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Is the fundamental relationship between an actor and an audience an equal and active one, or is it a situation that
encourages passivity and division? This is the question at the heart of Augusto Boal's revolutionary Theatre of the
Oppressed, originally published in 1979. Boal, a Brazilian artist and activist, has written a work that challenges the
very premise of Western theater, starting with Aristotle and the first dramatists, and explores what social constructs
lie behind the traditional theater form. Then, having explained such often invoked (but rarely scrutinized) terms as
imitation, tragedy, and justice, he puts forward a new type of drama that bridges the long-existing gap between theater
and politics. Central to his thesis is an attempt to bring spectators into an active role with the drama, encouraging
them to comment on the social situations they see presented and suggest potentials for change. Other chapters explore
the writings of Hegel and Brecht, along with a lengthy analysis of one of the most profound political thinkers to ever
pen a play, Machiavelli and his bitter comedy Mandragola. Boal's book is a challenging one for American actors often
politically naive and heavily schooled in the traditions of Stanislavsky-based "naturalism," but this text is vital
reading for activists, progressives, and all artists trying to effect social change. --John Longenbaugh