Augusto Boal’s Invisible Theater

This is a repost of a blog entry I made fro Provisions Library on July 13, 2011:


Cohen's "Radical Street Performance"

Radical Street Performance, an anthology of essays edited by Jan Cohen-Cruz, is part of Provisions Library’s collection. The essays focus on street performances that engaged audiences with issues as diverse as abortion, colonialism, the environment, and homophobia. One of the essays focuses on Augusto Boal’s invisible theater performance.

Boal was a theater director, writer and a politician from Brazil. He founded Theatre of the Oppressed; a theatrical form originally used in radical popular education movements. In the 1970’s, while exiled in Argentina, Boal developed invisible theater to stimulate debate on political issues through theater because of the restrictions put in place by the dictatorship in Argentina.

An invisible theater shifts the spectators from an observer to a participator. The performance can take place anywhere beside a theater. Boal writes:

“It can take place in a restaurant, a sidewalk, a market, a train, a line of people, etc. The people who witness the scene are those who are there by chance. During the spectacle, these people must not have the slightest idea that it is a ‘spectacle,’ for this would make them ‘spectators.’’

Augusto Boal

The actors in such a performance must prepare a detailed skit with a complete text or a simple script. Rehearsing the scene is critical so that the actors are able to improvise and incorporate anything the spectators may add during the performance.

Invisible theater is different from ‘guerrilla theater’, where the spectator is simply an observer. In an invisible theater performance the divide between the actors and the spectators is erased and traditional theatrical rituals are abolished.  “Only the theater exists, without its old, worn-out patterns. The theatrical energy is completely liberated, and the impact produced by this free theater is much more powerful and longer lasting.”

This essay is a chapter title ‘Invisible Theater’ from Boal’s book Theater of the Oppressed. The Radical Street Performance anthology has more than thirty essays and excerpts that explore the street performances across the world from the perspective of scholars, activists, performers, directors, critics, and journalist.


About John Costa

I am a farmer in training with a background in finance, organizational sustainability, and project management. My expertise is making the business case for local food enterprises.
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