Forum Theatre responds to Sexual Assault at Harvard University
"In February, Doris Sommer and Pilar Vicuna from Cultural Agents and I as the Education Specialist for the Graduate and Professional Schools at OSAPR first met to explore how we can put our skills and expertise together to raise awareness about and to prevent sexual assault on campus. Quickly the idea was born to engage students into a Theatre of the Oppressed during SAAM, in which participants have an opportunity to intervene and positively change the dynamic in a scenario acted ‘on stage’.
Last Friday, Cultural Agents offered a Theatre of the Oppressed facilitator’s training. I happily attended this training, because I wanted to learn how I can integrate forum theatre into my workshops. Our group of nine people, was subdivided into groups of three. Each group came up with its own short play dealing with sexual assault, sexual and gender-harassment, and gender-stereotyping. Every group performed its short play and the other people in the room had an opportunity to intervene, thereby dramatically changing the script and the outcome of the play. Once we went through each of the three plays, we sat down together to de-brief about our interventions and to discuss how forum theatre can be helpful for my work at Harvard.
How I have experienced forum theatre, its greatest advantage is that it physically, verbally, and emotionally involves the audience if they choose to intervene. This adds a layer to the conventional scenario discussions that I usually offer in my workshops. Simply reading a scenario offers a good opportunity to discuss an intervention. However, workshop participants can easily keep an emotional distance to it. Forum theatre invites workshop participants to be part of the solution and to experience how it feels to intervene verbally or physically (without the use of violence!).
Forum theatre is fun to participate in! Of course, not everyone has to intervene. This is important for those who consciously decide to keep an emotional distance to the play, which of course is absolutely okay!"
- Maike Isaac, OSAPR, Harvard University
Harvard Extension School: Pre-Texts Workshop in course "Museum as Active Learning Space"