Theatre of the Oppressed

Theatre of the Oppressed

The Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) is a participatory theater that fosters democratic and cooperative forms of interaction among participants. TO invites people to become “spect-actors,” capable of taking action and using theater as a rehearsal space for social transformation.  Our workshops employ a variety of processes based on Theatre of the Oppressed, developed by world-renowned theatre-maker, activist, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Augusto Boal, to define issues, clarify objectives, build skills, and rehearse practical action.

Boal believed that “we are all theatre” because, as human beings, we can all act, watch ourselves acting, and based on what we see, change what we do. Changes in our actions can, in turn, change the world around us. Theatre of the Oppressed provides a process for testing actions which can transform the groups, communities, and social systems in which we work and live. It is a rehearsal for change.

Constructive dialogue provides the route to discovery, but words alone limit the scope of discussion and short-circuit the experiences needed to test the impact and practicality of actions. Applied Theatre uses whole-body/whole-mind activities to assist groups to clearly identify problems and actively rehearse solutions. The workshops release potential in individuals while building group cohesion and promoting positive change. Initiating more than just a dialogue, the process frees the thinking of participants and awakens their abilities to move toward agreed upon goals.

Game playing is one of the core activities of TO. An extensive arsenal of well-crafted and expertly facilitated games allows participants to stretch the limits of their imaginations, demechanize habitual behaviors, develop new responses, and analyze societal structures of power and oppression. Game playing is useful, fun, and builds community!

Image Theatre allows participants to explore situations they would like to change and see what positive transformation looks and feels like by sculpting their own and others’ bodies into images of problems and transformation. Images are “dynamized” with words and actions to develop processes for making transformative change.

Forum Theatre performances present short plays which show an oppressive situation that needs to be changed. Audience members are invited to replace an actor on stage, try to combat (or find allies to help them combat) the system that supports the oppression, and alter the situation. Other actors respond in character, trying to maintain their oppressive or exploitative Interactions are facilitated (Boal liked to call it “difficilitated”) by a Joker – a “wild card” who invites complex questioning about the problem and proposed solutions. In this way Forum Theatre provides a means for testing solutions in action.

The spect-actors make and evaluate all choices. As the exploration progresses, it sheds light on the variables that inhibit solutions to reveal the mechanisms of oppression. Forum Theatre uses the artistic perspective and the structural approach of theatre but it becomes a space for discussion and rehearsal of transformative action in the world, rooted in the spect-actors’ collective analysis of shared problems from their multiple social and cultural identities. Forum Theatre has been an important instrument in the fight against oppression and the mobilization of social resistance around the world.

Rainbow of Desire exercises use Image and Forum Theatre to explore oppression that has become internalized as a result of external, social, and systemic pressures. Participants develop an understanding of self-oppression and empathy for themselves and others on the path to self-actualization.

For booking or additional information, please contact
the Center for Applied Theatre.

Kathleen Ramona Rice Reddy

is a teacher and student of history and culture. Her concern is for increasing knowledge and understanding so that we will have justice for all.

Elementary and high school on the south side of Chicago where she was a National Merit Scholar. The area was and remains a largely African American part of the city due to redlining and racial segregation.
BA Michigan State University and University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. Major in Early Childhood education, minor in social studies.
M.Ed. University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign.

Workshops on understanding unconscious and internalized racism and the history of racism in the US.

Teaching positions in Decatur and Urbana, Illinois, and Cedarburg, Grafton, and Shorewood, Wisconsin.
University of Chicago Lab School – Nursery through 2nd grade.

Kathleen has co-lead workshops and discussions about racism and how to heal our nation.



Co-founder (with Geo Britto) and pedagogical coordinator of Escola de Teatro Popular (ETP; The School of Popular Theatre, in Rio de Janeiro)

JULIAN BOAL is a teacher, researcher, and practitioner of Theatre of the Oppressed. He has facilitated workshops in more than 25 countries and has collaborated on several international festivals of Theatre of the Oppressed: in India with Jana Sanskriti, in Spain with Pa’tothom, in Portugal with Óprima, in Croatia with the Istrian National Theater, in France with GTO-Paris, and in Brazil with CTO-Rio. Some other groups and movements with whom he has worked closely include MST (the Landless Workers Movement) and MSTB (the Roofless Movement of Bahia) in Brazil and La Dignidad In Argentina. In Paris, he was a founding member of the Ambaata collective, which worked alongside migrant workers, and he also worked with GTO-Paris and Féminisme Enjeux. He participated in the design and realization of the exhibition on Augusto Boal at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brazil in 2015 and curated part of the Utopia International festival, held in Maricá, Brazil, in 2016. He collaborated with Sergio de Carvalho as assistant playwright for two recent plays of Companhia do Latão (São Paulo): Those Who Stay (2015) and The Bread and The Stone (2016). He holds a Master’s degree in History from the Sorbonne (Paris IV) and a Ph.D. from the School of Social Work at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. Boal is the author of Images of a Popular Theatre (Hucitec, 2000) and co-editor of the DVD & essay booklet Theatre of the Oppressed in Actions (with Kelly Howe and Scot McElvany, Routledge, 2015) and The Routledge Companion to Theatre of the Oppressed (with Kelly Howe and José Soeiro, Routledge, 2019). He is co-founder (with Geo Britto) and pedagogical coordinator of Escola de Teatro Popular (ETP; The School of Popular Theatre, in Rio de Janeiro), a school run by social movements for social movements, where political unity is practiced at the grassroots level through the practice of theatre. He is also a member of the Instituto Augusto Boal in Rio.


S Leigh Thompson

Strategist, facilitator, and Consultant for Go Beyond Diversity

Originally from Omaha, Nebraska I moved to New York in 2005. A white and Native trans queer person with disability, I have spent my entire adult life working at the intersections of art and social justice and equity, utilizing Theatre of the Oppressed techniques and working with the queer and trans* movements. I work with organizations, businesses, community groups, faculty and students to strengthen understanding about power, privilege and oppression and to provide stronger tools to make positive change in the world.

In 2000, I started organizing in Omaha as the voter canvassing coordinator against the so-called Defense of Marriage Amendment. Ever since I have been dedicated to developing and supporting change-makers. I have worked for several non-profits including the ACLU, GLSEN, Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation and The Forum Project. I also have worked for large and small for-profit businesses in service, finance and retail industries. As a consultant, I’ve worked with many clients to understand the impacts of systemic power, to develop strong critical analysis to help develop tools for doing good work better. I bring experience training advocates and organizers across the country on non-profit management, legislative advocacy, campaign strategies and engagement and most commonly on positive and effective strategies for addressing power, privilege and oppression in their work.

I hold a BA in Theatre with an emphasis in Directing from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a individualized Master of Arts from Gallatin at New York University, focusing on utilizing creative participation for political and social change with course work in community studies, public policy, non-profit management and campaign strategies. I have studied Theatre of the Oppressed techniques and other creative pedagogy techniques since the late nineties, working with facilitators from around the world, and have trained with TO’s founder Augusto Boal multiple occasions. I was also a Out in Front Leadership Fellow with Stonewall Community Foundation in 2011. I am proud to have served as a Board Member and Board President of Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed from 2011 to 2018.