Rehearsing Boal

Fisher, Tony (2012) Rehearsing Boal. In: Theater und Subjektkonstitution: Theatrale Praktiken zwischen Affirmation und Subversion. Theater (33). Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, pp. 627-642. ISBN 9783837618099


The following paper takes the form of a staged dialogue between two characters who meet on a country road. We chose the dialogical form for a number of reasons. The first is that the theatrical form which is the subject of our piece forefronts the technique and art of argument - and so, here two characters engage in an extended argument over the meaning and possibility of political theatre, following the death of Augusto Boal in 2009. Second, the literary conceit of a written dialogue has a long history within discourses of theatre, philosophy and politics - going back to Plato, but one also finds it in Diderot and in Brecht's 'Messingkauf' dialogues. It may appear that there is a certain irony to our approach, which uses a staged dialogic form to talk about a mode of theatre that is essentially improvised with and audience who are incorporated as its participants. However, our aim is to engage the reader through a deliberately polemical technique: to engage Boal, not as most of the literature on 'Theatre of the Oppressed' does, by reporting on practice, but through an imagined discussion with philosophical interlocutors. Thus, we connect Boal with a broader question (and tradition) of political theatre and its current meaning. A third reason is that we wanted to retain a certain fidelity to the way this thinking originated, which as a co-authored piece, presented performatively at conferences, also derives from many hours of discussion. Fourth, and finally, we wanted to invite reflection on the paradox of theatre itself, which 'stages' dialogue, at the same time as making it impossible. Here we wanted our dialogue to function a little like Benjamin's automaton chess player, who "respond[s] to every move [...] with a countermove [to] ensure the winning of the game."


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