TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr. März 2010

Section VS 1 The multitude of Theatre of the Oppressed techniques: From Theory to Practice
Sektionsleiter | Section Chair:
Birgit Fritz (University of Vienna), Matthias Thonhauser (Art in Progress/Austria)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

English | Русский 

The Theatre of the Oppressed in Kyrgyzstan:
From political activism to social and educational spillovers

Jamilya I. Jeenbaeva


“The goal of the Theatre of the Oppressed
is not to create calm, equilibrium,
but rather to create disequilibrium
which prepares the way for action.
Its goal is to dynamise.
This dynamisation, with the action,
which results from it (set off by one sect-actor
in the name of all), destroys all the blocks
which prohibited the realisation of actions
such as this. That is, it purifies
the spect-actors, it produces a catharsis.
The catharsis of detrimental blocks!”

August Boal, “The Rainbow of Desire", page 72, Routledge, 1995


“The basic aim of the Theatre of the Oppressed
is to humanize Humanity.
The theatre of oppressed is a system of Exercises,
Games, and Techniques based on the Essential Theatre,
to help men and women to develop what they
already have inside themselves: theatre."

International Theatre of the Oppressed Organisation (ITO)
Declaration of principles


On the eve

We are on the eve of something important. We are witnessing a historical event, namely, the transfer of valuable knowledge and technology which is capable of helping the rapidly changing country of Kyrgyzstan to get the feeling of safety and trust, the feeling of the profound consciousness, self-confidence, the confidence in friends and colleagues, the belief in the idea that problems exist in order for creative solutions to be found, where all those involved are winners, and no one is on the loosing side.

I like the idea of the contrasting of positive "theatre" to the negative "oppressed" in the name of August Boal’s method. I like that " the Rainbow of desire " in Boal’s method is not just a myth, not a fairytale, but a real embodiment of human spirit in a productive process, in psychotherapeutic technique what people of a various origin can work with, various history and personal and collective dramas with shades of different colors. I like that Boal’s method is older than 40 years, that it has passed the test of time and has shown the results which give back to people their humanity. I like the fact that a theatre-person Boal could become the Member of Brazilian Parliament and, that he could unite organically both personal and social creativity.


Boal’s Method in Kyrgyzstan since 2005

The title of my essay implies that there is a certain movement from political activism to social and educational spillovers when the Boal method is used. I would like to talk about this movement today.

"Do you know what the Theatre of oppressed is? Have you heard about August Boal or Paulo Freire? ", my colleague from the Swiss cooperation programme has asked me during lunch one day. At the time my answer was "no", and it was pity, even more so because today I understand how important it could have been at the time when Kyrgyzstan was in a historical turmoil of the aftermath of the March tulip revolution.

The way from political activism to longer-term effects in the society and education in Kyrgyzstan expands and develops in stages while “life happens as time goes by”. The first training seminar on the method of the Theatre of the Oppressed in Kyrgyzstan took place in May-June, 2005 at the Center of Young Technologist in Bishkek. The 7-day seminar, where more than 20 students from The Beishenalieva Institute of Arts participated, was my first experience of the Boal method. Matthias Thonhauser, from the theatre company "Art in Progress" was invited from Vienna, Austria by the OcOO DialectICON, to conduct this unique training. The remarkable documentary film “Tulips on Seven Winds” directed by Omurkul Borubaev introduced some sketches that were made with Boal method during the training seminar. Sketches made with the Forumtheatre Boal method about the misuse of the mass-media in anti-PR, and about the illegal pressure on university students during elections to Jogorku Kenesh (parliament) in 2005, the demonstrations during the March revolution and events in the aftermath were played at the universities. Sketches made with the Invisible theatre – Boal method about family violence have been played in trolleybuses in Bishkek. The documentary film was shown by groups of young volunteers who carried DVD recorder with film and played sketches of Forum-theatre in the cities and villages across the country, including Karakol, Balykchy, Talas, Naryn, Atbashy, Jalalabat, and Osh. The Documentary film also was shown at the Alatoo Cinema Theater to audiences of NGOs, representatives of the government officials in charge of youth, and teachers of institutes of higher education.

Then, in May and June 2006, Matthias Thonhauser secured financing for continuation of the training in the Boal’s method and came back to Kyrgyzstan together with Birgit Fritz, from the Theatre of the Oppressed, Vienna, with the aim of carrying out two training seminars in cooperation with the OcOO DialectICON and the youth organization "Kelkel Renaissance". Seminars took place in Bishkek (more than 25 participants at the professional lyceum № 98), and in Kyzylkia, in the south of the country (more than 25 participants at the facilities of the local NGO "Spark"). The sketches, prepared as a result of this seminar, were shown in villages near Bishkek and Kyzyl-Kia. This seminar captured not only students, but school seniors, working youth and students from professional lyceums, this time the Boal method touched not only art people but also others, who do not have much contact with fine arts nor fine life in their every day doings. As a result of these seminars the second documentary film "You’re not alone" was made.

I am thrilled to observe how the Boal method is taking roots in the Kyrgyz Republic. Our own statistics shows, that within first two years the Boal method has been presented to audiences in cities and villages across all Kyrgyzstan, more than a 5 000 person, a mixed audience, visited presentations, attended seminars, participated in the forum theatres, watched documentary films, and became drawn for the first time to the Boal method in the Kyrgyz Republic. Besides, Bishkek based NGOs "Eraiym" and " KelKel Renaissance" conducted related projects on awareness buidling and advocacy in issues related to HIV-AIDS  using the Boal method during 2005 and 2006. Support of the international organizations, professional lyceums, activists and NGOs was valuable and “by and large” workable in all these undertakings.

Now in 2007, thanks to inexhaustible energy of the director Bakyt Mysaevna Jusupova and her team at the professional lyceum №43 in Jany Jer village of Sokuluk rayon as well as efforts and interest of Matthias and Birgit, we have the honor to study the method and practice of the Theatre of the Oppressed with Julian Boal from Brazil/France, Sanjoy Ganguli from India, and Jale Karabikir from Turkey. We also have the opportunity today to share the experience with representatives from Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. It seems to me that it is a highly worthwhile chain of events and that the Boal method is taking roots in Central Asia, and its perspective is promising.


What are the prospects for positive social and educational changes
in Kyrgyzstan through the tradition of Boal’s theatre method?


Today, at the closure of the 7- day training seminar on the International Theatre of The Oppressed method we are conducting this conference “Democratization and development in the Central Asia through partnership and creativity of youth”. The organizers have high expectations that one of the outputs of this conference will be a working version of a mission and strategy for the Drama pedagogical and cultural center of the Theatre of the Oppressed method in Kyrgyzstan. I would like to examine several aspects of creation of such center and its influence on social and educational changes in our society.

Since 2005, we have been convinced that the Boal’s method is capable of turning passive into active, help the silent, voiceless, tired and oppressed to come to a creative act, a catharsis, and a purification. Such staged and steady improvement of a society is necessary. The center of the Boal method becomes the engine of great educational spillovers both in collective and in individual self-knowledge. In order to learn the Boal method it is necessary to attend trainings, conferences, read essays and publications. It is necessary to translate the works of Boal into Russian and Kyrgyz languages. Some support should be offered to spontaneously formed theatre groups and centres. Thus, creation of a methodology library, preparation of trainers and jokers (Forum theatre moderator), distribution of a method and understanding both, classical theatre and the Boal technique, can become the primary objectives of the center.

The use of the Boal method will be interesting to all nongovernmental organizations that are working with communities and with various groups of the population. The Boal method would be extremely effective in the reform of the state services and in strengthening of the local government. The Boal Method can become an integral approach for teachers and educators, as well as used in the work on the nature protection and environmental policy, since it is capable of cultivating humanity in a system, which used to orientate members of society towards a state order. The Boal method is capable of becoming a mirror, a truthful reflection of an existing situation in a society. While looking into the nature of situations, problems and conflicts, the Boal method is capable catalising changes towards more creative, life-nurturing and humanistic outcomes.

Today, I can see some prospects for adopting the Boal method in Kyrgyzstan in the following areas:

  1. The Boal method is a platform for dialogue in itself, for communication among various groups of population in such a diverse, contradictory, and multi-dimansional country as Kyrgyzstan is rapidly and irrevocably becoming.
  2. The Boal style is the embodiment of democratic ideals in practical use with an effect of being accepted and understood in a society aspiring to equality, health, democratic participation, and openness.
  3. The effects and results of Boal, which took place in personal story of the author of the Theatre of the Oppressed as well as in the history of the international movement of the Theatre of the Oppressed, are steady results enveloping gradually, which become embedded organically into the fabric of community life, in individual destinies, while bringing creative and life-nurturing developments without any engineering on the part of the state, parties, transnational corporations, international foundations and donors.  
  4. This Time of Change in Kyrgyzstan is the time for new creative innovations as well; therefore, the Boal method can be adapted in the artistic and theatrical environment in our country.
  5. The development of Kyrgyzstan after Perestroika and the country’s independence implied some tectonic shifts in the society and in individuals, in the interrelations and in the integration of ideas, concepts, and actions. The Boal method is capable of helping people to glance inside, to see from another perspective, to pull positions together, to motivate for a movement from negative to positive in political action and in social work, as well as in psychotherapeutic work. Many people believe that society is a “phenomenon, which cannot be touched and felt”; however, it can turns into something that can be touched and felt through the Boal method, through carefully looking at the “cop in your head” and at the one’s own “rainbow of desires”.

At this conference active people, established individuals, and professionals witnessed the transfer of a valuable knowledge and a magic transformation of themselves as a result of the training seminar in the Boal method. All of us are still to visualise the directions of these transformations, but one thing is clear; they are positive today and they will be positive tomorrow.

VS 1 The multitude of Theatre of the Oppressed techniques: From Theory to Practice

Sektionsgruppen | Section Groups | Groupes de sections

TRANS   Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  17 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
Jamilya I. Jeenbaeva: The Theatre of the Oppressed in Kyrgyzstan: From political activism to social and educational spillovers - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

Webmeister: Gerald Mach     last change: 2010-03-29