The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB) presents:

Debt Oppression: How Owing Money Harms People, Communities and Society:
A One-day Image Theater/Cop-in-the-Head Workshop facilitated by Marie-Claire Picher

Saturday, March 9, 2013 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

at The Brecht Forum
451 West Street (West Side Highway at Bank Street, one block north of West Eleventh Street)
New York City

Whether it is consumer debt, mortgage financing, student loans, bank borrowing or tax delinquency, more and more people have become more and more indebted, with seemingly no way to extricate themselves from a situation that has become increasingly grimmer and unbearable. The burden of debt takes a toll on individuals, their families and their communities. Acute psychological problems from depression to low self-esteem to unbridled anger; physical ailments from digestive disorders to hypertension to chronic fatigue; family dysfunction, violence, abuse and breakups; and even suicide are directly linked to owing money. People have fallen into a position of debt servitude; they are, in essence, prisoners of banks, lending agencies and other financial institutions, and are further victimized by collection agencies and avaricious lawyers, and no matter how hard they try to get out of debt, too many people simply go deeper and deeper into it. The debt situation in the United States today is a textbook example of the 1% versus the 99%.

This one-day workshop is aimed at political, community and labor organizers who work with low- and moderate-income people who are mired in debt; therapists and social workers who deal with individuals who have debt-related medical or psychological issues; educators who see first-hand the impact parents' debt has on children; and people—including debtors—who are concerned with one of the most urgent social and economic issues at play today.

This workshop will use exercises, games and scene-building techniques drawn from Image Theater, which are part of the repertory of Theater of the Oppressed, created by the late Brazilian director and cultural activist Augusto Boal (1931-2009). The technique focus will be Cop-in-the-Head.

Drawing on the theories of popular education developed by his friend and colleague, Paulo Freire, Boal appropriated theater games and exercises for use as organizing tools by communities in  struggle. These tools are designed to develop individual skills of observation and self-reflection, and cooperative group interactions. In Image Theater, leadership- and consensus-building games and improvised scene work are used to explore relations of power and group solutions to concrete problems of oppression through "living body imagery". Discussions begin to take place through the language of images, offering a fresh approach to power analysis and new opportunities for the exchange of ideas.

The Cop-in-the-Head technique is designed to help participants recognize and confront internalized forms of oppression.

This image and movement-based approach to power analysis is especially useful for teachers and educators who work with disadvantaged populations, social workers, psychologists and mental health professionals, and community activists and organizers who are involved with marginalized constituencies and constituencies which have traditionally been the victims of bias and discrimination.

This workshop is open to all and no prior theater experience is necessary to participate. Pre- registration is strongly encouraged. Please write to to let us know that you will be attending.

Tuition–sliding scale: $45-$95

Register online at