Developed in the 1970s by Brazilian theatre director Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) is a practice in which participants analyze systems of oppression, share stories of oppression from their own lives, and rehearse strategies to overcome these systems and make positive change in the world. Boal’s approach is across the globe in a variety of fields and contexts, including politics, therapy, conflict resolution, and education.
In August 2017, a group of educators, artists, and change-makers met to discuss how TO might be used to make positive change in the Pittsburgh community. Since then, TOPittsburgh has held monthly, free, public workshops to share the form and offer space to adapt and practice these tools in participants’ professional and personal lives. TOPittsburgh is not a non-profit organization fiscal sponsorship from the Union Project.
As a primarily volunteer-run collective, TOPittsburgh currently operates according to the interests of the members engaged in the organization’s workshops and events. Liz Foster-Shaner serves in practice as the Executive and Artistic Director, surveying member interests and availability, communicating with members and potential and current partners, and coordinating logistics such as space, schedule, and development. TOPittsburgh has a large community who have engaged in workshops and expressed interest in participating in the future, as well as a diverse community of past and current collaborators who helped to develop and facilitate workshops. The organization currently has three main pillars of engagement with the community: free, public workshops (~10/year); collaborations with community organizations; and, workshops with students, educators, and education organizations.
TOPittsburgh is committed to creating interactive and innovative learning opportunities for participants of all ages and backgrounds. Together, participants use theatre to unpack systems of oppression and envision and rehearse strategies to create real, positive change in communities.
For more information about TO, see https://ptoweb.org/aboutpto/a-brief-biography-of-augusto-boal/or http://www.mandalaforchange.com/site/applied-theatre/theatre-of-the-oppressed/.