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Theatre Of The Oppressed

Sculpting Images

Lesson 7 - Sculpting Images

Objective:Students will demonstrate their understanding of Image Theatre by creating multiple images of oppression and reflecting on the activity.

Essential Questions:

  • What is Image Theatre?
  • How can images tell stories?
  • How can images be used to discuss oppression?



Manipulate image (Sculptor)

  • Students get into pairs. Decide who is partner A and who is partner B. Partner A starts by sculpting partner B with their hands into a desired shape. They continue manipulating the image.
  • Switch who is the sculptor.
  • Switch back. Now, the sculptor steps away from their partner and manipulates the image without touching their partner, but making similar movements. The person being moved has to watch the sculptor and try to understand their movements of how they should be shaped. After a time, switch.
  • Discussion
    • What was it like being the sculptor?
    • What was it like being moved? 
    • How does this experience connect to Image Theatre?
    • What is different about creating an image with your body and someone else’s body?


Remind students: In theater, images can be a language on their own and tell their own stories. Sometimes, words are not even used to discuss one image. Everyone can look at the image, interpret it their own way, and then move on. Image theatre is nonverbal which makes it more easily accessible to people without theater training. 

  • Pull up images on a projector or print them out and discuss these questions
    • What are you seeing? Where do you see it?
    • How does this image connect to oppression?
    • How could we use these images as inspiration for theatre?

Let’s review our discussion on oppression:

  • What is oppression?
  • What emotions do you feel when you are oppressed or see oppression?
  • Why is oppression a challenging topic to talk about?

Group Images

  • Similar to the sculptor activity, students are put into groups. One student is the sculptor and can move the other people in their group into any image. The sculptor must move quickly and not use words, but this time they can model how something is supposed to look.
  • Invite sculptors to think about an instance where they experienced or saw oppression. Have them create that image with their group. Share the images with the entire class.
  • Switch who is the sculptor a few times.

Discussion Questions

  • Did you see any stories emerging?
  • What reactions did you have to the images?
  • What was it like being a part of someone else’s image?
  • How is a group image different from an individual’s images

Multiple Images of Oppression from “Games for Actors and Non-actors” by Boal

Goal: Utilize Image Theatre to allow participants to explore the relationship between reality and the ideal and explore possible solutions to combat oppression.

Instructions Pt. 1

  • Come together as a class, one person is the sculptor.
  • Invite students to think of specific situations that they have felt oppressed.
  • Ask participants if any of them have a specific image of oppression they can create using multiple participants. Whoever says they have one will now be referred to as the sculptor. Explain the instructions for part 1 so the sculptor fully understands what he needs to do.
  • The sculptor decides on how many bodies he needs and who is representing himself. He uses the bodies of the participants to create their image of oppression. The sculptor cannot speak, but can physically move the bodies around or pantomime what they want the participants to do. The sculptor needs to move quickly to avoid thinking in words rather than images.
  • When the image is completed, the sculptor replaces the participant representing himself. *Have the image members memorize their position* Everyone is able to observe the image. If someone inside the image wants to observe, one of the audience members can replace her for a minute while she observes.
    • “Think about what each character is thinking or what they want.”

Side-coaching Pt. 1

  • Sculpt quickly, try not to think. Don’t speak. How can you communicate without words?
  • What is this image saying? How does it make you feel? Are there any characters you feel connected or disconnected to?

Instructions Pt. 2

  • Then, the sculptor moves the bodies around to create the image as an ideal. How he wishes the image looked. *memorize the ideal* Afterwards, the image returns to the first image.
  • “When I say go, the people in the image are going to move in slow motion. You get to decide how you move, but you need to ultimately end in the ideal image. Think about how your character needs to change or what they need to do to get to the ideal.”
  • After the ideal is reached, return to the original image.
  • “This time when I say go, move in slow motion, but not necessarily towards the ideal. Think about what your character would do next realistically. Don’t feel constrained by the ideal image. Anything can happen as long as it is motivated by a real impulse.”
    • “Life rarely works out exactly how you want. If your character would leave, leave. If they would change their expression or body position due to what others do, then do it.”
  • Instructor calls stop when the image seems to end.

Side-coaching Pt. 2

  • Listen to your impulses. Don’t speak. Why is this an ideal? What does your ideal look like?
  • How does your character respond?

Discussion Questions

  • How did you respond to the original image?
  • How realistic was the transition from the first image to the ideal?
  • Why do you think the third image ended how it did?
  • What does this say about oppression?

Final Assessment - Discussion

  • How can images be tools to discuss oppression?
  • Why is Theatre of the Oppressed meaningful?
  • How can it be a tool for social change?