Virtual Interactive Theatre of the Oppressed

Project Description: In the 1960s, Augusto Boal, a Brazilian theatre director, writer and politician, has developed a theatre-based technique to address this issue, called the Theatre of the Oppressed (TO). In order to achieve learning and awareness around oppression tactics, he created a form of participatory performance called Forum Theatre (FT), which became the working methodology of his company and collaborators. In this new form of engagement, he re-casted the ‘role’ of the spectator to that of the “spect-actor” – an audience member who could participate in altering the outcome of a given scenario with their suggestions, both in response to the other actors and other spect-actors. Each of the scenarios is built around a core conflict of an “oppressor” and an “oppressed” character(s). The scenario begins by resolving itself badly for the oppressed character. Instead of ending the scenario there, the actors would re-start the scenario, but this time the “spect-actors” could offer suggestions on how the actors could change the behaviors of their characters to create a better ending for the oppressed. The actors then run the scenario a final time, and when spect-actors had a suggestion, they take the place of the actors onstage and fully enact the new behavior. With each iteration of the scenario, the ending would alter, based on the input from the spect-actors. This proposal aims to leverage this work but embeds it into a virtual platform, where the participant (learner) takes the role of a ‘spect-actor’ and the actors control virtual characters seamlessly through a kinect-based system.

Position description: This is an interaction design project. We need students who can take work with us to transform the design of forum theatre from an interactive theatre to the virtual space. We also need to develop computational models and program virtual characters to add socially rich behaviors. This would involve AI and game engine scripting and programming. Skills needed: interaction design and programming.

Contact: Prof. Magy Seif El-Nasr (magy@neu.edu)