Saturday, 8 April 2017

Every Child Has a Right to…

By Suzzanne Pautler

The inspiration for today’s class is theatre practitioner Augusto Boal who created the dramatic technique “Theatre of the Oppressed.” Boal invited the spectators to stop his performance and suggest different outcomes for the oppressed character.  Then the actors would continue the performance using the audience’s ideas.  Boal’s spectators became “spect-actors” and as a result, the audience became empowered to create change and take action. His style of theatre, Forum Theatre, became the basis of activism. Unfortunately, the military government of that time felt his theatre was a threat, and their response was was to kidnap, arrest, torture, and exile him.

With Forum Theatre, actors create short scenes demonstrating problems that exist within the community. For example, gender equality, stereotyping, and racism are serious problems that have permeated communities around the world. Audience members replace characters in the scenes and improvise new, innovative solutions to the problems.  This technique is used in the Thompson’s Thespians workshops, pushing the students to improve not only their acting and stage techniques, but also their thinking about how to solve the problems of the world.  While the students may think this is simply a “fun” acting workshop, their life skills, such as critical thinking, are developing simultaneously.

The students have been challenged to create a drumming and movement piece for their upcoming showcase. When the drumming stops, so does the movement. In the silence, each student takes a turn to improvise a short scene to share a narrative, include a statistic, and finish with one of the rights of a child. Every child has a right to education. Every child has a right to recreation.  Every child has a right to health care. In addition to staged performances they have also produced public service announcements depicting their ideas around the rights of the child. Above is a sample PSA video written by the students and also filmed and edited by one of our students using the green screen method.

The UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child has changed the world’s perception of the child.  Children are human beings with human rights; they are not just objects. There now exists a global commitment to advancing children’s rights, which has resulted in declining infant mortality, increasing school enrollment, greater access to health care, and so on. There is still much to be done as not all children have access to all rights. The teenagers enrolled in the Thompson’s Thespians workshops are spreading this message, while also encouraging the audience to take action and make a difference.

The showcase takes place on May 15 which is just five weeks away.  We look forward to seeing the final product as these students push themselves to improve their performance, improvisation, elocution, etc. to the next level. Their message is powerful and we are counting on them to share their message with the audience in the strongest, most thought-provoking manner.

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