I was recently involved in the process of creating a devised show with a group of 16 actors. In putting together a devised show, there are a lot of different methods that can be used. Our director and devising captain chose to use an approach that mirrored Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed:
“Theatre of the Oppressed is the Game of Dialogue: we play and learn together. All kinds of Games must have Discipline – clear rules that we must follow. At the same time, Games have absolute need of creativity and Freedom. [Theatre of the Oppressed] is the perfect synthesis between the antithetic Discipline and Freedom. Without Discipline, there is no Social Life; without Freedom, there is no Life.
The Discipline of our Game is our belief that we that we must re-establish the right of everyone to exist in dignity. We believe that all of us are more, and much better, than what we think we are. We believe in solidarity.
Our Freedom is to invent ways to help to humanize Humanity, freely invading all fields of human activities: social, pedagogical, political, artistic… Theatre is a Language and so it can be used to speak about all human concerns, not to be limited to theatre itself” (Boal).
I feel like the ice skating scene in Beloved kind of reflects these tenets of Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. The women are ice skating and having fun. They are experiencing the freedom that Boal mentions, a freedom that is often practiced in many rehearsal rooms for various theatrical or dance performances. For example, when working on The Other F Word, the cast would do an exercise: in groups of 3, they would come up with stereotypes that described their characters in the script — one night they were asked to use a name that they had been called once that they detested. The would then come up with a pose that they felt visually represented the name they were asked to use.
Photo Credit: Tiffany Meadows, Savannah Markham — The Other F Word
The point of this exercise is to create something beautiful out of something that people feel is negative, and to have the freedom to experiment and create without judgement. Brief as it may have been, I feel like the ice skating scene in Beloved really affords those women a lot of freedom and room to create.