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Newspaper Theater in Praxis A practical workshop in Theatre of the Oppressed by Uri Noy Meir Paulo Freire defines praxis in Pedagogy of the oppressed as: "reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it." Through praxis, oppressed people can acquire a critical awareness of their condition, and, with their allies, struggle for liberation. Newspaper Theater was Augusto Boal's first attempt to create the Theatre of the Oppressed, by helping anyone to make a theatrical scene from a piece of newspaper. The idea of a performed newspaper wasn't new, but Boal's way, his praxis of liberation through aesthetic creation was. The workshop will explore this praxis creating theater and visual art. About the facilitator Uri Noy Meir has led workshops in Theater of the Oppressed and Participatory Photography in Nepal, India, Israel, Palestine, the Us, N. Ireland and Italy. He is a member of Combatants for Peace, And associate artist in ImaginAction. imaginaction.org/about-us/uri-noy-meir About organizers Organizer was MTĂœ Foorumteater (NGO Forum Theatre). NGO was established in 2011 with the idea to promote Forum Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed movement in Estonia. More information – www.foorumteater.com

Material is wrote by Uri Noy Meir


1st Day – 1st Part – Games and Improvisation from the news Playing Games The Wave: Passing a movement and sound in the circle when facilitator says change the movement, the sound and the direction changes. - Superheroes (Variation on zip, zap, bup\zop\zoom) In the circle you pass sounds and movements inspired by superheroes (superwoman, King Kong, Spiderwoman, add new…) – when people make mistakes we celebrate (and they ‘die’ temporarily). -Cover the space – make sure all the spaces in the room are covered -in a hurry; looking for something -opposites (freeze, go; touch your head, touch your butt; jump, touch the floor; say your name; whisper – first do normally and then swap to do the opposite of what is said) – trying to un-mechanize, get people to not be automatized --Pairs: told stories to each other: 1 & 2. 2 describe an invented word. The other is inspired, creates choreography. Partway through, do the choreography of something else. -Change partners, now #1 tells something that happened within 1 st 5 years of life or a funny story etc. Then #2 has the remote control to determine whether they see the soap opera version or the Greek tragedy version (etc). Invite the storyteller to enter the story… Miming the News and creating short scenes from it Each participant chooses an article that catches his eye. He Reads it and creates a short miming or scene portraying the article in silent action. The group watches each improvised mini scene. And from this silent scene creates small groups of 4-5 participants that now compare articles and creates very shortly a scene from one or two of the articles in the group (this time with speech. This process is done as quick as possible with giving little time for each planning (too much talk is usually not helpful). I like to add impossible tasks into the groups work to inspire creativity like add a poem\song\dance, be like animals, etc.. In the end we all watch the scenes and comment on what we see in them.


1st Day – 2nd part Talking about NEWSPAPER THEATRE (what is it and context for its creation) "This system of 12 techniques represents the first attempt that was made to create the Theatre of the Oppressed, by giving the audience the means of production rather than the finished artistic product. They are devised to help anyone to make a theatrical scene using a piece of news from a newspaper, or from any other written material, like reports of an political meeting, texts from the Bible, from the Constitution of a country, the Declaration of Human Rights, etc." - Augusto Boal, Rio de Janeiro 2004 Newspaper Theatre was conceived and developed by Brazilian theatre teacher and activist Augusto Boal (1979; 1998) as a set of simple techniques for people to make their own theatre.

The 12 Techniques The 12 techniques are the ways that Boal suggested to transform non dramatic text into performance (Newspapers, documents, the bible, etc.). These techniques are in mind also can be seen as different steps to take while deconstructing a text with a group of actors and non-actors. In the first part we were already realizing it before talking about it, in 2nd part we reflect about the techniques and our practice with it.

Simple reading The news item is read without comment or commentary, but it is detached from the context of the newspaper. The audience is therefore not influenced by such biases as the position of the story in the paper, or the size of the headline. This technique is the simplest and also the first step of any text transformation, the choosing and reading of a in a group text already makes it theater and takes it out of


the original context of written text in a newspaper, internet page, book, or any other place. Complementary reading The news item is read, but information generally omitted by the newspapers is added to give a more “complete” version. This additional information can be sourced from other news, research, or the knowledge possess in the group: The leading questions in this stage are what do we know that is not there? What is left out of? Crossed reading Two contradictory or linked stories are read in crossed (alternating) form to shed new light on each story, add deeper explanation or provide a new dimension. Crossed reading is also an important step of the process putting an article or text in the context of other texts adding new information and material for a performance. Rhythmical reading The news item is read (or sung) with a rhythm as a musical commentary, for example: samba, tango, Gregorian chant. The news item is then “filtered” by the connotations of the new rhythm. Parallel action The item is read, while parallel actions are mimed to show either the context in which the reported event really occurred, or to complement the spoken story. Improvisation The news is improvised on stage to explore/exploit variants and possibilities. It is open to re-playing, and suggestion and involvement from the audience. Historical reading The news item is read, together with facts or scenes that show the same event in other historical moments, or other countries or social systems. Reinforcement The news item is read or sung with the aid or accompaniment of reinforcing material, such as audio/visuals, jingles, advertising or publicity materials. Concretion of the abstract Revealing on-stage what the news often hides or masks beneath clichés, over-used terms or matter-of-fact reporting. Concepts such as torture, hunger, unemployment


are shown concretely. Graphic imagery, real or symbolic, is used to reclaim the emotional impact of abstracted concepts. Text out of context The news item is presented out of the context in which it was published, for example an actor portraying the Prime Minister delivers a speech about austerity while devouring a huge dinner. The truth behind the words is demystified, for example the PM wants austerity for the people, but not for him/herself. Insertion into the actual context In this technique we bring the text into the real context in which the problem happens (for example an article describing a war is conducted in a theatrical battlefield) Integration or field interview (the lost technique) This technique only appears in a review from 1971 as part of the techniques. It relates to the concept of hot-seating in which you ask questions for the character to deepen it. This is also used to create a dynamic investigation with the audience on stage The group is going back into action after the reflection using games, introducing other aspects of Theatre of the Oppressed in action (Image theatre and forum theatre).

The Wind Comes and Takes -start with general topics (something that applies to you & others in group) -name a topic (professions, something you do – eventually can end up with topics related to the theme of the workshop, if working with a particular population or theme) -gift to whoever is in the middle: group transformed into something (and add something doing something – makes it more interesting) Intro to image theatre: two rows facing a partner, line A turns around & B creates an image (in this case: something you like about yourself), then A turns to look. A turns away, B drops the image. A is asked to replicate the image. - Image of what is Estonian, Dynamizing the image with sounds and sentences. -image of conflict, how conflict turns to love. -Creating the image of the typical Estonian family. Taking Comments from the group. Then more were added, Stream of consciousness. The image is Dynamized


into the image of an ideal family then into a Second ideal family. And then the Wildest dream of the character. The Shortest Forum A very easy short way to introduce Forum Theater: two actors come into the scene from both sides of the stage as if going to shake hand. In the last moment one of the actors (antagonist role) turns around and refuses to shake hand. The other reacts and\or tries to make an action to get the hand shake. The joker freezes the action and asks questions to difficultate the situation: what happened? What did he try and do? Did it work? What can you do differently? You draw in more interventions, also alternating the antagonist (not necessarily) You keep asking questions. It is not about finding a solution but on trying to find a solution. If you get solution you still can ask: will it always work? Is there another way? If someone finds an alternate solution like taking the handshake by force or going away, you keep questioning every action, raising new questions and insights. In the end of the process you could also create a debate about what do people want from other people? What are human rights? Etc. It creates an atmosphere that you could continue towards exploring more specific issues that the groups is experiencing and wants to work on.

2nd and 3rd Days – More Games and more Newspaper Theater In the next days we were playing more games and continued in more group work on Newspaper Theater. Here are some of the games from those days: A circle of rhythms In the circle one by one suggest a rhythm generated by his body (claps, voices, sounds) and everybody else copies. African mosquito In the circle two people clap together above the head of the participant in the middle that is ducking. Like this the clap is passed in the circle keeping in sync the claps in a sort of rhythm. Next you do the same with two claps, and with a rhythm of


claps, passing more than one clap (or mosquito) in the same time (still needs to sound like one) 1, 2, 3 Bradford Each couple of participants is counting until 3, later the numbers change one by one into movements and sounds. In the end we watch a few seconds of each couple. Forest of sounds In couples one is guiding the other one (that is with the eyes closed) with a reparative sound. They change. Vampire Game Everybody is going blindly in the room (carefully) one is the vampire and every time he meets another person he squeezes his neck (or hand) and this person screams and leaves the game, watching it from the outside.

Find the Hand In couples participants study each other hands and invent a little sign\game in wich they could recognize the other persons hand. They all go blindly in the room and search for the hand (after we mixed them up a bit). When a couple finds each other they raise their hand and wait to be released and stand outside watching.

Two lines Improvisations with prompts: -parent/child and then Teacher\student – don’t predefine the gender; child wants something from the parent; introduce concept of ‘high stakes’ (fishbowl vs. dying dog); parents are busy doing something they continue. After a minute of improv, add “the child has only 1 minute to get what they want.” Suggested that the way to evaluate the improv is whether we can believe that the other person was who they said, able to listen to each other, and develop a story. The secrets In the middle: added a secret and then another secret. Then discuss: what were the secrets? Interesting to see the tendencies of the group – how safe are the choices, what stories develop? The secrets are usually related to the issues in the community,


and of interest to the people in the group (the issues find a way out without making a list of what the issues are). How to evaluate from improvisational point of view: how intuitively people build the plot – is it coming from the secrets, building up? Or are the secrets random, pre-thought. In the second day the group explored new articles from the Newspaper (in Estonian) and created plays from it relating to 12 techniques. Later we discussed in the small groups and in the big group how to transform it into a forum play or invisible theater. Then we processed the plays that were created. I believe that processing is to most crucial and part in a facilitator's rule in a workshop or performance, to mediate between the image of the real and the reality of the image as an image. Whatever happens in the room is important and significant and can lead us towards an insight about ourselves and our society.

Working with Images In the 3rd day we also experienced some of the techniques I am developing working with photos and photography. Complete the image with an Image Similar to the image game that were participants complete each other's physical images with a physical image. Just that in this the camera is also present with one photo taken with a every image created (this could be done in many ways, in a circle, in 3's, photographer\s and models). Repossessing our images


Participants are asked to choose photos that answer for them 3 questions (could be any, in this case it was where are you from? What is oppression? And what is theater of the Oppressed for you?) The photos could also be personal photos or photos from a magazine or newspaper (more relevant to Newspaper Theater). All the photos are put mixed together in the center of the room. And participants are asked to choose 3 photos (not their own photos). The next step is in groups (of 4-5) participants (*in silence) create a collage made of the photos they choose.

Afterwards the groups swap places and create a physical image inspired by the collage of the other group. Next they stand in front of the physical image created and the other group creates the sound response to the collage and the image. Next all people look together at the collages one by one and we explore what we see in this collage directing from the general to the specific, inventing a possible story for a possible protagonist that is or implied in the collage (next step to this process which we haven’t done this time is to stage one or few of those invented stories). What we did after is a ritual of repossessing the images, by each one taking the images he brought or choose from the newspaper in response to the questions asked. While we repossess our images we share with the group our thoughts and insights from the process, not talking about why we choose this image before but what we see in it now after the process. Creating rituals are for me very important with working with groups, like taking 3 breaths (for the ancestors, for the community we create together, and for ourselves) together which we did in the end of each day. In the last we also explored applying techniques of Newspaper Theater on texts such as personal testimony (in our case a personal text I wrote). It is important to remember that techniques are there to serve people not the other way around. The techniques from Newspaper Theater gives us as facilitators, artists, and educators the ability to transform text into theater collaboratively, Bringing the outside world through the news or the inside world of a personal testimony and to explore it to make impactful theater with actors and non-actors.


We also made a short exploration of the idea to use objects and photos to create a time line and video story from it. Possibilities of working with a group are limitless when you connect to your own gifts and abilities and are using the ethics and inspiration from the theater for change which is Theater of the Oppressed. I wish you all a wonderful voyage in life and art‌ ď Š


Interview with Uri Noy Meir (Questions asked by Nikolai Kunitsõn) Can You tell a little bit about Yourself? About Your work? My name is Uri Noy Meir I was born in Israel and now I live in Rome; I am an actor\director and facilitator of Theater of the Oppressed and Participatory Photography. I have worked with TO and participatory photography in Nepal, India, Israel, Northern Ireland, The Us, and Italy, working with youth, adults, students, educators, activists and more. I am now in the process of establishing a locally based TO work in Rome, Italy How did you start with TO? I first encountered TO, and the writings of Augusto Boal walking among the lengthy corridors of the Library of my University. I have found Augusto Boal’s writing very inspiring in the way they provoked and challenged conventional Aristotelian thought and the way it challenged my own thought. It became clear for me that TO is my way in art, through the books and then through trainings I attended and through practicing TO I deepened my understanding and built my praxis (action and reflection). I trained in TO with great practitioners such as Barbra Santos, Chen Alon, Sanjoy Ganguly, Hector Arisitzabal and others. What is TO for You? Is this a “way of life”, or a tool to change people? Or is it a tool to change society? For me TO is many things; “a way of life”, an aesthetic method, a movement\family of artists and activists, and a philosophical attitude that believes in change; through seeing human beings first of all as creative beings. For me changing people and changing society is two sides of the same coin, as society is made up by many people that share and dialogue on the perceptions of it. For me the aim is to facilitate change and not push towards it or direct it; I believe that in order facilitate change you need to be open to the people you work with (that will not always share your own dispossession). I always aim to make visible the invisible, expose social realities and suggest art and theater as a way to explore our lives; transforming and changing our perceptions of what is “possible”, what is “beautiful”, what is “real” and what the “truth” is. What do you think, what is the greatest possibilities in TO? I think that TO have a great possibility to be a constructive tool to inspire and communities and inspire direct and creative actions. TO have the possibility to be part of the search for a better and more just world in which we all are creators and producers of art and culture. I believe this change is already happening around us with new media channels playing an important rule for youth and adults to share their self-created art. I think also that certain movements that call for solidarity and true democracy have the TO way of thought in their DNA (like the occupy Wall Street movement, the youth of the Arab spring, and the antiglobalization youth movements in Greece and Spain). A little bit more about newspaper theatre – what to think of it? Why is it special? Is it actual in nowadays democratic societies? Newspaper theatre is considered the first technique to be introduced to the Theatre of the Oppressed. Born out of a necessity, in the midst of Boal’s experience as theatre artist under the military dictatorship, Newspaper theatre by Boal is an aesthetic tool and a tool for activism bundled up together. Making theatre out of a Newspaper or performing the Newspaper was


not entirely new, but the way that Boal practiced and the context it was developed as theatrical form that comments on the reality was unique. I see Newspaper Theatre as special because it tells so much about the praxis of TO and of its principles. Today we don’t see so many printed newspapers as before but we are very much dominated by the news written and broadcasted through the media. This is way I think Newspaper Theatre in the Praxis of Boal is very relevant and actual; to be a tool of developing critical awareness of the media and to produce aesthetic and creative responses that inspire actions in the reality. What will be the goals/results of the workshop in Estonia? As a person and as an artist\facilitator I always try not to be tied down to expectations and results too much. I see the best result as a full commitment to the process and the dedication to the saying: “We Make the Road by Walking”. I am excited and thankful on the possibility to come to Estonia and work with MTÜ Foorumteater group and all the participants. So the best possible result is to have an exciting time exploring Newspaper Theatre. You’re very active on international TO family. Can you explain your work, ideas and dreams in that field? Meeting TO practitioners around the world has been very inspirational for me personally and professionally and gave me a lot of knowledge and tools to act with. Through the FB and maybe in the future through a more dynamic international website I try to give back to the TO community in creating new platform to present and reflect on our practice. Anything else you would like to add? Well maybe just a quote by Augusto Boal: “In truth the Theatre of the Oppressed has no end, because everything which happens in it must extend into life….The Theatre of the Oppressed is located precisely on the frontier between fiction and reality – and this border must be crossed. If the show starts in fiction, its objective is to become integrated into reality, into life.”

More information about the project can be found on www.foorumteater.com

Newspaper Theatre in Praxis  

Newspaper Theatre in Praxis was a practical Theatre of the Oppressed workshop, fascilitated by Uri Noy meir. Workshop took place 4-6th May i...