Written by By Jory Farr, journalist and author
This article appeared in race-talk.org on May 17th – LINK to article
Theater of the Oppressed, a theatrical form originally used in radical popular education movements, was the brainchild of the Brazilian visionary Augusto Boal. Yet, his many disciples have given the original impetus of the art form a slightly different thrust. One of his students, who expanded upon Boal’s teachings, is Hector Aristizabal, the Colombian-born actor, director and psychotherapist whose blend of TO techniques and theater games enlivened Columbus this past weekend, enriching our appreciation for theater to elicit a deeper understanding about the burning conflicts of our times.
Under the sponsorship of The Kirwan Institute and other college groups, Aristizábal gave a lecture on the OSU campus that introduced students to the fundamentals of the TO techniques, also inviting them to see his solo performance of “Nightwind”, a piece based upon his own lived experience of torture.
The piece showcased his deft ability to switch back and forth between inquisitor/torturer and his own fearful, young self. A sense of palpable drama gripped the audience as they watched the evocation of torture, but there were also moments of comic relief, evidenced by the ludicrous voice of Colombia’s leader.
In this piece, Héctor gave torture a brutal face in making overt references to the newly-renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in Ft. Benning, Georgia, where torturers are trained for work all over the world.
Héctor also conducted an all-day workshop at the Wild Goose Creative, an event sponsored by BurningFeather, where he put into practice the many strands of teaching that characterize Theater of the Oppressed. He and about twenty actors took everyday objects and used them as tools for exploring everything from incest to rage, and other troubling subjects that also, sadly, form the everyday experience of many around the world.
It was a tremendously intense experience for those who had the chance to meet and listen to Héctor Aristizábal. Just as the Theater of the Oppressed invites critical thinking – analyzing rather than accepting, questioning rather than giving answers, and making the audience realize that they are not merely spectators but “spect-actors” and thus part of the way stories get told – Aristizábal’s visit reminded us that we have, in every moment, the power to analyze and transform the reality in which we are living.
Jory Farr is a journalist and author. He wrote most recently “Rites of Rhythm: The Music of Cuba” (HarperCollins/ReganBooks. In 2010 he founded BurningFeather, a company that produces workshops and performances in the fields of theater, storytelling, poetry, dance, music, mythology, creativity and philosophy. He is the cultural columnist for ‘Columbus Monthly’ magazine.