Theatre of the Oppressed is not about theatre or acting but rather about re-discover dimensions in yourself

“The oppressed have to liberate themselves. You have to discover your strength, fight and free yourself”, says Radha Ramaswamy (61), the co-founder of Theatre of the Oppressed. The Forum Theatre is a part of a six-day workshop on the Theatre of the Oppressed, a forum where participants enact original scenes and stories of oppression.

Started by Radha, her husband Ramaswamy and their son Ravi in 2011, T.O, as they call it, is not just about theatre and acting, but has deeper elements to it. Says Ravi (33), “T.O is educational, and as we all were from educational backgrounds, we were interested in focusing on an education not restricted to classrooms, but which fits into the social fabric”. So is T.O all about problem solving? “Not at all!”, says Ravi. “T.O is not a solution, but a technique. Change doesn’t just work that way, because everyone has a different perspective. Our philosophy is that there is no right and wrong. We are bound by a system - do we live with it or break free?”

And that’s their motto — breaking patterns, creating change. And the participants, find the experience liberating. Says Ishita Varma (50) from Baroda, “I discovered things mirrored to me by other people. I’ve shared a lot of baggage I was carrying. I now know that if I want things to change, it must come from within me. T.O caught me completely unawares, and now I respond to life very differently”. For Vidhya Mohankumar (33), an architect from Chennai, this experience was a catharsis. “I’ve realized that everything resonates with people in different ways. I’m trying to incorporate this in my field of work as well”.

Satindra Singh (30), a doctor from Delhi, also wants to take back this experience to his work. He says “There’s not much weight on empathy in medical colleges now. People have become so monotonous and robotic in a profession that is all about humanity. Through T.O, I want to bring that humanity back.”

While the participants have clearly had a wonderful experience, what does Radha herself have to say about these workshops? “You re-discover dimensions in yourself”, she says. “Breaking patterns is certainly hard, because it’s an acquired comfort. But when we stick to these patterns day after day, it becomes de-humanizing and mechanical. T.O is all about re-humanizing”. And what do these workshops mean to her personally? She says “I was an English teacher before, and I have always been into education, but now I feel like I’m doing real education because I’m helping people connect with themselves and their lives. There’s a great sense of energy at having touched lives. I’m not planning a happy retired life right now. Life’s just begun for me!”

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