What is Interactive Theater?
Interactive theater disrupts the traditional divide between actors and audience, both physically and verbally. Theater of the Oppressed (T.O.), a type of interactive theater, was developed by Brazilian theatre practitioner and activist Augusto Boal and was greatly influenced by educator and philosopher Paulo Freire. T.O. uses theater as a vehicle for promoting social and institutional change; the audience becomes activated “spect-actors” and engages in collaborative dialogue, reflection and problem-solving to transform their realities.
In 2006 I created the Interactive Theater Group Research Project when working as an Program Coordinator of the ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Program at the University of Puerto Rico-Humacao. This Research Project included methodologies of theater and pedagogy to promote a guide for affirmative action for the recruitment of women faculty in science and engineering. It consisted in a group of scholars and professionals that included performance techniques employed by The CRLT Players Theatre Program from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor that projected the working experiences of Puerto Rican women faculty in science. After listening to different stories told by female faculty, the performances represented those experiences through dialogue with the performers and then having an interaction with the audience to identify the problem and how to solve it. Those performances were presented in various UPR campuses with the goal to spread the principles of ADVANCE, to generate discussion to improve academic climate for the advancement of women in science.
This Research Project resulted in a major theatrical piece called Emmy Noether: El Poema de las Ideas Lógicas (The poem of the Logical Ideas) in which the experiences of Noether, a mathematician from the early 20th century, reflected the realities many scientist women continue experiencing at the present time. The successful results of this theater play were presented in the United States and at the 2008 Women’s Worlds Global Feminist Conference in Spain.
Interactive theater techniques help to put into practice my pedagogy values relevant to promote social justice practices through education. The main objectives of practicing theater exercises in the classroom is to use them as ice-breakers to interact with each other and introduce themselves; to experience the classroom as a space of presence and respect; to engage their bodies and emotions as a learning process; and to inform future ideas for their final project that included creative ways to think about activism, social and political change. These techniques complement the course written materials.
I continue to develop my academic skills through the UW Interactive Theater as Pedagogy Project (ITPP), a project that builds skills in social change theater to spark dialogue on issues of institutional oppression and privilege.
2007 Summer Institute of Interactive Theater, Univeristy of Michigan – Ann Arbor
2014 Interactive Theater Summer Institute Illumination Project Portland Community College
2012-Present, Participant of the Interactive Theater as Pedagogy Project, University of Washington