THE FORUM PROJECT FROM NEW YORK
…OR FORUM THEATER AS A POLITICAL QUESTION THAT SEEKS EMANCIPATORY SOLUTIONS
The Forum Project (TFP) is a New York City-based organization working through critical pedagogy, Theatre of the Oppressed and other creative methods to engage individuals and communities in deconstructing power, privilege and oppression. Our goal is to dialogue about the oppressions we face and to develop creative tactics for liberation. We provide opportunities for individuals and communities to explore and understand the world, their lives, and the issues that affect them by providing workshops, performances, curriculum development and other services to organizations or community groups.
TFP was founded in 2008 in order to provide more opportunities across New York City to learn and use Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed techniques. We believe theatre is a powerful tool not only for self-expression but as a forum for dialogue and action. Theatrical expression is a human right, says Boal, and communities should have access to the means of production that theatre can afford!
Throughout the years we have partnered with a wide range of communities and have addressed many oppressions. We have worked with students, educators, immigrants, elders, survivors of sexual violence, and many other groups. Our work has tackled oppressions based on race, gender identity and expression, sexual assault, sexual orientation, body image, educational and economic inequities, bullying and harassment, and police profiling and brutality.
At TFP we believe in the power of questions. We know that in Forum Theatre a play is never just a play, but a question—a political question that seeks emancipatory solutions. Our work has focused on using the aesthetic elements of theatre to bring attention to necessary discussions that are often marginalized and excluded from traditional discourses and mainstream spaces. Theatre is a mirror of society, but in Theatre of the Oppressed we can enter that mirror so that we can transform society. We don’t just pose questions; we can begin to provide potential answers.
Early on in our journey we worked with a group of queer youth at New York City’s LGBT Community Center. While we found a vibrant environment at the Center where youth celebrated their identities and expressed themselves freely, many were reluctant to address the oppressions they were facing on a daily basis because of their queer identities. Forum Theatre gave these young people an opportunity to reflect more deeply about the challenges they experienced and, rather than remain inactive, act upon those challenges. Our space became a rehearsal for the changes they wanted in the real world. No longer was talking about queer oppression antithetical to pride; it was a necessary step in the fight for liberation.
If you are interested in Theatre of the Oppressed or in our work in New York City, we invite you to reach out, connect with us, or attend one of the many trainings and performances we offer throughout the year.
Alexander Santiago-Jirau is a theatre artist, advocate and educator with extensive experience in popular education and theatre for social justice. Alex is the Artistic Director and Co-founder of The Forum Project in New York City—a nonprofit organization working through critical pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed. He is also Adjunct Professor in the Program in Educational Theatre at New York University where he teaches graduate courses in Theatre of the Opppressed.
The Forum Project | Facebook.con/TheForumProject