On Tuesday, October 26, the grade 10 Performing Arts students performed pieces of Forum Theater for the sixth graders. It tested their listening, improvisational and collaborative skills. It was also the first time they had performed in front of a live audience in many years. However, they rose to the challenge admirably.
Forum Theater is a political form of theatre that aims to help people envision different ways of living and interacting. It was created by the Brazilian theatre maker Augusto Boal and uses actors as catalysts for change. The performers are not expected to have the solutions to the issues the audience face, but through telling the stories they have heard from their audience, and their improvisational skills, they can act out various real-life scenarios, allowing the audience to explore or rehearse solutions to use in real life.
The project began earlier in the semester when the grade 10s interviewed the grade 6 students about the challenges they were facing as they began Secondary School at DIS. Based on the interviews, the grade 10 students developed four short plays depicting some of the challenges that were expressed. During the actual performance, the grade 10 students had to perform the play once as they had planned it, and then again several times using suggestions from the grade 6 students as to how their characters might make different decisions or act differently within the scenarios depicted.
In addition to cultivating compassion for the younger students and empathy for the problems they face, the project also built on the improvisational skills learned last year in the grade 9 Theater Games Unit. However, this time, instead of just trying to make the audience laugh, the older students’ aim was to help their young peers find solutions to the issues they are facing in grade 6.