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Theatre of the Oppressed Paperback – January 1, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

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Is the fundamental relationship between an actor and an audience an equal and active one, or is it a situation that encourages passivity and division? This is the question at the heart of Augusto Boal's revolutionary Theatre of the Oppressed, originally published in 1979. Boal, a Brazilian artist and activist, has written a work that challenges the very premise of Western theater, starting with Aristotle and the first dramatists, and explores what social constructs lie behind the traditional theater form. Then, having explained such often invoked (but rarely scrutinized) terms as imitation, tragedy, and justice, he puts forward a new type of drama that bridges the long-existing gap between theater and politics. Central to his thesis is an attempt to bring spectators into an active role with the drama, encouraging them to comment on the social situations they see presented and suggest potentials for change. Other chapters explore the writings of Hegel and Brecht, along with a lengthy analysis of one of the most profound political thinkers to ever pen a play, Machiavelli and his bitter comedy Mandragola. Boal's book is a challenging one for American actors often politically naive and heavily schooled in the traditions of Stanislavsky-based "naturalism," but this text is vital reading for activists, progressives, and all artists trying to effect social change. --John Longenbaugh

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'One of the most revered figures in world theatre ... the liberation theologian of theatre.' The Guardian 'Should be read by everyone in the world of theatre who has any pretensions at all to political commitment.' John Arden'So remarkable, so original and so ground-breaking that I have no hesitation in describing the book as the most important theoretical work on the theatre in modern times.' George Wellwarth --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Theatre Communications Group (January 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0930452496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0930452490
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By a.a. on January 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Perhaps the pursuit of art in this world of massive economic, social and legal inequality is simply privileged playing and bemusement? Perhaps art has no valued, but as marketable, profitable entertainment? Or, perhaps art (and specifically theatre) can actually change the world? Boal is not the first to speak of theater's revolutionary quality, but unlike his predecessors he takes to the street with his theory. Tracing the relationship between the producers of theatre and its audience, Boal exposes the historical oppression imposed by the dramatic machine/conventions of the past. In its place he offers theoretical and practical examples of his "People's theatre" (i.e., paratheatre or interactive theatre). For all seriously minded artist this is a must read. Especially if you wish to understand your role in artistic production and also wish to make a difference with you work.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Wright on January 10, 2007
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Boal is insane, but not nearly as much as Brecht or Artaud. Boal is essentially a communist that approaches all art from the social-conflict paradigm of sociology (Marxism). He tends to argue that most theatre is made to coerce, and that much of it is made with the power/elite in mind (that is the mildest description I can give you without starting a debate). Whether you agree with Boal or not, his chapters dealing with the Coercive Aristotelian Tragedies are highly educational just in the factual sense of what he presents. If you have any interest in classical or Greek theatre this is definitely a must read. He explains the dynamics of Greek theatre so well that it can almost be used as a text book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Self on May 14, 2007
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Buy this. I know that isn't a sentence but wow. This is a life changing work. If you care the minutest bit about theatre, mankind, and the future of both (together and seperate) then feast here. Also, a side benifit is listening to Boal argue AGAINST The Poetics. Good stuff. The begining is a little slow because he begins by very carefully setting up examples and definitions before he begins to explain his actual work and theory. This is nessisary and impressive (citing some ancient Greek philosophers to whom I had never been introduced). I think this book handed me some special x-ray glasses to look through the clothing of our contemporary American theatre. Get yourself a pare.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Blue Roses on July 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
The first two sections (analyzing Aristotle's Poetics and Brecht's aesthetics), while long, dense and confusing, make clear Boal's argument for the necessity of a change in theater practice if it's going to be a vehicle of change. It also cleared up my ancient philosophy course from college. I'm glad he's written other books, because the actual information about theatre of the oppressed tends to be thin and abstract, and since it's so different from anything I've ever done or seen, more examples would have been helpful. Still, he never wastes words, and it is such a rich subject that I know I'll understand more when I reread it. Highly recommended.
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One of the most important questions you need to consider as an artist is the relationship between the work, and the audience. Boal provokes the question masterfully, and even if you don't agree with his thesis - that the "Aristotelian" approach, in which the audience is there to be manipulated and emotionally purged, and that theatre should rebel against this authoritarian relationship - he raises the question clearly. This is a book you should read, argue with, and discuss.
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After teaching theatre for over 30 years, immersed in western theatre ideals, Boal's theories shifted my way of thinking upside down. He takes Aristotle's Poetics and makes a great argument against the politics/agenda of traditional approaches in theatre. Then shares his own "Poetics of the Oppressed"--using theatre as a weapon against the oppressions all of us face.
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