Theater of the Oppressed

Child Development staff from Wu Yee Children's Services and other San Francisco early childhood education organizations convened at the First 5 San Francisco offices to participate in week-long seminar to foster the development of bicultural and bilingual educators.  The workshop, Theater of the Oppressed, "is a collection of practices and exercises where participants rehearse with their bodies a solution for oppressive situations," said Ronald Rosario, co-facilitator of the workshop.  "It is a way to gain critical consciousness through reconstruction of their narratives," he said.  

Theater of the Oppressed is a series of theatrical analyses and critiques that use theater techniques, exercises, and games as a vehicle for transforming  communities and effecting social and political change. It is a method of harnessing theatrical forms to heal communities and stop cycles of oppression.  

The workshop is co-sponsored by Wu Yee Children's Services and First 5 San Francisco, and designed by the Center for Linguistic and Cultural Democracy.  Rosario, and his co-facilitator, Pedro Adorno, discussed with participants their external and internal barriers toward moving forward in their jobs and professional development.  Adorno addressed the need for emotional support in performing the important job of educator, saying, "we need to be listened to, only then can we listen to others.”  Theater of the Oppressed’s framework is used to address repressive/oppressive cycles and can help break destructive habits, that sometimes inadvertently are passed on to children. 

Participants asked and answered questions such as, who are we as teachers?  An anonymous participant said, "I like working with kids because I can be myself.  I know they will accept me for who I am."  Another participant spoke of the sacrifices she made to do her job, saying," I took a risk. I gave things up to be here."  These testaments are methods of asserting one's self and addressing hardships, fears, and barriers to moving forward in one's career.  Participants identified values such as inclusion, cultural sensitivity, and critical thinking as essential to bicultural and bilingual educators.  

Rosario and Adorno studied with Augusto Boal, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and creator of Theater of the Oppressed. Rosario, a philosopher and poet, and Adorno, a theater and film director make a perfect team as co-facilitators.  With Adorno cleverly coaxing the shyest participants out of their shells, and Rosario providing support, people spoke honestly, thought critically and  interacted enthusiastically.  Wu Yee Child Development staff will return to their centers next week inspired and motivated to put concepts such as creating an emotional response, upending the traditional power dynamic, and breaking destructive behavioral habits to good use in their work.