of the oppressed method, also known as forum theatre or statues theatre. The main aim of this workshop is to strengthen constructive and creative transformation and try out techniques and principles learned earlier.
Forum theatre and statues theatre require a lot of time and usually take up the whole working day (both the morning and afternoon workshop sessions). Here we present examples of two workshops where these methods were used. Before starting work on the scenes, it is important to take some time to prepare the participants and do preparatory exercises that awaken the senses and creativity in participants and raise their level of concentration. Examples of these exercises are given in the section on Introductory Exercises for the Theatre of the Oppressed on p. 260.
“Theatre of the Oppressed is the Game of Dialogue: we play and learn together. All kinds of games must have discipline – clear rules that we must follow. At the same time, games have absolute need of creativity and freedom. TO is the perfect synthesis between the antithetic discipline and freedom. Without discipline, there is no social life; without freedom, there is no life.
The discipline of our game is our belief that we must re-establish the right of everyone to exist in dignity. We believe that all of us are more, and much better than what we think we are. We believe in solidarity.
We believe in peace, not in passivity!”*
Workshop example: Forum theatre
Set of Introductory Exercises for the Theatre of the Oppressed
Duration: 35 minutes
Setting the Play
Duration: 60 minutes
Split into three groups. (You can use one of the creative division methods: see the section on Creative Division into Small Groups or Pairs on p. 259.)
Each group is tasked with preparing a role play depicting structural violence that will be further developed. The recommendation is to first brainstorm ideas for the role play, discuss them and only then decide which idea to develop.
The ideal number of participants per group is five to seven. The groups should be separated or spaced out so that they can develop and try out their role plays more freely. One person from the training team should accompany each group and help develop the role play with questions and advice, but the focus of the role play is up to the participants.
Display, Analysis and Changes to the Role Plays
Duration: 180–225 minutes (60–75 minutes per role play)
Step 1. Show one of the prepared role plays. The rest of the participants are the audience.
Step 2. Participants from the audience talk about what they have seen and where they see structural violence, which of the roles are the source of the structural violence.
Step 3. The performers clarify what they wanted to show, everyone clarifies their role and how they felt playing it.
Step 4. The audience is asked to think about possible changes that could contribute to reducing violence and to try to replace one of the roles – to come onto the stage and replace a performer. Do not replace the roles that are the source of the structural violence.
Step 5. Perform the role play again. One person from the audience comes on stage to replace one of the performers and tries to change the role play. The other performers respond to the change and play along.
Step 6. All those on stage are asked: “How did you feel? What happened?” (Start from the person whose role was most affected by the change.)
Step 7. Question for the audience: “What did you notice?” Step 8. Next replacement. Repeat steps 5 to 7.
Do a few replacements. At the end call for a big round of applause for all those who participated in the role play. Make sure to have a break before you move on to the next role play.
Moderating the forum theatre requires preparation and a high degree of concentration, as well as thinking on your feet. It is worth noting that some people may experience this exercise very emotionally.
Some participants may find it difficult to step out of their role, so it could be a good idea to make an exit from the roles at the end of the exercise. The simplest way to do this is for everyone to say their name, where they come from, what date it is and where they are now: “My name is Lamija Cerić, I am from … Today is… I am in Ulcinj at the peacebuilding training.”
Evaluation of the Day
Workshop Example: Statues Theatre
The main difference between forum theatre and statue theatre is that statue theatre involves setting up human bodies as statues (immobile scenes without sound), while forum theatre is about role play (with movement and sound). Also, forum theatre requires more time and is more demanding. However, statue theatre may be more difficult to start off with because participants need more creativity and inspiration to create a statue (without movement or sound) about a set topic.
Structural violence is usually set as the topic for both these forms of theatre of the oppressed. As for the time needed, 45–60 minutes is optimal to prepare the statue, and the same amount
of time is needed to display, analyse and change each of the statues.
Here we present an example of statue theatre about “Perpetrator, Bully and Observer” that we use less often.
Set of Introductory Exercises for the Theatre of the Oppressed
Duration: 20 min
Descriptions of the exercises are here
Perpetrator, Victim, Observer
Type of exercise: Work in small groups
Duration: 25 minutes
Materials: Flipchart paper, markers
Split into three groups. (You can use one of the creative division methods: see the section on Creative Division into Small Groups or Pairs on p. 259.) Each group is given one of the topics: perpetrator, victim, or observer. The groups are tasked with analysing these roles and preparing wall newspapers around the following questions:
- What does the perpetrator/victim/observer look like? (each group deals only with the role they were assigned)
- What are their characteristics?
- How do they make me feel?
- What are the strengths of this role?
Setting the Statues
Duration: 30–45 min.
The participants remain in the same groups as for the wall newspaper. Each group is tasked with setting up a statue of the victim, perpetrator or observer (the same role they analysed previously).
Display, Analysis and Changes to the Statues
Duration: 225 min.
Step 1. Display the statue of the perpetrator. The rest of the participants are the audience.
Step 2. The participants from the audience are asked: “What did you see?”
Step 3. The performers clarify what they wanted to show and answer the question: “What was it like playing that role?”
Step 4. The performers present the wall newspaper they prepared in the first part of the workshop. (You will need about 40 minutes for steps 1 to 4)
Step 5. Then the next statue is presented, first the one of the victim, and then of the observer, and steps 2 to 4 are repeated.
Step 6. When all the statues have been presented and analysed, possible changes are considered. The perpetrator statue is displayed again.
Step 7. The audience is asked to think about possible changes that could contribute to reducing violence and to try to replace one of the roles. (Do not replace the roles that are the source of the violence.) The other performers respond to the change and form a statue to accommodate the change and show their response.
Step 8. All those on stage are asked: “How did you feel? What happened?” (start from the person whose role was most affected by the change)
Step 9. Question for the audience: “What did you notice?”
Step 10. If there are more ideas, do a few more changes. For each change, repeat steps 8 and 9.
Step 11. A round of applause for all who participated in the original statue and its changes. Make sure to have a break before you move on to the next statue.
Step 12. Move on to making changes to the other statues – first that of the victim and then the observer. For each statue, go through steps 7 to 11.
This exercise can cause powerful emotions. It is important to give the participants an opportunity to come out of their roles. At the very end it can be helpful to do a trust-building exercise or game or a relaxing game. Make sure to check with the participants whether they feel like doing one.
Suggested questions for the evaluation:
What was it like? What new questions opened up for you? What did you get out of this exercise?