Social Context / ASCESE / micro and macroi

Thanks to the social relationships we enter into throughout our lives, we understand the world through a given perspective. We construct beliefs and disbeliefs; we collect, deepen or overcome prejudice. Our way of appreciating, ignoring or rejecting things, persons, foods, animals and all the rest is profoundly influenced by the social experiences we accumulate. Each of us learns to be ME through multiple experiences of being US. This diverse collection of direct and indirect, past and present experiences, including future possibilities, make up the Social Context.

In Theatre of the Oppressed, the story’s transformation into staged theatre aims at seeking alternatives to overcome the real problem. This means to show what cannot be identified on the surface of the problem, to uncover the reasons that explain it. It is essential to elevate the conflict in relation to the social context to understand both what provokes, determines and maintains it, and the factors that hinder or prevent overcoming it.

A good Theatre of the Oppressed play needs more than a good story of oppression. It must create the conditions for traversing from the specific case toward the social context which introduces and explains that concrete fact. We have to critically telescoping the study from the micro – the concrete case – to the macro, the social context. This is defined as ASCESE process: making visible the macrostructure, which is frequently masked, covered and hidden in the microcosm of everyday life. ASCESE is the ascension from the micro toward the macro; or at least a gradual expansion of the observation area surrounding the micro.

A Forum Theatre session is not conducted merely to analyse Maria’s problem in her relationship with Juan. It is not about focusing the analysis and discussion on the specific case of this man and woman. The question is to understand the social implications which influence and determine relationships between men and women, to reveal that the male and female representations are socially constructed and propagated.

Are there socially-sanctioned advantages (offered to Juan because he is a man) and obligations (required of Maria because she is a woman) at the root of this concrete relationship? Can this personal story help other men and other women understand the structures which influence gender relations?

ASCESE allows the staging of the specific facts between Maria and Juan to be a pretext to analyse the gender relations of the couple at hand, known, encouraged and affirmed by society. In an effective Forum Theatre session, Maria and Juan’s story would help the audience advance in understanding the patriarchy and its social complications.

i SANTOS, Bárbara. Theatre of the Oppressed ROOTS & WINGS a theory of praxis. Los Angeles – USA, KURINGA in conjunction with UCLA Art & Global Health Center and UCLA Prison Education Program, 2019