Image Theatre

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  • Number of participants = Minimum 6 people
  • Theme = Power dynamics, prejudice, oppression, discrimination
  • Duration = 45 – 75 minutes
  • Difficult for participants = Level 2 – 4
  • Difficulty for facilitator = Level 2 – 4

Summary

A drama to experience power dynamics, oppression, prejudice and discrimination in our society/country.

Goals/Learning Objectives

  • To be aware of power dynamics, oppression, discrimination and prejudice in our society
  • To reflect on how our own society/country is built on power dynamics, prejudice and oppression.

Materials

  • Paper
  • Pens

Flow of the Exercise

What does oppression mean? What are power dynamics? What is prejudice? Discuss what these concepts mean to you.

Create groups of four to six people.

In these small groups, participants share situations that demonstrate different power dynamics, prejudice, oppression or discrimination. It can be a story that they personally witnessed or experienced, or maybe one that they heard about. It is very important to handle these stories with confidentiality, be careful not to take advantage of those who share their personal stories with you.

The groups pick a situation that they could present in an image, like a statue, without speaking (called a ‘frozen scene’). They plan one frozen scene. Each group should rehearse it without other groups hearing the details (15 minutes).

Every participant takes a pen and paper. When others are presenting their stories, participants note down words, emotions, thoughts that cross their mind while they are watching the frozen scenes.

After all the situations have been presented, participants share some of the words that they put on their paper. They do not need to explain the story behind the scenes. It is up to them whether they would like to share the story. If everyone in the group agrees, participants can tell the story to the others. Be careful that no one feels uncomfortable or embarrassed.

Debriefing

After the performances, the facilitator asks questions reflecting on the topic:

  • What emotions are working inside you?
  • Were you moved by what you saw?
  • What experiences and memories did these scenes trigger?
  • What kind of reflections do the participants have on their topic?

Variations

Instead of a frozen scene, participants can pick a situation that they present as a ‘boomerang’ (a moving image of one second, with sound), one that summarises and conveys the situation well or as a ‘vine’, which is a moving image of six seconds with sound.

Another variation is that one participant of the other groups is a narrator and explains each frozen scene.

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Possible Follow up Activities

Resolving oppression in images

If you, or you and the participants, would like to continue working with these situations and look for possible solutions, make note of the stories and go back to the same groups during your next session.

The participants should change the situations in a way that the outcome is not oppressive anymore and no one gets hurt:

  • What steps need to be taken? Each group discusses this and tries to act it out.
  • Each group presents the new, resolved stories to the other participants.
  • Discuss in a plenary what alternative solutions are possible in these stories or in other similar stories.

Provide a safe space for Black People and People of Colour who are facing racism, had bad experiences within power structures, oppression and/or experienced discrimination: empower them and find strategies to cope and share these by using the method Empower Yourself or Forum Theatre, where individual experiences are shared about racism, identity, etc.

Recommendations

Be aware that discriminatory images and scenes could be performed or recreated. Find a way to communicate this to the participants. The debriefing is an integral part of the method. Make sure that no one tells a story they do not want to tell. Maybe because they were the target of the aggression. Be aware that people might be triggered and want to leave the room.

Adapted from Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed.

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