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Theatre for change

Marc Weinblatt uses art to fight for justice

PHOTO: BHAGYA PRAKASH K.

FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS Marc Weinblatt

Something intriguing happened between 1993 and 1997 in Brazil. Augusto Boal, Rio de Janeiro's then city councillor, managed to get 13 landmark legislations passed. He achieved this by using an empowering tool that neither forced the people into submission nor influenced their decisions; a tool that would inspire thousands across the world over the years: the Theatre of the Oppressed (T.O.). Boal used this theatre form to resolve the issues of Brazil's peasant and working class. Boal died two years ago in 2009, but the legacy of T.O. continues with the same vigour.

Touring South India

UK-based theatre practitioner Marc Weinblatt personally trained under Boal . Today, Marc travels extensively throughout the world to educate students and other theatre enthusiasts on this revolutionary form of theatre. He is at present touring South India to conduct workshops in schools and colleges. “A homeless youth once told me that he had learned more about himself in my workshop than the counselling sessions he attended for a year. I have had countless such experiences.”

The theatre of the oppressed works as an arsenal, and it has many techniques. Forum Theatre is one of its most famous forms. It was even used by Jaya Iyer to help the victims of the Gujarat riots find succour.

“T.O. helps one to get more comfortable with the language of the body. Articulating the abstract is encouraged in this art form.” Marc is loathed to believe that one has to be talented to be involved in theatre. “T.O. seeks to take theatre out of the possession of the professionals into the hands of the common people. Anyone can do theatre, you don't need any special talent for it,” he says candidly. Marc didn't just wake up one day and decide to pursue this form of theatre. The calling came from within. “It's my life's work. I chose to work on T.O. out of my passion for play, activism and education.” Marc's theatre group “The poetic justice theatre ensemble” has, however, adapted T.O. into a different model, known as “playback theatre”, which combines T.O. with theatre for simple entertainment.

“A terrorist isn't born bad, adverse circumstances leads him to commit unspeakable crimes. Through T.O., we can help him or her to find solutions to his psychological conflicts,” says Marc, who has “promises to keep and miles to go before he sleeps.”

SRAVASTI DATTA

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