Augusto Boal and the Nuestra AmÉrica Theatre

Authored by: Douglas Estevam

The Routledge Companion to Theatre of the Oppressed

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138291027
eBook ISBN: 9781315265704
Adobe ISBN:




The violence of military dictatorships and coups reached its highest levels in Latin America in 1974. 1 A year before, an extremely violent coup had been carried out in Chile, where President Salvador Allende died with a rifle in hand at the Palacio de la Moneda. A few months earlier, the military had closed the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, implementing the coup in Uruguay. In 1974, the death of Juan Perón would have great impact in Argentina, paving the way for another coup. Augusto Boal, who was exiled in Argentina, simultaneously worked on the organization, conception, and finalization of two books. The first of these, published later that same year, would become the classic Teatro do Oprimido (Theatre of the Oppressed). The second, Técnicas Latinoamericanas de Teatro Popular: Una Revolución Copernicana al Revés (Latin American Techniques of Popular Theatre: A Reverse Copernican Revolution), published just a few months later in 1975, would, just like the first, serve to systematize the experiences that the theatrologist would call Latin American techniques of popular theatre, analyzing a set of continental experiences. The subtitle of the second work was taken from the title of one of the articles that makes up the book. In this article, Boal deals with the Latin American Theatre Festival of Manizales, held in Colombia. The importance of this festival, with which Boal associates an ongoing Copernican revolution in the theatrical production of the continent, stems from the fact that “it is a concrete fact that Manizales offered the first possibility of dialogue among Latin American groups.” 2

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Augusto Boal and the Nuestra AmÉrica Theatre

The violence of military dictatorships and coups reached its highest levels in Latin America in 1974. 1 A year before, an extremely violent coup had been carried out in Chile, where President Salvador Allende died with a rifle in hand at the Palacio de la Moneda. A few months earlier, the military had closed the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, implementing the coup in Uruguay. In 1974, the death of Juan Perón would have great impact in Argentina, paving the way for another coup. Augusto Boal, who was exiled in Argentina, simultaneously worked on the organization, conception, and finalization of two books. The first of these, published later that same year, would become the classic Teatro do Oprimido (Theatre of the Oppressed). The second, Técnicas Latinoamericanas de Teatro Popular: Una Revolución Copernicana al Revés (Latin American Techniques of Popular Theatre: A Reverse Copernican Revolution), published just a few months later in 1975, would, just like the first, serve to systematize the experiences that the theatrologist would call Latin American techniques of popular theatre, analyzing a set of continental experiences. The subtitle of the second work was taken from the title of one of the articles that makes up the book. In this article, Boal deals with the Latin American Theatre Festival of Manizales, held in Colombia. The importance of this festival, with which Boal associates an ongoing Copernican revolution in the theatrical production of the continent, stems from the fact that “it is a concrete fact that Manizales offered the first possibility of dialogue among Latin American groups.” 2

The Colombian Festival, which first took place in 1968, was the beginning of an intense process of understanding and exchanging experiences, searching for new artistic and organizational forms, discussions, and joint works between theatre groups and artists from around the continent. This collaboration continued to consolidate and take form through several national and international meetings in different countries of the continent, reaching its peak in 1974 with the consolidation of the Frente de Trabalhadores da Cultura de Nuestra América (Cultural Workers’ Front of Our America). Augusto Boal was one of the builders of this complex process of continental coordination.

Enrique Buenaventura, who was—along with Augusto Boal—one of the key players in the construction of the cooperation, also undertook the effort to systematize popular theatre experiences during those decades, and he listed the constituent elements of such theatre. According to him, the experience would have a “character of theatrical movement.” 3 The issue of “dramaturgy” would be a central point, with the preparation of a national theme and form (including the “nationalization of the classics” phase). The aim was a “break from certain traditions,” both practical and theoretical, with a focus on the process of artistic production, the construction of a “new relationship with the public” under new conditions and spaces that would influence production and dramaturgy itself, and finally, the formation of “new poetics” adopting characteristics of the socio-historical context. 4

In his analyses and systematizations, Boal operates with similar categories, in consonance with aspects of theatrical production and reflection from that historical moment. The preoccupation with creating socio-historical poetics is present throughout his works, and the initial title of Teatro do Oprimido was Poéticas Políticas (“Political Poetics”). The problematized, contradictory, and dialogical nature of the relationship with the people and the dialectic of the internal differentiations of the categories thereof are both addressed in the first part of Técnicas Latinoamericanas de Teatro Popular, which resumes a text also written in Brazil in 1970 entitled Categories of Popular Theatre. The work developed in the Arena Theatre and the search for a national dramaturgy was extended by the execution of the dramaturgy seminars there and the laboratory investigation into the interpretative field; these combined a pedagogical and procedural dimension of the work, generating organizational and collective movements, such as the Popular Culture Centers (Centros de Cultura Popular—CPC). These are some of the formative moments of Boal’s journey before his exile, which were part of a common dynamic with local peculiarities shared by various Latin American groups.

Drawing on the multiplicity of forms that constitute the production process of this new Latin American theatre, Boal articulates two aspects of the then-current Copernican Revolution underway which would constitute a “continental project.” 5 The center of this Revolution was the struggle against “cultural colonialism,” against mimicry, and against those who want to “be as good as Europeans.” The image refers to an inversion of the poles of the continent’s cultural relations. If, until then, we had been “satellites of metropolitan art,” we would now be the “center of our artistic universe.” The complex and contradictory festival of Manizales was the “battlefield between Latin American theatre and colonialist theatre,” an arena to combat cultural colonialism. But there would be no cultural liberation without popular liberation, which was the second aspect of the revolution. There is also a reversal in terms of artistic production. Until then, artists had occupied the center of the relationship with the public, but “now the opposite must hold true, and the spectator (the people), must be the center of the aesthetic phenomenon.” “Spectators must also be producers,” and “the true popular artist is the one who, besides knowing how to produce art, must know how to teach the people to produce it as well.” Boal summarized by saying that “what must be popularized is not the finished product but the means of production. In this sense, fortunately, the revolution is under way in many of our countries.” 6

Boal formulated these notions in early 1973. One year previously, there was a semantic shift that would reflect much of the significance of the ongoing changes with the creation of the Cultural Workers’ Front. There was no longer talk of artists, but rather of cultural workers. The Front’s organizational process—after passing through several countries and incorporating Chicanos from the USA, the rural theatre of Mexico, and works with indigenous groups in the Caribbean—pointed toward another conception of art, artists, and the function of art itself, formulated from other social parameters and factors determined by the dynamics of the ongoing struggles on the continent.

1968: organizational movement

The radical and critical theatrical production joining with a new organizational form from the festivals begun in 1968 was the result of the historical process which started with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. A new impetus for continental integration emerged in January 1966, when a meeting with delegates from 82 countries, mostly from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, created the organization known as Tricontinental with the aim of fighting for liberation, national sovereignty, and the peoples’ right to self-determination. It was in the magazine of the organization, Tricontinental, that Che Guevara’s text appeared with the famous slogan of creating two, three, or many Vietnams.

Augusto Boal arrived in Cuba 7 at the moment when the island was living under the continental influence of the so-called “meditation of 68.” That year, in 1968, the first Latin American Festival of the Manizales Theatre, the Cultural Congress of Havana (with 450 artists, writers, scientists, and educators from 70 countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe), and the First International Theatre Festival of Havana were held. With the festivals, Latin American cultural integration was gaining ground with concrete initiatives to bring together independent and university theatre groups. A Standing Committee on International Festivals was created, of which the Cuban magazine Conjunto, from Casa de las Américas, would come to serve as a kind of central body. The “meditation of 68” began as a result of the First Theatre Seminar of Cuba, organized by theatre workers in late 1967. The seminar’s manifesto set the tone for the concept that would be in dispute at festivals beginning around that time. The document states that “art, people, and revolution are three values that not only can, but must, overlap with one another,” and then goes on to say that “theatre workers should simultaneously be people, artists, and revolutionaries.” 8 In the declaration of principles of the seminar, it was declared that “our principle must be, above all, to create theatre in all corners of the country, regardless of whether or not it has theatre.” The issue of the relationship with the public is also present: “theatre is a dialectic and living form of communication that tries to establish the historical responsibility of the individual within society.” It is also stated that “it is not through populism that the theatre becomes popular,” advancing the notion that such a becoming happens through “neither paternalism before the mass audiences able to go to the theatre for the first time in their history, nor facilitating concessions … The creation of popular theatre is linked to the creation of a new public,” and it ends by stating that “the maximum expression of the usefulness of this instrument (the theatre) can be seen today in Vietnam, where, even under bombing, theatre is made.” 9 In 1968, Vietnam inflicted significant losses on the United States. In Técnicas, Boal seeks to systematize the experiences of the continent; the symbolic reference of Vietnam is so great that he also inserts an article by a journalist about a presentation by a theatrical group of the National Liberation Front (NLF) of Vietnam, made before 6,000 people.

The reflection that renewed theatrical thought in 1968, which spread through the various meetings taking place on the continent, was the result of an evaluation of the limits and contradictions of the historical and cultural process engendered from the end of the 1950s. Culturally, one of the most important initiatives of the Cuban Revolution was the creation of the Casa de las Américas in 1959, which played a decisive role in Latin American cultural integration. One of the concerns of Casa de las Américas was the creation of a new Latin American dramaturgy. To this end, in 1961 the Casa began to organize a series of Latin American festivals. These first meetings still did not have the format that would consolidate in 1968 as a place of collaboration and articulation, critical reflection, and exchanges of experiences between groups of different countries. With the aim of presenting the Latin American dramaturgy to the Cuban population, the selected pieces were assembled by the groups of the country itself. The award-winning play performed in 1964 was Quatro Quadras de Terra (Four Squares of Earth) by the Brazilian playwright Oduvaldo Vianna Filho, also known as Vianinha. Actor and playwright of the Arena group, his production is the result of the dramaturgy seminars organized by Boal. From an organizational perspective, Vianinha was one of the people responsible for the creation of the Popular Culture Center (CPC).

In the emblematic year of 1968, the first moment of the “Copernican Revolution” spoken of by Boal also took place with the execution of the First Latin American Theatre Festival of the University of Manizales. The historical moment seemed to hint at a change in the position of artists, which was advancing in relation to the forms of aesthetic-cultural intervention of the first phase of popular theatre that began in the late 1950s. Pablo Neruda, Miguel Angel Asturias, Atahualpa del Cioppo, the Uruguayan Warehouse, and Santiago Garcia from Colombia were all invited to the event, with the latter two playing an important role in the future of the Festival and in its political nature. Possible dialogues between the Arena Theatre of Boal and Galpão de Atahualpa would have taken place in 1961, when the Uruguayan group put on the play Eles Não Usam Black-Tie (They Don’t Use Black-Tie). Iná Camargo Costa notes that there may have been a “process of exchange” which the coup of 1964 would have interrupted. 10

Exile and continental integration

When Boal was forced to leave Brazil after being arrested and tortured, he became actively involved in the process of building theatrical cooperation between workers of Latin American culture. In 1971, Augusto Boal arrived in Argentina, where he would begin his Latin American exile. In September of that same year, he participated in the Latin American Theatre Festival of Manizales for the first time. Earlier that year, he had been kidnapped and tortured. A major international campaign was held for his release. Joanne Pottlitzer, Director of the Theatre of Latin America (TOLA), had organized international support. Arthur Miller, President of the International Organization to Support Directors and Writers, had promoted an international campaign. To denounce the arrest and repression of the dictatorship in April, the Arena Theatre traveled to Nancy, France, where they presented Arena Conta Zumbi and the experiences of Teatro Jornal (Newspaper Theatre). As a result of the great international pressure, Boal got his “freedom,” affirming that he would meet with the Arena Theatre. Between 1964 and 1968, the French festival at Nancy had become an important venue for Latin American groups to meet, discuss the political situation on the continent, and establish contacts between Latino groups. By providing a meeting place for the groups of the Latin American continent, which until 1968 did not have many channels for dialogue, Nancy was also one of the stages on which the Manizales Festival was being created. Also presented were the Teatro Jornal (Newspaper Theatre) and the Núcleo Theater Group, which trained in the Arena, and, when it returned to Brazil, went on to create the work Doce América, Latino-América, a collage piece conceived from the meetings with Latino groups in France.

While arrested, Boal rehearsed the Brazilian version of his play about Bolivar, known as Arena Conta Bolivar, and he also worked with the Teatro Jornal group. Teatro Jornal, Boal’s first form of response to the resurgence of the 1968 coup in Brazil, would also be the first concrete effort to socialize the means of theatrical production. The organizational dimension was part of the experience that unfolded in the formation of about 40 groups and different types of cells. The “creation of a new technique of popular theater,” in which the “people themselves performed theater rather than just receiving it as mere consumers” was seen as a “necessity” in light of the increasing fascist repression implanted by the coup of 1968, with military and police intervention in unions, schools, or colleges and also with spies among workers and students. This category of popular theatre was “the theater made by the people and for the people.” 11

In January of 1971, shortly before his arrest in Brazil in February, Boal had visited Argentina and participated in the First Meeting of Latin American Theatre Directors, with representatives from seven countries. In this meeting, several goals were established to advance Latin American integration, such as the exchange of information on creative processes, the production of materials, and the creation of national centers of Latin American Theatre, of which the Arena Theatre would be one of the references. 12

Boal began his participation in the Festival of Manizales as the meeting began to produce greater results, entering its fourth edition and advancing on the concerns and objectives proposed in the three previous meetings in its approach to the theme of Latin American reality and integration. There was a higher number of pieces from the continent, with ten Latin American authors and six pieces collectively created. Another significant change in this edition was the openness to greater participation from independent groups, thus distinguishing the Festival from university theatre groups characteristic of the first editions. The competitive character of the event was also eliminated, at Boal’s request of the other jurors. In order to better structure the debates, dialogues, and formulations that had been established, a colloquium was organized with five meetings on the theme of Latin American Expression, and a council was also established which was responsible for organizing the cycle of debates.

In the final communiqué, 13 the jurors reinforced the importance of Manizales for the “development and integration of Latin American theatre within the political process of liberating the continent” and recommended the use of Latin American texts. Assuring the cohesion between the experiences of the other festivals and meetings, the communiqué reinforced the decisions made at the First Meeting of Directors held earlier that year in Buenos Aires and highlighted the need to organize more workshops and seminars to ensure training at different levels. In this edition of the Festival, there were also cinema shows, Latin American paintings, and a seminar for directors, organized to provide categories to analyze the presented works. After four consecutive editions of the Colombian Festival it was suspended, and, in 1972, the following year, it did not take place at all. Resistance to the increasingly political and contested nature of the meeting barred its execution.

The Cultural Workers’ Front

Following the proposals presented in Colombia, the meeting continued the process of integration between the groups which took place in 1972 in Ecuador, when the First Latin American Theatre Festival of Quito was held. It was at this meeting that the fundamental decision was made to create the Latin American Front of Culture Workers. Having abolished its competitive nature, a group serving as a “guiding jury” was formed for this Festival, composed of Augusto Boal, Atahualpa del Cioppo, and Enrique Buenaventura. The group had the function of criticizing the forums and meetings and organizing the seminars. The creation of the Front advanced the cohesion of theatrical production on the continent. As part of the program 14 —beginning with a reading of the political conjuncture in which they stood against the North American annexation of Latin countries into a state of dependent economic integration—it was reaffirmed that “we need to unify all isolated manifestations to transform culture into a means of liberation of our peoples” and that there needed to be “iron-clad solidarity in defense of the persecuted cultural workers.” Faced with fascism extending across the continent, it was not possible to remain “in a state of reciprocal ignorance, because this facilitates our enemies’ domination of our people.” There is just one solution, “the search for unity, mutual understanding, and an effort to act in a coordinated manner.” The Front was another organizational step advancing the search for a connection between the social praxis and the artistic praxis of the continent. It was not only meetings and mutual acknowledgment that took place at the festivals, but also the creation of a proper organizational structure that would seek to deepen the possibility of intervention of cultural production in the current social dynamics.

In 1973, Boal went to Cuba again. This time, he served as a juror in the literary contest of Casa da Las Américas, which increasingly became a center of diffusion of the continent’s cultural production. Boal wrote the preface to Victor Torres’s award-winning work Um Teatro Despenteado, a text which later became part of Boal’s Técnicas. On this occasion he met with Roberto Fernández Retamar, the director of Casa de las Américas. Boal knew the important work of the Cuban intellectual regarding the subject of Calibán, which Retamar had published in a Cuban magazine in 1971. This text would later become a fundamental reference for the debate on culture on the continent. At the suggestion of Retamar, Boal undertook an adaptation of Shakespeare’s text and made his version of The Tempest, which he finished in 1974, and then Boal planned to head to the United States. The meetings in Cuba indicated a broadening of the possibilities for joint collaboration. One of the jury members for the Casa de las Américas award was Ariel Dorfman, a cultural advisor to Fernando Flores, then Secretary General of the Allende government. Along with him, Boal planned to create groups of Invisible Theatre in Chile to combat economic sabotage, in collaboration with Oscar Castro, the Director of the Aleph Group. The coup in Chile, however, would prevent the project from taking place. Oscar Castro was arrested and taken to concentration camps, where he developed theatrical works.

The Nuestra América Theatre

After two years of waiting, the Manizales gathering took place in Colombia once again in 1973. This was the fifth festival, and the First World Show (First Mostra Mundial) was organized as well. In this edition, approximately 4,000 people attended the festival. Although important new steps were taken in the process of integrating theatre production, with advances in the organization of the Cultural Workers’ Front, the implementation of new actions, and the execution of two additional meetings—one in Caracas and the other in Puerto Rico—signs of the end of a cycle had manifested. In 1973, a few months before the festival, the coup d’état took place in Uruguay, and shortly after its end the dictatorship in Chile was established. This festival was held in the context of a period of historical change. The Uruguayan group El Galpón, from Atahualpa, was unable to participate in the meeting due to the coup. Perón also died that same year, and the class struggle in Argentina entered a period of intense repression. From the point of view of the festival—for the fifth edition—the global nature implemented by the local authorities sought to minimize and dilute the critical and political dimension of the festival. It was in this conjuncture of project disputes and impasses that Boal wrote his article “Copernican Revolution,” which was prepared at the beginning of the year to subsidize the process of choosing the representative groups of Argentina and was later released in Colombia during the Festival. Torquemada, Augusto Boal’s play, was performed by the Mexican group CLETA-UNAM. Boal’s work, due to its themes, was performed by various groups in several countries around the continent.

In this edition of the festival in Colombia, a new meeting of the Latin American Cultural Workers’ Front was held and a second communiqué was issued with a call and the Front’s objectives. At an assembly during the meeting, a steering committee was approved for the Front, which would be in operation until the next meeting. Among those elected by the assembly, Augusto Boal appeared as the Representative of Brazil. Immediate objectives were established for the Front, advancing the organization thereof from the existing theatrical organizations in the countries and supporting the “creation of other similar cultural organizations” in other countries. The “foundation of the Front’s activities was communication between the various movements and theatrical and cultural groupings,” with the aim of breaking down barriers. This communication would be carried out through “newsletters from different countries and the organization of courses, meetings, tours, seminars.” The programmatic aspect that these pedagogical and publishing activities assumed in the process of continental coordination was clear. The “Front will establish a policy in relation to the various Latin American Festivals that begin to develop in several countries,” 15 which was a point of great importance for maintaining the political orientation of the meetings. The document also calls out the worsening of the struggles in Chile and points to solidarity with workers, rural people, and the revolutionary government, as well as support for Uruguay, which had suffered a coup whose repression prevented the Galpón group from participating in the meeting. The group’s director, Atauhalpa del Cioppo, would also be appointed to the Front’s Management.

During the festival, the groups also met in an important effort to synthesize the recent course of actions and to “seek an approximation to the concept of popular theatre,” listing points of similarity and approximation between practices, methods, and ways of working. A writing committee was organized that systematized the collective reflections in the “Document on Popular Theatre,” 16 which was extremely important for highlighting the joint position of the groups. The first point of systematization pertained to popular theatre in the context of class struggles. According to the group evaluation, theatre was no longer an “aesthetic product, closed in on itself,” and had become a form of “raising awareness, unrest, and organization of the fight.” In order to achieve these things, it was proposed that there was a “need for political organizations (Parties) or mass organizations (trade unions, leagues of rural persons, neighborhood organizations, etc.) to join forces,” as well as to participate in strikes, land occupations, etc. The systematization of the different experiences indicated that “theatre ceased to be an isolated field of creation and had become a dynamic element involving political and social processes through theatre workers and, fundamentally, their works.”

Just like the reflection made in Cuba in 1968, the groups gathered in Colombia thought of theatre workers as “activists or revolutionary militants.” Popular theatre is defined as “that which becomes part of revolutionary processes and participates in the class struggle” and contributes to the “transformation of society.” Without idealizing or concealing possible differences between theatre workers and the people, overcoming the dichotomy would happen through joint participation in the class struggle, in close and continuous relationship with the masses, to overcome “dogmatic or paternalistic attitudes that turn us into prophets” as well as the obstacles to “participation in the great revolutionary dialogue on the contradictions in hearts of the people.” 17

The language of popular theatre is also analyzed, arguing that to work with a “revolutionary content we need new, revolutionary forms” without abstractions, specifying that it is “concrete circumstances which determine and shape our language.” Among the “new attitudes and proposals” formulated by the collective, the work appears with popular cultural forms, including native and indigenous cultures. Self-criticism must be a constant attitude for the sake of adapting the work to reality. The “creation of groups formed by workers and residents who, through their own forms, give an account of their problems” is specified as an area of great importance for popular theatre. In this regard, “the role of the theatre worker would be of utmost importance as an incentive for the theatrical work itself, even outside their function as a member of the group.” 18 The document articulates the central elements which would guide the actions of the groups in forging continental coordination and establish the parameters for the continental project being structured. The references of these formulations guided the design of the festivals, as well as the pedagogical and exchange process that took place around them, with debates, workshops, courses, and exchanges of experiences.

In July, the Fifth Festival of the Chicano Theatre would be held, as well as the First Meeting of Latin American Theatre of Mexico City. More than 700 Latin American theatre workers participated. Boal was one of the participants, along with the other groups that had been building the process, such as Candelária, TEC, etc. Their reflections on this meeting are featured in the article “There are many forms of popular theater. I prefer them all.” Boal begins his article saying that “we have never talked so much about unity.” In fact, the First Latin American Meeting of Mexico was marked by a discord between groups who “came from very different compositions.” The Festival had been organized by TENAZ (National Theater of Aztlan), which brought together over a hundred Chicano theatre groups that had emerged from the rural theatre of Luis Valdez, a group created from the struggle of rural people and the creation of the UFWOC Union by César Chávez. The other articulation of Mexican theatre involved the CLETA, and they were more in tune with the political agenda of the groups and of the Front. One of the most polemical and controversial points of the meeting was the position of the groups linked to the Chicano theatre of Valdez, which were guided by a position searching for identities and roots, thus marking the festival with “ideological confusion.” Without idealizing production processes, forms, and thematic approaches, with the accumulation of criticism from previous festivals and criticism of populist forms and conceptions, Boal expresses these points in the debates, and his text lists some of the terms of the contradictions and impasses of the meeting. “Some argue that this idealization of the past fulfills a function. But it is appropriate to ask the question: can lies fulfill a revolutionary role?”, to which the playwright responds, “I don’t think so.” 19 The Mexican festival would mark the turning point of the process: the anti-colonial cultural program linked to organizational movements and revolutionary processes which began to be questioned in favor of a conception of “identity predominance.” Combined with the historical context, this would push the integration process to the limit. Still, in a last effort to maintain unity, Boal concludes his book by stating “that there are many ways of doing Latin American popular theatre. I prefer them all.” 20

The important step was holding the Third Assembly of the Culture Workers’ Front, which was attended by the most advanced sector of the Chicano theatre movement, with the San Francisco Mime Troupe group representing Anglo-American theatre and Latin American groups. It was at this assembly that the decision was made to change the name of the Front to the Latin American Front of Workers of the Culture of Nuestra América (Our America), “considering the need to include non-Latin American groups (noting the extraordinary contribution of Chicano, Indigenous, Black, and Anglo groups) which are in line with the objectives of the Front and who fight against a common enemy.” 21 The change reinforced the slogan of “unity and organization,” the role of the Front in the formation of new organizations with different sectors of artistic practice, with popular centers of culture, groups, corporations, and federations of theatre, music, visual arts, etc.

Boal repeatedly expressed his appreciation for the people, for real meetings, and for dialogue, always emphasizing that he had learned a lot from these productive and constructive encounters with people from different popular sectors and also with artists from various fields, such as musicians, visual artists, intellectuals, militants, and revolutionaries. His meetings in Latin America were part of his training. When it became impossible to remain on the continent, when the coups and dictatorships seemed to completely dominate the region and prevent the work of various groups that were collectively building the process of the continent’s cultural articulation, Boal left in exile again, this time to Europe. Later on, while organizing his formative experiences, he said that “at the beginning of my work in Europe, the Teatro do Oprimido was presented as a Latin American method” and that only “much later [the TO] separated itself from its geographical and cultural origins, mainly through the creation of a series of introspective techniques of ‘O arco-íris do desejo’ (The Rainbow of Desire), which was fully elaborated in Europe.” 22 The new historical moment marked the end of a certain theatrical project. Spaces of articulation had been shaped by the festivals, in which the struggle for continental independence (political, economic, social, and especially cultural) was proposed, but the socialization of the means of production and popular emancipation would become spectacles of fragmentation hegemonized by the emergence of isolated identities.


This chapter was translated from Portuguese by MendWord Translations, Los Angeles, California, with some adjustments by the editors as permitted by the translation service.

Augusto Boal, Técnicas Latinoamericanas de Teatro Popular: Una Revolución Copernicana al Revés, 2nd ed. (Corregidor: Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, 2014), 116.

Beatriz J. Rizk, El Nuevo Teatro Latinoamericano: Una Lectura Histórica (Minneapolis: Prisma Institute, 1987), 19. The historian Beatriz Rizk states that “Nuevo Teatro [‘New Theater,’ the term used by Buenaventura] is basically a form of popular theater,” thus reinforcing the affinity between these terms. Boal employs the category of popular theatre in his systematizations of the same period.

Ibid., 16 (Buenaventura, in Beatriz J. Rizk).

Cf. Marina Pianca, El Teatro de Nuestra América: Un Proyecto Continental, 1959–1989 (Minneapolis: Institute for the Study of Ideologies and Literature, 1990).

Boal, 120–121.

We do not have much information about Boal’s first trip through Cuba. The discretion in reference to the episodes of that period is characteristic of the militants who went through the armed struggle and the ALN (National Liberation Action). According to his memoirs, we know that he stayed for a month on the island and that he came into contact with Cuban theatre production. See Augusto Boal, Hamlet e o Filho do Padeiro (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 2000), 267.

Pianca, 151.

Ibid., 345–346.

Iná Camargo Costa, A Hora do Teatro Épico no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1996), 73.

Boal, 43–46.

Cf. “First Meeting of Latin American Stage Directors Organized by the Argentinian Actors Association.” Latin American Theatre Review 5: 1 (1971): 81–85.

Cf. G. Luzuriaga, “El IV Festival de Manizales.” Latin American Theatre Review 5: 1 (1971), 4–16.

The program is published in Pianca, 349.

Pianca, 351–354.

Document published in Pianca, 335–340.

Pianca, 335–340.


Boal, 174.

Boal, 183.

Pianca, 355.

Augusto Boal, Jogos Para Atores e Não Atores, 14th ed., Na. E ampliada (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 1998), 4.

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