The Tree of Theatre of the Oppressedi

For Augusto Boal, the tree had become the most suitable metaphor for representing the Theatre of the Oppressed: a whole composed of interrelated parts, which have the same principles and seek the same outcome.

Permanence and transformation harmonise and complement each other in the tree. In order to grow towards the outside, it needs strong roots deep down in the soil. The deeper the roots in the ground, the greater the possibilities to advance in the external space. The tree is in constant dialogue with its environment in order to live. It expands below, it stretches up, it extends along the sides and it widens in all directions.

Just like the tree, the Theatre of the Oppressed is also in constant movement, deepening as well as spreading. Its Roots, the founding principles, create identity and guarantee permanence. The soil surrounding the Tree is fertilised with History, understood as the knowledge accumulated by humanity. Philosophy is the incessant search for understanding the meaning of existence and living togetherness. Politics is the science of life in society and Participation is the fundamental necessity of citizen action. The founding principles (Ethics and Solidarity) define its incompatibility with injustice, economic exploitation, colonialism and imperialism, as well as any form of prejudice and discrimination. A reference for the struggle against oppression.

The diverse branches of the Tree represent the different techniques developed throughout the Method’s history as a response to specific demands of objective work: Newspaper Theatre, Rainbow of Desire, Legislative Theatre and Invisible Theatre. The techniques considered as underpinning the rest – Image and Forum Theatre – are in the trunk. Together with the arsenal of exercises and games, they are the starting point of all TO work. At the treetop, the broadest branch is where all the techniques need to converge. It is the gateway towards society: concrete and continuous social actions.

The Aesthetics of the Oppressed – the last stage of the work done by Augusto Boal himself – appears as the essence of the Method’s development. Being the essence, aesthetics bring nourishment to the whole tree.

It is critical to note that the representation of the Theatre of the Oppressed Tree includes the external environment. Transformation appears there as a goal – accompanied by the bird, which is a metaphor for the Kuringa -– and is the result of the bird’s activism, through organisation and multiplication. In the Theatre of the Oppressed Tree, articulation among politics, participation, multiplication and organisation through ethical bonds of solidarity makes the desired transformation possible.

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