The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB)


The Politics of the Theater of the Oppressed

a one-day workshop

facilitated by Marie-Claire Picher

Saturday, October 15, 2011 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

"We must emphasize: What Brecht does not want is that the spectators
continue to leave their brains with their hats upon entering the
theater, as do bourgeois spectators." –Augusto Boal

This workshop is an outgrowth of a collaboration and some recent
conversations that took place between Julian Boal, TOPLAB facilitator
Marie-Claire Picher and other members of TOPLAB. When it first
originated in Brazil in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Theater of the
Oppressed (TO) was a political and theatrical project that sought to
work with oppressed people and communities toward their own self
emancipation and to change society and abolish the class structure
that is the underpinning of capitalism. Today, a good amount of the
radical political thrust and focus that motivated and informed TO as
it was originally conceived and formulated is lost in much of its
current practice. This workshop will attempt to return to the
political, pedagogical and theatrical roots that are central to the
theory and praxis of Theater of the Oppressed. With the surging
popularity of "reality TV" and "interactive art" produced by corporate
edict, the accelerated commodification of culture and its ongoing
recuperation by capital, once-genuine participation in daily social
life has too often become nothing more than a fashionable,
radically-chic presentation (and consumption) of culture; in the case
of TO, such presentation compromises the radical sensibility that is
at its core and turns it into a poorly-disguised form of interactive

Marie-Claire Picher is a co-founder (1989) of the Theater of the
Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB) and has worked and collaborated closely
with Augusto Boal until his death in 2009. One of the most experienced
TO practitioners in North America, she has presented thousands of
hours of TO facilitation training in New York and throughout the
United States, as well as in Chiapas, Tabasco, Mexico City, Guatemala
and Cuba.

Tuition–sliding scale: $50/$60/$75

Register online at


Other Upcoming TOPLAB Events:

Saturday, September 24, 2011 10:00 am to 4:00 pm:
Introduction to the Theater of the Oppressed: A Mini-Workshop
facilitated by Marie-Claire Picher
more info at

Sunday, September 25 at 5:00 pm
Dead Birds or Avian Blues;  a book party, reading and performance
with featuring Howard Pflanzer, El Tahra Ibrahim and Robert Roth
more info at

Sunday, November 6 from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Heal the Healer: A Holistic Workshop
facilitated by Kira Laura Ferrand
more info at

Saturday, November 19 and Sunday, November 20
    from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm both days
Forum Theater: A Two-day Workshop
facilitated by Marie-Claire Picher
more info at

Saturday, December 10 and Sunday, December 11
    from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm both days
Image Theater: A Two-day Workshop
facilitated by Marie-Claire Picher
more info at


"The Marxist poetics of Bertolt Brecht does not stand opposed to one
or another formal aspect of the Hegelian idealist poetics but rather
denies its very essence, asserting that the character *is not absolute
subject* but the object of economic or social forces to which he
responds and in virtue of which he acts…

"In Brecht's objection [to idealist poetics], as well as in any other
Marxist objection, what is at stake is who, or which term, precedes
the other: the subjective or the objective. For idealist poetics,
social thought conditions social being; for Marxist poetics, social
being conditions social thought. In Hegel's view, the spirit creates
the dramatic action; for Brecht, the character's social relations
create the dramatic action….

"Brecht was a Marxist; therefore, for him, a theatrical work cannot
end in repose, in equilibrium. It must, on the contrary, show the ways
in which society loses its equilibrium, which way society is moving,
and how to hasten that transition.

"Brecht contends that the popular artist must abandon the downtown
stages and go to the neighborhoods, because only there will he find
people who are truly interested in changing society: in the
neighborhoods he should show his images of social life to the workers
who are interested in changing that social life, since they are its
victims. A theater that attempts to change the changers of society
cannot lead to repose, cannot re-establish equilibrium. The bourgeois
police tries to re-establish equilibrium, to enforce repose: a Marxist
artist, on the other hand, must promote the movement toward national
liberation and toward the liberation of classes oppressed by
capital…[Hegel and Aristotle] desire a quiet somnolence at the end
of the spectacle; Brecht wants the theatrical spectacle to be the
beginning of action: the equilibrium should be sought by transforming
society, and not by purging the individual of his just demands and

"I believe that all the truly revolutionary theatrical groups should
transfer to the people the means of production in the theater so that
the people themselves may utilize them. The theater is a weapon, and
it is the people who should wield it." –Augusto Boal, The Theater of
the Oppressed