We are not born actors, but we are born with the potential of theater. On the grounds of the Theater of the Oppressed (TO), we can all become actors in a theater as a sensitive and political laboratory, as an acquisition of expressive and communicative abilities, as an exchange of energy and life. With this way of making theater, Augusto Boal conceptualized an "aesthetic space" where expressive forces can rebel, whether through gestures, sounds, utterances, textures, light, or objects: the theater as an aesthetic and political laboratory. The composition of these animisms, discourses and scenes is also a folding of the social, economic, and political reality that they seek to influence and transform.
The TO built a critique of the class society imposed in the development of capitalism (producing classes of exploited and exploiters), as well as a critique of the State and its institutions. For Boal, "common people [are] inspiration and destiny" for the theater, for the actors (1988, p. 197). At the entrance of a theater where a presentation of the Theater of the Oppressed takes place, one reads: "By crossing this limit you will become a protagonist." The poster for a theater play of the Forum Theater1 indicated that upon entering you could be invited to join the performance, literally climbing on stage and presenting another outcome of what was happening to the protagonist. But the participation proposed by the Theater of the Oppressed goes beyond the casual integration. In the history of inventions of the TO, we find the sparks of a theater conceived as an ever-open formative process, as a radical pedagogy in which the condition of a passive audience is transformed: in it, the spectators become spect-actors. Literally, the spectators become actors. It is, therefore, a theater that is its own school. A theater that aestheticizes space, that tensions reality and representation, and that presents itself as an urgent tool at a time that demands transformative movements.
The Theater of the Oppressed is a method or theatrical practice developed by Augusto Boal (1931-2009), a Brazilian playwright who lived in several countries. The TO method is still being developed by many practitioners who learned from Boal and who worked with him at the Center of Theater of the Oppressed (CTO)2 in the neighborhood of Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was in this space where Boal worked since the late 1980s, as well as Bárbara Santos, also from Rio de Janeiro, now living in Berlin, Germany.3 In the last decade, the creation of the Laboratório Internacional Madalenas brought forth the protagonism of women in theater. It was conceived as a much-needed space for elaborating on issues specific to women. The TO has spread in many places around the world and is practiced by diverse social groups, communities and movements. As a method of artistic-political action and a tool for social transformation, TO aims to enable groups to investigate their living conditions in the capitalist society, but also in the richness of their own culture. The method seeks to analyze the different forms of exploitation, extractivism, and colonialism, inaugurating the investigation of oppression as a form of resistance. To investigate oppressions, it invests in the agitation of the bodily, political, psychic, and expressive energies of those gathered, so that a script or a scene are built. This investment of collective energy inaugurates a reinvention of theater.