Debates and Forum theatre in Dushanbe
Recently Dushanbe Art Ground cultural centre has hosted training: “Synergy of debates and forum theatre”. Officially, the aim of the event is to give young people an opportunity to cooperate and to creatively express their thoughts and ideas, learn how to structure speech and bring reasonable argumentation, acquire the skill of theatre performance in the format of the forum theatre for making dialog with the audience and discuss important issues.
Here we need to clarify the terms. The first term is the debates. Debates is a quite popular movement that mostly involve young people that gather and formally discus different issues with set rules, timing and specially trained judges that make the decision on the debates winner. Debates promote critical thinking, self education and development, intellect, better one’s public speaking skills and satisfy the ambitions of young people talking smart things in front of the other young people. The debate community is quite spread all over the world and becoming more and more stronger in Central Asia and Tajikistan is not an exception.
Forum theatre (or Theatre of Oppressed) is a method created by Brazilian theatre director, writer and politician Augusto Boal, teaching people how to change the world around them by addressing different social issues in a performance form.
Forum theatre is a theatre for non-professionals (young people, minorities, oppressed social categories) trying to solve different social issues by picturing them through theatre performance. The audience is actively involved in the performance as well. The audience may stop the performance, at any moment, if they think a character is oppressed in some way. The audience can suggest different actions for the actors to carry out on-stage as an attempt to change the result of what they were watching. Forum theatre is considered an effective method to address social issues through public discussion in local communities.
So the donors and the organizers of the training decided to join to methods of public discussion: more formal and I would say elite method of debates and less formal and “closer to people” as forum theatre. The training was conducted exclusively for debaters
A British specialist, trainer of International Debate Educational Association (IDEA) ,Talmud Baha, came to Dushanbe with the mission the share the knowledge on the forum theatre. As the trainer mentioned, he has developed the training module on the synergy of debates and forum theatre especially for Tajikistan and this kind of approach is an experiment.
The organizers and the donors of the events hope that the method will be used by local communities as a platform for the public discussion of their actual issues.
Personally I consider such a concept to be interesting and it has some potential for development in Tajikistan. It can help local communities to critically approach to what is going on the around them and inside their communities.