Breath of Clarity

Theatrical Method Values the Illiterate Voice

The theatrical method explained in Augusto Boal’s piece “Poetics of the Oppressed” is more effective than traditional written and oral communication. Boal’s tactics allow the illiterate individuals, who often feel powerless among intellectual political activists, to be the voice of movement.

Illiterate victims, who are incapable of conveying their unjust circumstances verbally, are trained to practice critical thought. Since the educationally deprived are often the individuals who suffer heaviest from lack of political progress, their arguments are significantly more impactful because the personal stories are so brutal. Boal describes that the actor is trained to “change from a witness to a protagonist”. With a foundational emphasis on “control of the body,” the individuals are able to physically display their emotional responses to awful events they experienced. The process embraces the instinctual nature of the uneducated, allowing them to express without fear and hesitancy.

The group characteristic of this tactic is also a key strength. It eliminates the issue of a single individual, such as Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, possessing all the power. It shifts the focus to the content of the performance, instead of evaluating the single speaker’s ability to persuade. Since the ultimate purpose of the theatrical tactic is to develop self-expression skills, the work is a lot more collaboratively based, instead of focused on spreading animosity against the opposition. The theatrical tactic really humanizes the illiterate, showing the audience that the oppressed are definitely aware of their unjust circumstances and ultimately worthy of respect.