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What is Forum Theatre 

I knew using theatre would bring the core difficulties to the  fore and I even knew that everybody would be engaged; what I hadn’t expected with such tremendous depth was the level of emotional engagement and that this was the actual missing link in all our previous attempts to drive change. The amount of preparation and detail that Petra and her actors put into the programme was incredibly thorough.  Even without the follow up, the Forum Theatre has made the single biggest impact on our people in my 20 years of working in HR for this company.  I am blown away by the whole experience and cannot encourage you enough to use this method for your organisation’s biggest challenge”    HR Director Corporate

Forum Theatre is particularly powerful when organisations want to change attitudes, mindsets or cultures.

The impact of Forum Theatre is empowered people with more choices on how to actually deal with challenges in ways they have not considered previously. Forum theatre can not use ‘standard scenes’, but more powerfully is created exactly as a copy of your reality.  This shared experience stimulates debate, communication, understanding of different perspectives and an opportunity to speed up an evolved future . By instructing our actors, people in-directly share their beliefs about how (not) to behave and hence get a deeper understanding on how to overcome the stumbling block.  The different various formats, as described below, allows the method to be applied at different levels of the audience need and willingness to step in.

(A)  Actors play a short, 2-minute ‘worst-case scenario’, describing a realistic, recognisable incident that is relevant to the audience.  It can be about Customer Service, Leadership, Internal Communications, Equality/Diversity, Team spirit, Influencing or Change Management; anything at all. In addition the scene can be anywhere between very serious and very funny, again depending on the purpose, audience and circumstances. The key for impact is that the audience relates to the scene.  After it is played, the toBE facilitator invites the audience to comment, provide tips / suggestions of change, to question what they saw.  This then is summarised in changes to be made by one or both actors.  The scene is played out again with the suggested changes to ‘show’ the audience in real-terms the effect of their input.  This is powerful learning, as people will realise that action-reaction is never the same as perceived ‘in your head’ and that there is always more to an incident then at first sight.  This is repeated a few times until the audience sees a satisfactory development of the ‘worst case scenario’ into a ‘better/best case scenario’.  Through the actors the audience have learned to see and consider the many perspectives and aspects of their challenge and hence will behave differently from there on in real life.

(B) Actors play a longer scene that can be stopped and started by the Facilitator in various points for the audience to react to and give their input to; the audience chooses along the way what direction their portrayed real life should be going without having seen the end.  This way the audience is immediately empowered, which proves in many cases daunting!

(C)  Various short scenes are played, representing different angles to the one challenge.  Each scene will take up to 2 minutes.  All stakeholders will be visible and get a voice. Actors can play different characters to be economical with cost  The advantage of this approach is that all layers within an organisation, as well as the stakeholders (customers f.e.!) outside the organisation will be present.

(D) Actors play out the series of scenes that make up a serious challenge your organisation is facing through a given time-scale, allowing visibility in past, present and future. In this format the audience is much more involved in both instructing the actors and the challenge, rather then this being rehearsed in advance. This format is particularly powerful in situations in long-term relationships and strategic challenges. The actors take instruction from the audience to develop the dilemmas or members of the audience are invited to step in. Audience members come forward and step into a character whilst changing the text/behaviour to explore its’ affects. Either these characters remain the same, while the other characters in the scene (the bystanders) will be replaced by audience members who try different approaches at preventing or stopping the challenges as they happen. Audience members are allowed to attempt their solutions until they feel satisfied they have done everything they have wanted to do. Several audience members can replace the same character if they desire.

After the forum scene has been worked through, discussion can take place about the scene’s issue(s) 

Forum Theatre was developed in the 1960’s by Brazilian theatre director Augusto Boal, who believed that theatre serves as a forum of pedagogy; providing people the rehearsal of strategies they need, to change their world.  This ‘theatre of the oppressed’ is presently used world-wide.

To explore whether this approach may serve you contact Petra direct on petra.costigan@tobe.ie or 087-2335165

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