In the Theatre of the Oppressed

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, or risk that you have taken and its impact on you.

I was an antagonist. But please do not get me wrong. It was only in our role play. Actually I never imagined myself acting on a stage. This may be the most challenging experience I have ever faced, and I am delighted that I attained a deep insight of what it is like overcoming a challenge. Acting on the stage may seem a trivial matter to outgoing people but this is not true for an introverted person like me. So I was in a dilemma over whether to attend this Theatre of the Oppressed class in which we would have to give a performance. While I was really curious about the course description “Students will be able to apply the solutions from this class in their daily lives”, I felt intimidated to act out in front of many people at the same time. After a week of to and fro contemplation, my curiosity to test myself and learn more about myself made me enroll for the class. We were peeking out the back door of the auditorium to the stage where David, our class teacher, was introducing our role-play. A few minutes later, we heard a loud clap from the audience to begin our performance. As I was going to the stage, I prepared myself to be calm and realistic when I played my character. I was feeling excited and nervous as well because I could not anticipate exactly how I would act. It was not because I forgot my lines but because of the unique aspect of Theatre of the Oppressed: interactivity with the audience. The audience are not merely spectators, but “spect-actors” who have personal experience with the oppression the actors present. A spect-actor will join the role-play, take the place of the protagonist and experiment his or her solution to end the oppression by way of trial and error. Among many solutions they create, spect-actors will decide on the best solution that is likely to work in the real world. Begin! The scene was at the library. Valerie (That’s me!), a library staff member, was busy registering new books. John, a library patron, came and asked for her help to find a book. But Valerie had him wait and continued her work. A few minutes later, Yuna, a student, rushed to the library and asked Valerie to help her find a book for her class. At once, Valerie stopped working and helped Yuna till she found the book. John became annoyed at the way Valerie treated him unfairly. When he asked for her help again, Valerie told him to come back half an hour later because she had to go to a meeting. John got furious and left the library. The End! David, the Joker, which is the term for the facilitator of Theatre of the Oppressed, began the conversation with the audience (the spect- actors). The Joker asked the spect-actors to identify what conflict had happened in the role-play. After a bit of the conversation, we repeated the role-play so that they could observe the oppression again. In the subsequent renditions, many spect-actors came up to the stage and tried their different solutions. After seven renditions, spect-actors finally agreed on a solution, which they thought would solve the oppression in the real situation outside. Our performance ended successfully. I am both surprised and delighted that I learned many new ideas from venturing into a whole new world which I had never been before. Watching movies had been just an after-homework entertainment for me before. Now I become to see the subtle work of actors behind the screen: how they must have observed their characters, how they must have developed their characters, how they must have put effort to ‘be’ their characters. Now I begin to think that being an actor is an amazing job which can make me realize more deeply about human nature and human characters. Now I feel like I have become more open-minded and more curious to learn about the new things I have never tried before, about our society and about the world I live in. I am also very happy for being able to overcome my stage fright. I used to be very comfortable and shy when I tried to raise my hand and ask a question in class. Sometimes I even thought that I would probably never overcome my stage fright. Now coming out of my comfort zone, I feel like I have more courage and confidence to ask questions in classes, to step onto the stage and to proceed with my life whatever comes on my way. Thus I am wondering that I would lose such a great experience for my life if I did not decide to attend this class. Now I can genuinely understand that trying a new challenge can be an amazing experience. It is risky, yes. It can turn out to be a failure or a misfortune. But this thought does not scare me anymore. I am now scared to lose a terrific opportunity to see myself, to evaluate myself and to improve myself if I do not dare to take up challenges and risks. In the next four years, I can’t wait to venture into a new world (the college!) to meet new challenges, new people and new opportunities that will be memorable for the rest of my life.

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