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Games for Actors and Non-Actors excerpt – The Nuclear Power Station

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a dance piece where the dancers dance in the first act, and in the second showed the audience how to dance? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a musical where in the first act the actors sang and in the second we all sang together?

What would also be wonderful would be a theatre show where we, the artists, would present our world-view in the first act and where in the second act, they, the audience, could create a newworld.

Let them create it first in the theatre, in fiction, to be better prepared to create it outside afterwards, for real.” (p.29)

Forum Theatre is a technique, or a compendium of methodologies, developed in the 1970s by a Brazilian theatre director, Augusto Boal. It creates a theatre where the audience is encouraged to be participants (spect-actors) in identifying and dramatizing the connections between socio-cultural problems, economic and political repression, and also internal and personal oppressions. First, a group of actors devise, rehearse and enact a play presenting a certain view of the world, with at least one political or social problem, which can be analysed during the forum session. Then, the spect-actors are asked if they agree with the solutions given by the protagonist. The actors then perform the play one more time, but this time the audience members can yell stop and take the space of the protagonist and change actions. Forum theatre plays can be surreal, linear, or in any style or genre that organically grows from the rehearsals, but the objective must be to discuss concrete situations. Games for Actors and Non-Actors is a collection of games and exercises that can be used in any space that needs discussion, dialogue, theatre, and action. Boal has written experiential notes along with the games, to give you the context of where it was developed, and how it played out. Here is an excerpt from the book, an example of a forum theatre play in Sweden, discussing many themes we have spoken about in Chai Kadai –

“In Sweden, the controversy over nuclear energy and the construction of power stations was very much a live issue. Some even said that the main reason for the gunning down of Prime Minister Olof Palme was his having affirmed that he would pursue a policy of nuclear gearing-up. His opponents said the opposite – and afterwards, they did it anyway…

1st action

Eva is in her office, at work. The scene shows friends, the Boss, day-to-day problems, the process of finding new projects to work on, the daily grind of a hard life.

2nd action

Eva is at home; her husband is out of work, their daughters are spendthrifts, they need money. A Female Friend drops round, they go out. They go straight to a demonstration against the construction of atomic power plants.

3rd action

Back at the office. The Boss comes in whooping with joy: a new project has been accepted! Everyone celebrate the news! Champagne is consumed! Joy unbounded…. till the Boss explains what this new project is about – the development of a refrigeration system for a nuclear power station. Eva is torn; she needs work, she wants to support her fellow workers, but this situation poses a moral problem for her. She gives all the reason she can for not accepting this new project, and her colleagues give their opposing reasons. Finally Eva gives in and accepts the job!

The forum

In this piece it was clear that the protagonist was going to have to commit an error and not be heroic. The audience almost cried when Eva gave in. And the effect of this was an extraordinary intensification of the fight – the game of actors/oppressors against spect-actors/oppressed – when it came to finding reasons for Eva to say no. Each time a spect-actor gave in and saw that she was beaten, the piece rapidly retraced its path towards Eva’s ‘Yes’. Passions in the audience ran high again till someone shouted ‘Stop!’; then the scene stopped a new spect-actor tried a new solution starting from the first action, or the second, or even the third. Everythin was analysed: the husband’s unemployment, the daughters’ mania for consumption, Eva’s indecision. Sometimes the analysis was purely ‘psychological’, then another actor would come in and try to show the political side of the problem.

Should we be for or against nuclear power stations? Can one be against scientific progress? Can the word ‘progress’ be applied to science when it leads us to the discovery of nuclear weapons?

And on the question of the disposal of ‘nuclear waste’: surely it could be satisfactorily disposed of in a social system whose central value was the human being rather than the profit motive.

I have already twice had the opportunity to take part in pieces of this kind. The first time was in the USA, where an analogous piece had been written about the inhabitants of a town which was producing the napalm used in Vietnam. In the end, in the American example, the inhabitants accepted the factory, reaching the conclusion that it would be economically ruinous to close it….. Ruinous for whom? The second time was in Lisbon, again with a similar model: there is a refinery there which is causing a noticeable increase in the occurrence for lung cancer…. but it is important for the economy. Here again, the residents give way and resigned themselves to living with pollution, rather than living without jobs.” (p. 26, 27, 28.)

Read more on the International Theatre of the Oppressed Organisation’s website: www.theatreoftheoppressed.org

shared by samyuktha pc

A ten minute play

by Samyuktha PC

The Short+Sweet Theatre Festival landed for the first time in Chennai in 2011. Almost at the last minute, I hurried through registrations and managed to get a thoroughly exciting play, The Fruits of War, written by Earl T Roske. Karan Nair, Naren Weiss, Sudharshan and I had two weeks to put together a play that will run exactly for ten minutes and clear away from the stage in exactly 30 seconds, so we can make way for the other performances in the festival – phew! This play was about two friends who break into a foolish idealistic war, where the choice of weapons is an array of fruits. The story could have America and any third world country, India and Pakistan, Civilians and State, or you and me. We just knew the fruits had to come from somewhere and go back in that place so we can set it up and clear it up easily. And so came the two huge cardboard boxes lying in my dusty library, and many many posters from the road – that Karan and Naren – scavenged for around our house, dressed up like the street dwellers (as we had fixed their characters). We used the cardboard boxes, ‘Apples, Peaches and Cherries’ by Peggy Lee, and ‘Little Boxes’ by Malvina Reynolds (both sung by the actors) as our anchors to explore everything this war could signify for us. And, we created this –

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/27447104]

This year, I got to know about everything well in advance and had to take up the challenge of writing and devising a piece from scratch. I spent the first month blabbering in my notebooks and blogs, working on everything else. What to write about? We had been informed that Alliance Francaise of Madras will give us their Michelin Auditorium for the festival, shouldn’t I do something about Thervoy?

Right at this time I was very excited to work on something with two people, Aditi Bheda (a dancer) and Malavika.PC (an artist, who is also my sister). I had two months in hand, and we first needed to get to know each other and manage to work together, and somehow the platform wasn’t right for me to take a premature stand on a fight only I will be fighting in the group. While moping around the house of my failed political attempts, I got my first typewriter as a birthday present. Somehow, a sunset, the beach, and a bucket of mussels was going around in my head. I sat down to write Sunset Sisters –

Shuttling between Pondicherry and Chennai, we created rain dances, and caught and cooked mussels. Somehow, for all the good reasons, different revelations have happened during these rehearsals. Three of us have now created a space for us to be cathartic about sibling rivalry and jealousy and honestly bear down our absurdities. Until yesterday, the play ran for some fifteen to twenty minutes. As of yesterday’s rehearsal, we’re ten minutes on the dot. Yay! We’re a bit jittery, and so thoroughly excited.

If you are in Chennai, this week, today is the first day of Short+Sweet Theatre Festival 2012 (7.00 to 9.00 p.m. Edouard Michelin Auditorium, Alliance Française of Madras, Nungambakkam) and we have been given the great chance of being the ‘opening play’ this year, with ten wonderful plays taking the stage after us. We perform again on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. Hope to see you there.

Tickets (Rs. 110) available in Indianstage.

the spirit of idealism

Alfredo goes to Madrid with a handmade marionette and a dream of creating “a performance which is freer, straight from the heart, capable of making people feel alive.” He quits school after a spat with a professor on his psychoanalytic methods, evocatively pronouncing why acting –

To do something for me and for others. Acting because it’s a form of human connection, a way to reach understanding and comprehension. That’s why… I’d love to change this fucked-up world. And I think there’s still time.

A Spanish filmmaker, Achero Manas, like a documentary, follows the life of this radical (yet fictional) street theatre group born from Alfredo’s ideals and friendships:

For a year now, we’ve found artistes all around the world struggling with survival, space, interaction and political dialogue. We saw photoshop memes, invisible men, large community darkrooms, walls with dreams and much more. This film envelops almost all of our dilemmas: Survival vs Ideals, Freedom vs Appropriate, Us vs. Law.

In retrospective, the film explores November’s dilemmas with commodification of art and the revolutionary potential of art for personal and social change.

You have to watch the film for Achero Manas’ impeccable storytelling, Oscar Jaenada’s and everyone’s performance, and for the various ideas and questions its throws at us.

UNCLEAR ENERGY: Anusakthipuram and Kalma

There is a country called Developmentopuri. It is headed by a king called Makku Man. He often talks of his glorious dream of lighting up his country. To realize that, he busies himself to set up Anusakthipurams, throughout the country. But people living near the proposed Anusakthipurams for a very long time are against Makku Man’s ideas. They feel that Anusakthipurams are dangerous. Previous instances of gory disasters, due to natural calamities or human errors in Anusakthipurams throughout the world has made them think like this. They feel that their livelihoods are in peril.

Since the King has a reputation of being intolerant to views contrary to his, anybody who insisted on contrary viewpoints would be branded anti-national and jailed under harsh laws. The King and his ministers are a corrupt bunch. So the people refuse to believe the exhortations of the Government that Anusakthipurams are safe places. The King gets nervous. He wants the Anusakthipuram to come up at any cost.  He has promised as much to his foreign friends, and they wouldn’t take it lying down if he does not deliver on his promise.

He contacts his truthful friend, Mr Kalma, the astrologer with a soothsaying parrot. Kalma, the kili josiyar, also shares the King’s dream. Before entering his post-retirement profession as an astrologer, Kalma headed a program to make rockets that were called Always Sea Landing Vehicles (ASLV). Kalma’s parrot, he claims, has the ability to predict any kind of disaster. After a flying visit to one Anusakthipuram, he declared that his parrot started to sing the song Nothing, nothing, wrong, wrong. Anusakthipurams are strong, strong. According to his parrot, no tsunami or earthquake or any other natural disaster will affect the Anusakthipuram. Very safe, very safe. Anusakthipurams are very safe, the parrot sang.

Nowadays, the parrot’s songs are ceaselessly heard from loudspeakers throughout the country, which were installed by the king to exactly repeat his words. But the protesting people are simply awestruck. They are skeptical about the magical liability of the parrot. The people didn’t want to risk their lives on a prevaricating parrot’s predictions. Mr. General Public, who is a spectator to the stand-off between people near Anusakthipuram and the Government, is seriously confused. Amidst the din of the loudspeakers, Mr. Public has heard some lonely voices mocking the parrot’s prediction. And he felt that those voices made some sense. Mr. Public is in desperate search for truth. He has questions nagging his mind —

Questions like,

Why is Makku Man so intent on Anusakthipurams?

Is lighting up the nation the real agenda?

Are there really no other ways to do this?

Why are the protesters unconvinced?

If the protesters are correct, why are the loudspeakers singing otherwise.

One group of youngster, who know that the Parrot is lying, plans to share the truth with other youngsters — through music, theatre, and film. They call it Justice Rocks. Contrary to popular custom, these youngsters will not take a begging bowl to big companies for sponsorships. They will raise money through voluntary contributions.

So if you have questions, why don’t you go to the Justice Rocks Concert?

UNCLEAR ENERGY – A CONCERT

unsponsored by A P J Abdul Kalam and the Nuclear Industry

Date: 15/12/2011 | Time: 6.30 p.m.

Place: SPACES, No. 1, Elliot’s Beach Road, Besant Nagar, Chennai  – 90.

Organized by: Campaign for Justice and Peace-TN, and Reclaim Our Beaches.

***

Justice Rocks is a medium to expose youngsters to serious social issues using satire and music. It is also a demonstration that one can have fun without selling one’s soul to corporations, creating loads of trash or burning wads of cash. Unlike the norm of hosting concerts and events sponsored by big and dirty corporations, Justice Rocks organises “Unsponsored Concerts.” In sponsored concerts, the organisers sing praises of their sponsors. In “Unsponsored Concerts,” we make fun of our “unsponsors.” Read more at Anti-Nuclear Solidarity, a blog by Chennai Solidarity Group for Koondankulam. Or RSVP on Facebook.