Saturday 5 April 2008

interactive audiences pre-date internet

New books about the web - Here Comes Everybody, We-think - rightly stress how interactivity has changed the nature of communication. (Dan Gillmor invented the phrase 'the people formally known as the audience').

Theatre is usually seen as an example of old style, one-way, top-down media consumption. Only thing is, theatre was interactive long before the internet was invented.

The Brazilian theorist and theatre director Augusto Boal (above) defined oppression as the voice of one person dominating that of another person, who never gets to reply. In the 1970s Boal moved away from the 'monologue' approach in theatre to a 'dialogue' one.

One technique for doing this - forum theatre - presents a short play on a theme or dilemma that is common to an audience's experience. A discussion follows, mediated by the 'Joker' (belongs to no suit).
The play is then re-run and at any moment an audience member, here called a 'spect-actor' can stop the action, take over the role of the protagonist, and do his or her best to move the story in another direction.

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