The motivation for a project arises from necessity; so much so, that we have defined three typologies:
— Subsistence need: motivation to create ideas or projects to generate income.
— Environmental need: motivation derived from the country's or specific communities' political or social requirements.
— Creative need: a creative impulse that arises from the collective or one of the members, also called inspiration.
Learning from Action, Emotion and Integration
Through a training methodology and experiential theory, the Oficina de Teatro Pedagógico [Pedagogical Theater Office] seeks to contribute to the development of a better life for people and organizations, empowering human expression through training, creation, and education.
It was founded in Santiago de Chile in 2013, as a result of the sustained work in the area of pedagogy and social intervention by actress, playwright, and current creative director Paulina Hunt Precht, together with her team formed by Adriana Castro Hunt and Juan Guillermo Ossa. Their research and projects based on education and theater as an experiential methodology have allowed them to create their own methods, such as the 'pedagogy of expression’ and the 'theater of emergency.'
In the conviction that knowledge is a collective experience, our work is determined by the dialogues, interactions, and questions that arise among the participants of each experience—whether from the perspective of the teacher/student, the artist/spectator, or the artist/community. This learning process includes the internal work of those who guide the activities and of the participants, as a path of study and systematization of the personal experience, contrasting each concept or theory with the concrete experience of those who implement it.
A fundamental learning from the pedagogical practice is that each community and experience is unique, and the previous knowledge of the group with whom we are going to work is essential. This generates for us the "condition," that is, the preparation of the activity for that specific community according to its needs, characteristics, and culture. We attach an essential value to this, and it is directly related to the amount of time spent creating a good working condition. Once this process is done, the knowledge produced is constructed together with the community, and for us, this constitutes a practice.
We implement this from the gestures that a given stimulus provokes within the community. For example, if we say, "let's relax," two or three people will immediately close their eyes. From this gesture, we say, "we will follow the idea of so and so person who closed their eyes, what do you think?" And we close our eyes. That means that we do not impose the action but extract it from the gestural proposal that arises at the moment.
Our constant pedagogical practice feeds on our artistic process and vice versa; they are an indissoluble structure. In the learning processes that we embark on with different communities to address the topics that interest us—which revolve around nonviolence, kind interactions, non-discrimination, conflict management, self-care, shared well-being, among others—the implementation arises through art. On the other hand, our artistic creations are, in turn, nourished by this experience.
To give an example: from our experience of years of pedagogical work with nonviolence in different communities across Latin America, emerged a play called CICLO, la violencia se aprende, la no-violencia también [CICLO, violence is learned, nonviolence too], which collects testimonials gathered in the development of the pedagogical practices. Another rite theater play that arose from another process was CIRCE, which facilitates the pedagogical process to provide tools for personal development in our work.
Today, art is used as a tool in certain aspects of education, and some methodological tools are borrowed from art. We believe it would be a great contribution and a great revolution in formal and non-formal education if art was implemented as a pedagogical practice, because we would be talking about educating, training, and building knowledge based on freedom, creativity, and human subjectivity.
Our foremost teacher is Augusto Boal with his Theater of the Oppressed, specifically his ideas regarding the participation of the audiences and communities, and more specifically, the Image Theater technique, which we have intensively developed. We also have a great influence from dramatherapy, which is a healing and educational work with theater for the improvement of communities through dynamics that contain elements of a constructive outlook for empowering the strengths of the communities. Likewise, we have a great influence from Bertolt Brecht, in terms of the introduction of pedagogy into theater—his courage to infuse the spectator with certain concepts, visions, and questions through theater.
On the other hand, we also drink vastly from ancient Greek theater, from before the development of tragedy and comedy, which has to do with the theatrical rite as a representation of mythology. In that sense, we have also looked into some Latin American rites, especially from the Amazonian basin and from the community of the southernmost archipelago of Chile: Chiloé, which has an enormous richness that has nurtured us a lot in terms of the meaning of the circle, the bonfire, the community, etc. From the theoretical point of view, our greatest influence is the "Psychology of New Humanism" and the "New Humanism" of the thinker and inspirer of all our works on nonviolence: Mario Rodríguez Cobos, a.k.a. Silo.
From dance, the work of Pina Bausch, in terms of gesture, body image, and non-verbal language, has also been a source of inspiration. Also the Chilean mime of international repercussion Enrique Noisvander.
Another reference for us has been the Latin American group Yuyachkani, which gathers the Andean, coastal Peruvian traditions; we have worked with their aesthetics and methodology, and we have been very close to them. Also the work of the Chilean playwright Malucha Pinto regarding the memory of local communities.
So, the education of the team of Oficina de Teatro Pedagógico has a central place; we are constantly educating others and ourselves. Thus, we have developed a methodology called ‘pedagogy of expression.’
The motivation for a project arises from necessity; so much so, that we have defined three typologies:
We usually have more questions than answers, which is why intuition, error, and contingency are constantly feeding our work. We see a possibility for learning in every mistake; we are not afraid of failure, it is rather our companion. We see impediments as great possibilities to advance and failure as the door or crack that opens to enter new spaces outside the established, already a bit too comfortable zones.
We have a decalogue that we call "Oficina de Teatro Pedagógico.ANP", which means "A Nuestra Pinta" [To Our Liking]. This means that every project we take on, we do it with our team and with others who accompany us in a particular way, according to the needs of each case. We tend to work with the core team on the methodological aspects that we have already integrated, and we generally invite guests to strengthen specific topics that we are not so keen on; this allows us to broaden our knowledge.
We apply the idea that ‘knowledge is built by all of us.’ While it is true that some of us have more expertise in certain things, each one makes their contribution from their sensibility and subjectivity, and this enriches the projects: the doubts of one, the contributions of another... we try to ensure that individual subjectivity is present in the collective work.
The most important methodological aspect for the development of each project is determined by the initial research on its specific needs and characteristics. Then, we have developed the following methodological axes that frame all our work:
— Knowledge is built by all of us.
— Learning by doing, from which follows the triad action-emotion-conceptualization/integration of learning. Our work is marked by always doing something with the concept, idea, or topic we are working on. We assume that, through a practical dynamic, we will generate an experience where emotion is present and, after that, we can derive conceptualizations.
— Body awareness and the inclusion of the body.
— A good development of emotion.
— A positive outlook, always observing the work from the perspective of the potential of individuals and communities.
— To celebrate and encourage diversity, from respect and acceptance, which includes special attention to the issue of language. We always place a strong emphasis on from where one is speaking: Is it from your beliefs, your experience, your particular vision, or from the vision of a theorist or a specialist, as the case may be?
— Joy and good humor are key for us since they are the spark that lifts the energy, encouraging and generating enthusiasm, breaking with the established, for laughter enables the possibility of rebellion.
— The latest axis that we have discovered in recent works is tenderness. We realized that one of the main threads in our work is affection for human beings: tenderness, kind interactions, being affectionate among ourselves and with those we work with, creating an expansive wave of affection and communication.
We are an elastic collective, one that grows, shrinks, and horizontally includes new people who participate in specific projects. We are always open to including others who are not part of the core team, such as theater directors, specialists in different areas, people who speak languages we don't know, and so on.
We are currently working on the following projects:
"La Clarita" is a popular animation character that Paulina has developed over many years. She responds to and gets involved in the social-political processes of the world and, mainly, of Chile. She has been deeply engaged with the constituent process since before the Constitutional Convention began in the struggle to create a more democratic Constituent Assembly and, later, in the acceptance that we only achieved a Constitutional Convention, she took part in the pedagogical process of clarification. She is a popular character, who, in addition to circulating in social networks, participates in several radio shows, especially, in a weekly program broadcasted in the archipelago of Chiloé.
We are also finishing a book on the ‘pedagogy of expression’ methodology, which gathers all our experience with this type of pedagogy. In addition, we are developing training seminars in this methodology, through virtual and in-person formats, both with people from Chile and from different parts of Latin America.
On the other hand, we are developing a project that we have called “Theater for Good Living,” which includes two areas: one is the workshops, which have allowed us to reach many people and form small learning communities to implement the tools of theater to improve the personal and collective wellbeing. The other is a play called La Conferencia [The Lecture] that is currently being staged, which brings together these tools of Good Living, with the aim to disseminate them in different communities and spaces, inside and outside the country.
During 2022, we have been working with the community of the Independencia municipality in the Metropolitan Region, where we have applied the tools of theater, dramatherapy, artistic expression, and our own methodology in self-care workshops for the team handling the management of municipal education. On the other hand, we are working with the education assistants of all the high schools and elementary schools of the municipality, which are about 140. For them, we have developed a play based on their needs and culture, entitled Un corazón que late fuerte [A strong-beating heart], which we will present for that whole audience. Afterward, we will hold human development workshops with this essential group that they have at schools for supporting the teachers, using our methodology and image theater.
We would like to recall a particularly significant experience that in some way synthesizes all that we have expressed, which is called ‘emergency theater.’ In 2010, Chile was struck by a tsunami and an earthquake of great magnitude, which caused disasters in several parts of our country, especially on the coast. So, we stood on the alert and made a call for all those who wished to join us in generating a theatrical process to help the victims. We managed to convey a group of artists and, in less than three weeks, we produced a play and a methodology that worked gathering all the voices that were present at that moment of the natural tragedy. We sought the voices of politicians, women, people with disabilities, children, superstition, and laborers. We then made a play that had different frames and we worked with these voices in each of them; after the play, there was a whole work of collective corporal creation with the audience.
The musical score of the play was also produced by the audience. We identified the elements in the earthquake and tsunami situation: stones, debris, sticks, remains from the houses that were washed away by the sea or that crumbled due to the earthquake. We gave the audience stones, sticks, and so on, and before the play began, we organized the soundtrack with them: at what point it had to sound a certain way; how did the earthquake and the waves sound? how did love and affection? The hands were rubbed together in moments of profound tenderness... We also rehearsed some Chilean folk songs that were known by everyone, such as "Caballito blanco, llévame de aquí" and "Temblor o terremoto" by Florcita Motuda.
We did volunteer work throughout the entire year and, towards the end, we won a couple of government-funded projects that allowed us to sustain it. We traveled to the most devastated areas, not only physically but also socially, and we presented this work in the camps and in the communities that had organized themselves and had a common dining hall. We reached communities that were completely broken because they ended up having to arm themselves with weapons to defend themselves, as there was looting, robberies, division among neighbors... Some communities were deeply fractured and, with this work, we were able to restore the bonds and they managed to raise their voices again, to express themselves. We relied on the psychology of emergency, which indicates the process that a community has to go through to come out of trauma: starting with silence, then catharsis, acceptance, and learning. And, in some communities, this process led to the construction of an emergency theater play of their own. Later, we sought to transform this experience into an emergency theater of social emergencies, and we had some interesting experiences with that too.
Our structure is indissoluble from the context and that sets the direction of each project.
For us, the public space is an ongoing aspiration. We work taking theater to rural areas, squares, neighborhood councils, formal education institutions... We also have a whole line of work on nonviolence and we participate in street demonstrations through what we call the ‘invisibles for peace’ or the ‘frozen for peace.’ We are part of the protests that seek to express the rights of the people in the quest for equality.