Manual Legislative Theatre: Using Performance to Make Politics

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Theatre of the Oppressed. Hamlet and the Baker's Son.

Legislative Theatre: Using Performance to Make Politics

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Augusto Boal Routledge Performance Practitioners. Dialogues on Theatre and Cultural Politics.


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Product details File Size: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition July 28, Publication Date: July 28, Sold by: Related Video Shorts 0 Upload your video. Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Yet another branch of the great system of Theatre of the Oppressed.

Theatre of the Oppressed NYC: Sneak Peak

In this book, Boal details his unique way of using actors to define the contents of bills to pass through the Brazilian Parliament, of which he was a legislator. The work is similar to another branch of TO--Forum--and this book focuses less on the actual making of the scenes don't expect the plethora of acting games found in his other books and more on navigating the political environment surrounding the bill in question, though a script for one of the plays is provided.

The book also contains various speeches or essays Boal gave in his time as vereador, notably one that references the time he was tortured as a political prisoner. Every book by Boal is a gem, a hodge podge of English and Portugese that somehow all work together to represent this great man and his revolutionary ideas.

One person found this helpful 2 people found this helpful. Good use to use voice through theater. One person found this helpful. See all 3 reviews. The consumerist spectacle is part of this drive. In modern spectacular societies, each society tries to expand its spectacle as its territory. Boal emphasises that he is not against types of business which are about satisfying needs, such as street markets.

He is against the type of business which creates addictions or stimulates unnecessary needs. Boal is afraid that the values of profit and the market are displacing humanist values. Humans seek to expand ourselves — outwards as territory, inwards as poetry. Today, the outer form of expansion seems to have eclipsed the inner. In addition, Boal sometimes sees social problems as resulting from barbarism. Repressive, rigid morality is taken to be an effect of economic scarcity, for instance in relation to sexual morality and pregnancy.

However, when working with the MST, Boal found there was more democracy when people were in very poor conditions. Once they settled on farms, gender and age hierarchies resurfaced. Boal clearly uses modernist categories for socially progressive goals. However, this kind of modernism is problematic. It is dangerous to reproduce such figures, even if refigured as a progressive critique. However, Boal gives an unusual twist to the humanist account. Usually, such humanist binaries serve psychological repression: For Boal, humanism is aligned on the side of expression and de-repression.

The main types of modern power — capitalism, authoritarianism, mass production, imperialism, globalisation — are defined as forms of barbarism, marked with the sign of the inhuman. In a sense, Boal inverts the usual loading of the terms, at least insofar as they mark different groups of humans. All societies have more-or-less organised structures, ranks, and so on. Humans are herd animals by nature. Leaders always have charisma, and are usually of three types. Ideological leaders are followed for their ideas.

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Pathological leaders are manipulative, and zoological leaders are extremely egocentric tyrants. Although Boal believes that all societies need rules, he also believes that breaking rules is necessary to liberate us from oppression. They create mechanical ways of responding to oppressive situations. He takes a position that norms are both necessary for predictability and in a sense undesirable. They are somewhat authoritarian, and suppress needs and desires. This type of norm is not socially necessary.

The process of dismantling masks and rituals reveals the oppressive relationships underneath. Some rituals are also ambiguous. Even misunderstandings of performances often contain useful information.

Legislative theater | Beautiful Trouble

Rituals can often be broken by acting in ways which defy their rules. For example, in one scene a boss sits on a tall chair behind a big desk. The worker or client has to sit on a lower chair. In recent works, Boal writes of persuading or forcing governments to ask us what they should do, much as actors in Forum Theatre do. He contrasts this ideal with the current situation where society is simply a massive marketplace.

Boal now sees law as necessary to prevent a Hobbesian world where everything is permitted, a world he identifies with Brazilian organised crime. Humans are separated from animals by ethics, which define how people should behave: Human rights are the highest form of normativity. Opponents of these norms are primitive or barbaric. The punishment of criminals, in line with judicial power, is taken to be coextensive with human rights, and the war of civilisation against barbarism.

I find this piece deeply problematic.


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  • Boal does not seem to realise that this argument repeats standard reactionary arguments against social struggle and diversity, and a basically liberal view of normativity. Similar arguments can be — and are — used to defend all kinds of authoritarian laws and forms of state repression. The account, like others of its kind, is also largely inaccurate. Normativity is always the law of some against others, of ingroup against outgroup. In fact, Boal also makes contradictory claims: While there are oppressors and oppressed, the law is always hypocritical. Law and order are simply rhetoric to hypnotise the demoralised masses.

    The human world is no more peaceful than most animal species are among their own species, and more violent than many. Survival of the fittest is a capitalistic principle, far more than an indigenous or naturalistic principle fitness relativity largely precludes Hobbesian readings in modern biology. However, Boal uses this basically conservative argument in a progressive way. He portrays reactionary opponents of human rights as opposing normativity and law.


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    • In effect, he mobilises the idea of law against the discourse of sovereignty which suspends the law. This is an important point: In another essay, on Romeo and Juliet , Boal suggests that the emergence of centralised political power is a form of progress, against a diffuse medieval form of power. This could, he argues, be the future of humanity unless we resist individualisation. He is also nostalgic for the unity of World War 2. Later we are told that people have learnt a lack of respect, and that neglect of the poor is an instance of this. People need to be given the security of collective respect for an overall structure in which everyone knows their place.

      This seems a strangely characterological way of thinking of social relations, reminiscent of conservative views of social problems as social breakdown. However, the feeling of a lack of structure and meaning is also probably connected to the anxiety and decomposition brought about by neoliberalism. As capitalism moves from a phase focused on centralised power to a more diffuse form of hierarchy, core or formerly privileged groups experience a loss of structure, meaning and predictability — what psychoanalysts term a loss of the Symbolic. The enforcement of fixed norms as a response to this breakdown — a restoration of an authoritarian Symbolic, with or without leftist undertones — is an ultimately counterproductive, but common, response.

      The narrative of a meaningful humanity united by a meaning-structure and a common ethic is caught-up with modernity and its underside, colonialism. I feel that dissidents instead need to find ways to produce a diffuse Symbolic, or else do without it.