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Theatre Of The Oppressed

Oppressions and Images

Lesson 3 - Oppressions and Images

Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of using and analyzing images to tell stories by creating and responding to Story Gifts


  • Large, open space
  • “Games for Actors and Non-actors” by Augusto Boal
  • Whiteboard and multiple dry erase markers
  • Phone/Camera

Essential Questions

  • What is oppression?
  • How does oppression affect me?
  • How are images related to oppression?


Colombian Hypnosis

  • Review the rules of Colombian Hypnosis. One person is the leader, the other the follower. The follower has to follow the leader’s hand perfectly.
  • Start with two followers with each leader. Encourage leaders to challenge their followers while maintaining safety. After a couple minutes, call ‘Freeze’ when most groups are in an interesting configuration. Have one group unfreeze and observe the images they see. Afterwards, that group freezes in their image and another group unfreezes. 
  • Discussion
    • What stories were being told?
    • What relationships do you see?
    • How did you see oppression in these images?
  • Repeat this activity and discussion 3-4 times


We will continue to explore images and how they relate to Theatre of the Oppressed. But first we will discuss more about oppression.


Ask students: “What is oppression?” (They’ve already researched this topic)

  • Definition: the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner (

During the online class, students read Ch. 1 of “Games for Actors and Non-Actors”, Ask these questions to check for understanding and enhance the learning from the reading

  • “For the online class, you read a chapter from Boal’s book. Let’s discuss the reading!”
    • How did you connect this activity to the reading?
    • What other moments stood out to you from the reading?
    • Why is it important to have conversations about oppression?
    • Why are images important to theatre?

Board Talk

  • Set-up: Have a blank whiteboard and multiple dry erase markers
  • Instruction: Tell students that we will be doing a Board Talk: using the whiteboard as a way to have a conversation. Invite students to write different oppressions they’ve experienced or know about on the whiteboard. Students can put stars next to ones they share. Give students 5-7 minutes to add to the board. At the end, have one student read through all of the words.
  • Discussion
    • How does oppression affect everyone, even the oppressor?
    • How can we have empathy for those that are oppressed?
    • How can you be oppressed and privileged at the same time?
      • You can be oppressed in one group but privileged in another. Ex. You can be a white woman. A wealthy black man. Etc.
  • Inform students that we will return to these words later in the lesson


  • We’re going to return to the idea of images
  • Read pg. 175 of Games for Actors and Non-Actors by Boal as a class
    • What did Boal mean by “the meaning of an image is the image itself?”
    • What did he mean by “Image is a language?”
    • Why is ambiguity important to image work?


Images while walking

  • The actors walk around the room in strange and unusual ways playing with tempo, levels, and styles. Every so often call “Stop”. Pick a few interesting images. Have other actors unfreeze and observe the images nonverbally. Repeat this a few times
    • Side-coaching: Move as creatively as you can, but don’t think too hard about it. Just move. Explore different planes, high, medium, and low. Explore different movement patterns, diagonal, curvilinear, staccato. 
  • Add on a new layer to this activity. Give actors specific prompts to inform their movement. Invite them to incorporate each prompt fully and allow it to affect how and why they move
    • Prompts: Joy, sadness, anger, fear, loneliness, frustration, confusion, shame, disgust, hunger, oppression
  • Discussion Questions
    • How did the prompt inform your movement?
    • What prompt impacted you the most? 
    • What are different sides of each prompt? How did people interpret images differently?

Complete the Image

  • Model this activity first
  • Divide class into partnerships. The two actors go in for a high five and freeze. Partner A leaves the images and immediately returns to create a new frozen image with their partner. Then Partner B leaves and returns to create a new image. Begin by telling each partner when to move and freeze. After a time, allow partnerships to move at their own pace.
    • Side-coaching: Don’t think, just move. Play with different levels and connections. React immediately. Don’t overthink it. 
  • After students show understanding of this activity, add prompts to inform their images.
    • Prompts (Draw from words written on board during the Board talk)
      • Example - Oppression due to: gender, sexuality, religion, race, ethnicity, appearance, age, parents, teachers, etc.
    • After each prompt is given, find a time to have some partnerships freeze so others can observe and discuss the images.
      • Discussion: What story is being told? Why do you think that?
      • What prompt was the most engaging?