Tag Archives: pedagogy

The Reggio Emilia approach


What are the principles of the Reggio Emilia approach?  Check out the resources and photos on this excellent website:



Educators and Urban Youth Show How Afterschool Arts Programs Can Succeed


Credit:  The Wallace Foundation


May 2nd: A Memorial Day for Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire (part two)

In memorial of Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire’s lives and work, here is biographical information and further resources on Augusto Boal:


A Brief Biography of Augusto Boal

by Doug Paterson

Brazilian Dr. Augusto Boal was raised in Rio de Janeiro. He was formally trained in chemical engineering and attended Columbia University in the late 1940′s and early 1950′s. Although his interest and participation in theatre began at an early age, it was just after he finished his degree at Columbia that he was asked to return to Brazil to work with the Arena Theatre in São Paulo. His work at the Arena Theatre led to his experimentation with new forms of theatre that would have an extraordinary impact on traditional practice.

Birth of the Spect-Actor

Prior to his experimentation, and following tradition, audiences were invited to discuss a play at the end of the performance. In so doing, according to Boal, they remained viewers and “reactors” to the action before them. In the 1960′s Boal developed a process whereby audience members could stop a performance and suggest different actions for the character experiencing oppression, and the actor playing that character would then carry out the audience suggestions. But in a now legendary development, a woman in the audience once was so outraged the actor could not understand her suggestion that she came onto the stage and showed what she meant. For Boal this was the birth of the spect-actor (not spectator) and his theatre was transformed. He began inviting audience members with suggestions for change onto the stage to demonstrate their ideas. In so doing, he discovered that through this participation the audience members became empowered not only to imagine change but to actually practice that change, reflect collectively on the suggestion, and thereby become empowered to generate social action. Theatre became a practical vehicle for grass-roots activism.

Boal as a Threat

Because of Boal’s work, he drew attention as a cultural activist. But the military coups in Brazil during the 1960′s looked upon all such activity as a threat. Walking home from an Arena performance of Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui Boal directed in 1971, Boal was kidnapped off the street, arrested, tortured, and eventually exiled to Argentina, then self-exiled to Europe. In Argentina in 1973 he published his first major theatre text, The Theatre of the Oppressed (Routledge Press).  While in Paris, Boal continued for a dozen years to teach his revolutionary approach to theatre, establishing several Centers for the Theatre of the Oppressed. In 1981 he organized the first International Festival of the Theatre of the Oppressed in Paris.

Return to Rio

Following the removal of the military junta in Brazil, Boal returned to Rio de Janeiro in 1986. He has established a major Center for the Theatre of the Oppressed there (CTO – Rio) and has formed over a dozen companies which develop community-based performances. The vehicles for these presentations are primarily Forum Theatre and Image Theatre. Forum Theatre relies upon presentation of short scenes that represent problems of a given community such as gender for a conference on women or racial stereotyping for a class on racism. Audience members interact by replacing characters in scenes and by improvising new solutions to the problems being presented. Image theatre uses individuals to sculpt events and relationships sometimes to the accompaniment of a narrative.

Boal at ATHE

In 1992, Boal was invited to be the keynote speaker for the National Conference of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) in Atlanta, Georgia. This is the national association for teachers of theatre in higher education in the United States, with international connections to Canada, Europe, South America, Australia, increasingly Asia, and recently Africa. His address, together with three 5-hour long workshops during the conference, infused the participants with both a workable understanding of how to take the approaches to their schools and communities and a desire to actually use the techniques. Few other names now appear as often as Boal’s in the annual conference program.

Second Book Published

In 1992, Boal also published his second major work, Games for Actors and Non-Actors (Routledge Press). This is a splendid basic introduction to the entire range of TO theory and practice, and is useful to people experienced and inexperienced in theatre making.

Boal as Politician; Festival of TO

In the fall of 1992, Boal ran as an at-large candidate for the position of Vereador of Rio, a position similar to a City Council seat in the United States. Over one thousand candidates ran for forty-five seats; Boal was one of those elected. Because of the increased visibility brought about by his winning a seat, he was able to obtain funding to hold an international festival for the first time in Brazil in July, 1993. The Seventh International Festival of the Theatre of the Oppressed attracted one hundred, fifty Theatre of the Oppressed practitioners from around the world in an extraordinary confluence of languages, theatre styles, and social issues. The Eighth such Festival was called the Ripple Effect sponsored by Mixed Company Theatre in Toronto, Canada, and was held from May 29 to June 8, 1997. Three hundred practitioners again from around the world attended. One of the featured performances was by the company Boal directs in his hometown, the CTO – Rio. This performance and the magnanimity of the CTO-Rio group was one of the true highlights of this extraordinary gathering.

Boal in Omaha: Pedagogy & Theatre of the Oppressed Conference

1994 saw Boal’s first arrival in Omaha, Nebraska, as he presented an “introductory” workshop to students, faculty, and regional social service personnel. In 1995 Boal keynoted the Pedagogy of the Oppressed Conference sponsored by the University of Nebraska at Omaha and presented numerous community and educational workshops demonstrating his theatrical approaches. At this same time, Boal’s third major book,The Rainbow of Desire (Routledge Press), was published, which elaborates a psycho-therapeutic application of the Boal techniques, especially Image Theatre.

Boal & Freire

Over many years, Boal continued to strengthen his relationship with liberatory educator, Paulo Freire, author of the acclaimed Pedagogy of the Oppressed. At the Second Annual Pedagogy of the Oppressed Conference in Omaha in March 1996, both men appeared together on a public platform to reflect on liberatory education and to answer questions from an audience of around one thousand people. Because of their several necessary flights for personal and family safety during the 1960′s – 1980′s, this co-appearance was the first time Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire shared a common public stage. Sadly, Paulo Freire passed away in early May, 1997. Said Boal: “I am very sad. I have lost my last father. Now all I have are brothers and sisters.” The Third Annual Conference of Pedagogy & Theatre of the Oppressed was held in mid-May, 1997, where Boal led workshops in Forum Theatre. Several of the pieces developed kicked off the Conference with much interaction, reflection, action, and discussion from the conference attendees. Boal also concluded the Conference with an image exercise which amounted to a fascinating visual “critique” of the Conference itself.

Legislative Theatre

Though he lost his bid for re-election in the fall of 1996, while in office, Vereador Boal developed a Forum type of theatre — which he called Legislative Theatre — to work at the neighborhood level to identify the key problems in the city. Using the Forum concept, he employed the dynamics of theatre to discuss what kinds of legislation needed to be enacted to address community problems. The resulting discussions and demonstrations became the basis for actual legislation put forward by Boal in the Chamber of Vereadors. Not surprisingly, Boal has summarized these discoveries and processes in Legislative Theatre, published by Routledge in 1998.

Boal in England

The summer of 1997 found Boal in England where he worked with the world-renowned Royal Shakespeare Company. The RSC asked Boal to employ his Rainbow of Desire techniques in working with them on a production of Hamlet. Typical of Boal, he is not interested in the central story but in the characters who are usually cut from the play, and thus imagined a text of the marginal characters, the ones without much power. He says it might be similar to the national dish of Brazil which is based on a stew made by slaves of the leavings from the masters table.

ATHE Award

In August, 1997, Boal was awarded the Career Achievement Award by the Association for Theatre in Higher Education during their national conference in Chicago. At the Conference, Boal conducted yet another of his five-hour workshops for conference attendees as well as received the coveted Career Achievement honor.

Boal’s International and US Travels

Traveling extensively between Rio, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia, and North America, Boal labors tirelessly to make his processes available to as many people as he can reach. December 1998 found him in England offering his remarkable Legislative Theatre not only as a model of public performance, but as a communication network on the Internet. For this reason, the entire performance day was on-line on the World Wide Web so that people around the world could respond.

Boal went on a first major tour of the US in February and March, 1999, traveling to the following universities and colleges: New College in Sarasota, FL; Vassar; Dartmouth; Colby College; University of Georgia; Florida State; and Kansas State. New College, Dartmouth, and Kansas State, and perhaps others of these, now have student TO companies working regularly on Boal techniques.

Since then he has toured to the US every spring, anchoring his tours on the annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference and then giving workshops and presentations in many US and Canadian cities – Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Omaha, Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Toledo, Toronto, New York City, Boston, Peoria IL, Worcester MA, and Bowling Green OH.

The objective is always to leave behind at least a core of people who can offer Boal-style workshops, analysis, and ideas. Hopefully there are hundreds and even thousands of people carrying out this liberatory approach to community animation.

In 2007 Boal scaled back his tours so that he attended the PTO Conference in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, on June 28 – 31, and was in residence at TOPLab in New York City from June 2 – 7.  The PTO workshops included a 3-day Forum-Joker workshop and Forum performance.

Final Tour

Augusto Boal’s final visit to North America occurred in May 2008 in Omaha, NE.  He offered a three-day Legislative Theatre workshop (May 19 – 21)  on the campus of UNO in preparation for a Legislative Theatre session.  This remarkable event was held on the night of Thursday, May 22, in the Omaha City Council Chambers through the good offices of Council Member Franklin Thompson.  It was a very large, overflow audience in the 250-seat auditorium with a rich mixture of city, university, and PTO Conference people in attendance.  Elected officials from Omaha comprised the “dais” group that watched the Forum scenes and, in a wonderful image, gathered and sorted the laws that came from the spect-actor/audience.  Julian Boal co-jokered the session with Augusto, and the event sparkled with vigorous discussion and debate.

For the first time in many years, Augusto Boal was invited to spend the next two days at the Conference itself, attending and participating in sessions, talking with participants, and gathering in the hotel bar until late into the night.  On Sunday May 25, the Boals jokered a stimulating 3-day workshop in one of Augusto’s favorite areas of inquiry – Rainbow into Forum.  The use of images to represent ideologies presented a fascinating look into his continued evolution of forms of Theatre of the Oppressed.

One of the many highlights of this last Conference was the Flower Ceremony.  PTO officers organized a tribute to Augusto Boal during which around 25 participants, in a long line Augusto traversed, handed him a carnation and read a statement about one of his many contributions to world theatre, culture, and political struggle.  It was not so much ironic as sentiently  appropriate that this ceremony marked Augusto Boal’s final PTO appearance.

It is serendipitous and fortunate that during this 14th Annual PTO Conference arrangements were made for extensive professional video taping of the Legislative Theatre workshop, the Legislative Session, conference events featuring Boal, and some of the Rainbow into Forum post-conference workshop. This large amount of tape has been collected in a disc, available through PTO and on this website, showing significant elements of each Conference event.

From Omaha, Augusto Boal and his son Julian flew to New York City to give two three-day workshops at TOPLab at the Brecht Forum in New York City.

Final Days

In the fall of 2008, PTO went ahead with plans to invite both Augusto and Julian to the 15th Annual Conference scheduled for May 18 – 21, 2009.  In March Augusto was in France, as he often was, working and writing.  One of his central projects, in addition to completing his book The Aesthetics of the Oppressed, was organizing a Gathering of Jokers in Rio for the summer of 2009.  However, he suddenly became quite tired and it was feared perhaps his leukemia, in control for the past four years, was becoming more virulent.  He returned to Rio de Janeiro in early April and by mid-April Julian confirmed that his father would not be coming to the Conference.  On Saturday, May 2nd, at 1:36 AM/CST, Julian Boal sent an e.mail to PTO Board Emeritus Doug Paterson with the following brief message:  “my father is gone – he went away sleeping.”

The shock was of course staggering.  Still the 2009 Conference was held in Minneapolis/St. Paul on the campus of Augsburg College.  A grieving and honoring ritual was organized by Hector Aristizabal for late in the evening on Wednesday, May 20.  One hundred, fifty people attended what became a deep grieving and truly celebrational honoring of the life of Augusto Boal, and PTO remains grateful to Hector for his leadership during this important event and time.

PTO released the following statement shortly after Augusto Boal’s passing:

Augusto Boal 1931-2009

PTO shares in the grief of people around the world who learned of the passing of Augusto Boal on May 1st, 2009, notably also the International Worker’s Holiday. We send our sympathies to his wife, Cecelia, his son, Julian, with whom so many of us have worked, his son Fabian, the rest of his family, the members of CTO-Rio, and his world of friends and co-workers.

Augusto Boal was a giant in so many ways: theatre director, scholar, teacher; pedagogy colleague of Paulo Freire; political representative and statesman in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil; international speaker and teacher; Nobel Peace Prize nominee; and the visionary who conceived and patiently developed one of the most revolutionary cultural and artistic practices of the last millennia, the Theatre of the Oppressed.

As the featured guest for the first PTO Conference in Omaha in 1995, Augusto attended, led workshops, and spoke at all but three of our conferences through last year’s gathering in 2008, again in Omaha. Through Augusto’s good offices, Paulo Freire came to PTO in 1996, making this the only time in their celebrated careers that these two friends presented together in public.

Julian Boal appreciates the many expressions of sympathy sent to his family, and also has indicated his intention to come to Minneapolis for the annual PTO Workshops and Conference Opening May 18 – 21. At that time, PTO will arrange a time for honoring our founding inspiration, Dr. Augusto Boal.

Source: http://ptoweb.org/aboutpto/a-brief-biography-of-augusto-boal/

Further resources on Boal and his legacy:

The International Theatre of the Oppressed Organization: http://www.theatreoftheoppressed.org/en/index.php?useFlash=0

Boal’s Arsenal of Games and Exercises: http://organizingforpower.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/games-theater-of-oppressed.pdf

New York’s The Forum Project: http://theforumproject.org/

Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed (global forum for the work of Freire and Boal): http://ptoweb.org/

Center for Theatre of the Oppressed: http://ctorio.org.br/novosite/

May 2nd: A Memorial Day for Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire (part one)

May 2nd marked the death anniversaries of both Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal, both significant influences and inspirations for the pedagogical approach that Theatre Action Project (now Creative Action) was founded upon.  To celebrate their lives and work, here is biographical information and resources for further study:

Paulo Freire (1921-1997)

Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed is currently one of the most quoted educational texts (especially in Latin America, Africa and Asia). Freire was able to draw upon, and weave together, a number of strands of! thinking about educational practice and liberation.
He was born on September 19, 1921 in Recife, a port city of northeastern Brazil. Freire said of his parents that it was they who taught him at an early age to prize dialogue and to respect the choices of others-key elements in his understanding of adult education. His parents were middle class but suffered financial reverses so severe during the Great Depression that Freire learned what it is to go hungry. It was in childhood that he determined to dedicate his life to the struggle against poverty and class oppression.

After his family situation improved, Friere entered the University of Recife where he enrolled in the ! Faculty of Law and also studied philosophy and the psy! chology of language while working part-time as an instructor of Portuguese in a secondary school. During this s period he read the works of Marx and also Catholic intellectuals, all of whom strongly influenced his educational philosophy.
In 1944, Freire married Elza Maia Costa Oliveira of Recife, a grade school teacher who eventually bore three daughters and two sons. As a parent, Paulo’s interest in theories of education began to grow, leading him to do more extensive reading in education, philosophy, and the sociology of education than in law. In fact after passing the bar he quickly abandoned law as a means of earning a living in order to go to work as welfare official and later as director of the Department of Education and Culture of the Social Service in the State of Pernambuco.
His experiences during those years of public service brought him into direct contact with the ur! ban poor. The educational and organizational assignments he undertook there led him to begin to formulate a means of communicating with the dispossessed that would later develop into his dialogical method for adult education. His involvement in adult education also included directing seminars and teaching courses in the history and philosophy of education at the University of Recife, where he was awarded a doctoral degree in 1959.

In the early 1960’s Brazil was a restless nation. Numerous reform movements flourished simultaneously as socialists, communists, students, labor leaders, populists, and Christian militants all sought their own socio-political goals. It was in the midst of this ferment and heightened expectations that Freire became the first director of the University of Recife’s Cultural ! Extension Service, which brought literacy programs to thou! sands of peasants in the northeast. Later, from June 1963 up to March 1964, Freire’s literacy teams worked throughout the entire nation. They claimed success in interesting adult illiterates to read and write in as short a time as thirty hours!

The secret of this success is found in the resistance of Freire and his co-workers to merely teaching the instrumental and decontextualized skills of reading and writing (“banking education”), but rather by presenting participation! in the political process through knowledge of reading and writing as a desirable and attainable goal for all Brazilians.
Freire won the attention of the poor and awakened their hope that they could start to have a say in the day-to-day decisions that affected their lives in the Brazilian countryside. Peasant passivity and fatalism waned as literacy became attainable and valued. Freire’s methods were incontestably politicizing and, in the eyes of the Brazilian military and land-owners anxious to stave off land reform, radical.Eventually, the military overthrew the reform-minded Goulart regime in Brazil in April of 1964. All progressive movements were suppressed and Freire was thrown into jail for his “subversive” activities. He spent a total of seventy days there where he was repeatedly questioned and accused. In prison he began his first major educational ! work, Education as the Practice of Freedom. This book, an an! alysis of Paulo’s failure to effect change in Brazil, had to be completed in Chile, because Freire was sent into exile.
After his expulsion from Brazil, Freire worked in Chile for five years with the adult education programs of the Eduardo Frei government headed by Waldemar Cortes who attracted international attention and UNESCO acknowledgment that Chile was one of the five nations of the world which had best succeeded in overcoming illiteracy.The mid-to-late 1960s were a period of broad social change in the United States when opposition to the country’s involvement in Southeast Asia brought police and militias onto university campuses. Racial unrest had, since 1965, flared into violence on the streets of American cities. Minority spokespersons and war protesters were publishing and teaching, and they influenced Freire profoundly. His reading of the America! n scene was an awakening to him because he found that repression and exclusion of the powerless from economic and political life was not limited to third world countries and cultures of dependence. He extended his definition of the third world from a geographical concern to a political concept, and the theme of violence became a greater preoccupation in his writings from that time on.
Toward the end of the 1960’s, Freire’s work brought him into contact with a new culture that changed his thought significantly. In 1969, at the invitation of Harvard University Freire left Latin America to come to the United States where he taught as Visiting Professor at Harvard’s Center for Studies in Education and Development and was also Fellow at the Center for the Study of Development and Social Change. It is during this period that Freire wrote his famous work, Pedagogy of t! he Oppressed, which was first published in 1972! . Education is to be the path to permanent liberation.

Five elements of Paulo Freire’s work appear as notable themes:

  • Dialogue – mutual respect, awareness of others’ perspectives, efforts to work together
  • Praxis – informed action
  • Conscientization – developing consciousness and its power to effect transformative learning
  • Awareness of experiential learning and locating educational activity in the communities where adult learners live – accessibility
  • Religious/spiritual metaphors – the ‘class suicide’ or ‘Easter experience’ of the teacher. “The educator for liberation has to die as the unilateral educator of the educatees, in order to be born again as the educator-educatee of the educatees-educators. An educator is a person who has to live in the deep significance of Easter.” Quoted by Paul Taylor (1993: 53). This approach must have resonated strongly in the lives of the predominantly Catholic Brazilian underclass.

After leaving Harvard in the early 1970’s, Freire ! served as consultant and eventually as Assistant Secretary of Education for the World Council of Churches in Switzerland and traveled all over the world lecturing and devoting his efforts to assisting educational programs of newly independent countries in Asia and Africa, such as Tanzania and Guinea Bissau.
He also served as chair of the executive committee of the Institute for Cultural Action (IDAC), which is headquartered in Geneva.

In 1979, Paulo Freire was invited by the Brazilian government to return from exile, under an amnesty agreement. Freire took a faculty position at the University of Sao Paulo. In 1988 he was also appointed Minister of Education for the City of Sao Paulo-a position which made him responsible for guiding school reform within two-thirds of the nation’s schools.
In 1992, Paulo Freire celebrated his 70th birthda! y in New York with over two hundred friends-adult educators, educational reformers, scholars and “grass-roots” activists. Three days of festivity and workshops, sponsored by the New School for Social Research, marked the ongoing, vital impact of the life and work of Paulo Freire.

Paulo Freire died in Rio de Janeiro on May 2, 1997, at the age of 75. He leaves behind a legacy of commitment and hope for oppressed peoples throughout the world; “Paulo Freire Centers” around the world continue his work of adult education.
Many educators and educational theorists have presented critical analyses of his work in recent years, and it is true that the absolute, either/or, strictly Sociali! st approach that appears in Freire’s work is not necess! arily applicable in a post-Soviet, globalized trade environment. However, the sincerity and dedication Freire espoused in promoting education will always be relevant.

Source: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/tc/parker/adlearnville/transformativelearning/freire.html

Further Resources on Paulo Freire and Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

The Freire Institute: http://www.freire.org/

The Freire Project: http://www.freireproject.org/

The Freire Institute of UCLA: http://www.paulofreireinstitute.org/

Read Pedagogy of the Oppressed: http://www.users.humboldt.edu/jwpowell/edreformFriere_pedagogy.pdf

Resources on Pedagogy of the Oppressed the book: http://www.pedagogyoftheoppressed.com/