Erasmus students’ voices in Forum Theatre

A very special event took place on Tuesday evening, January 23rd 2018 in student club on the Opole University campus. The Erasmus students presented the result of their intercultural project – the short video gathering their experiences and the Forum Theatre performance.

Forum Theatre („Theatre of the Oppressed”), created by Augusto Boal, shows oppressive situations and makes spectators reflect on their own influence related to changing the situation. In such a performance, first, the actors and actresses present the situation with the participation of a person who experiences violence, the oppressor and witnesses. Then, the play is repeated but this time the spectators can intervene in any moment to stop the oppression, support the victim and change his or her situation.

In case of our students, preparation for the performance started during the classes devoted to intercultural project. The students shared their experiences and the lecturer, dr M. Pogorzelska, suggested transforming them into the play. Next, students chose the events for their play (discriminatory treatment of a Turkish student at a Polish airport, violent incidents in a music club involving the girl with a headscarf and Turkish students) and during hours of rehearsals built real characters and powerful scenes.

The performance resonated with the audience that packed the club right from the start. When the crew started to play for the second time, the number and variety of the audience interventions were amazing. During the event it became clear to all of the participants that even in an oppressive situation they have the choice how to behave and the play gave them the chance to test their power in safe (theatrical conditions). Let’s hope this experience will stay with them in a real life! After the performance, the spectators shared their opinions: they were deeply impressed by the content and the form of the event and they spoke how important it is to organize such activities on regular basis to make people realize the discrimination the foreigners face in Poland and to test our own influence on the course of events. Foreign students emphasized that the presented scenes, real as they were, did not show the complexity of their Polish experience, full of positive events as well.
Our actors shared their experiences in a following way:
This experience was really good for both us and the audience because we had been constantly practicing until the last moment, seeing our mistakes and gaining more experience. We also wanted people who can face such problems to have knowledge in the future. We can not always meet good situations, so we should know how to deal with the bad ones. Actually, it was our goal. What would be the reaction we can give to the negative situations that occur, how can we change it? In short, it was priceless for us to reflect on the events we have experienced, in a real theater. Ferhat Sari

This project gave me an incredible good feeling of contribution. I felt that even with small steps, I am doing something for a better world, for more tolerance and less discrimination. It was a very beautiful and powerful experience for me Elena Tonu

This project reminded us how we can change our roles in an active way in the daily life. I want to share a cue from a film which inspire me about this project: ‘We believe that art can change people’s hearts. Give them strength… Art can make people feel alive.’ I am grateful for the people who believe in the change! Gulcan Sert

Other students’ voices:
Through this theatre I understood that little by little we can change the way that people think and make them be more open-minded. Also this theatre gave me the opportunity to be more creative and understand better other cultures. Eli Tsiouri

People always talk about good experiences while staying abroad but you have shown that the opposite part is also important. In some of the situations I could see myself and it was the first time I saw the Theatre of Opressed. I would be really excited to use it with my students in future as a way of ruining stereotypes imposed by the society, lessening the gap between different social classes and fostering peace and equality between my students regardless their nationality, gender or religious believes. Thank you for this amazing experience and hope there will be more events like this in future Nataliia Zalizniak