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Applied theatre, gender consciousness and transformative learning
Alcides A. Monteiro (Monteiro, A.); Luísa Veloso (Luísa Veloso); Catarina Sales Oliveira (Sales Oliveira, Catarina);
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international conference Perspectives on Community Practices – Living and Learning in Community
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In the context of the ideological revolutions of the 60s and 70s of the twentieth century, theatre and performance start playing a key role in the demand and exposure of the unequal situation of women across time in society. In the context of performing arts women found alternative forms of expression and therefore theatre has become not only a form of political activism, but also the expression of cultural, social and aesthetic concerns (Carlson, 1997). Besides it is recognized as an important learning tool bringing new views and approaches to social reality. With "applied theatre" and "community performance" models the artistic practice moves away from an institutional approach and spread into unconventional contexts focusing specific social groups or communities and “facilitating creative expression as a means to newly analyze and understand life situations, and to empower people to value themselves and shape a more egalitarian and diverse future” (Kuppers, 2007, pp.5-6). This paper describes a concrete experience of applied theatre: the design and implementation of theatre workshops for two groups of women, university students and women unemployed. The fact that women continue to face multiple forms of discrimination as human beings, citizens and professionals justified the need for alternative training instrument (the Empowerment Labs) focused in the amplification of power sense, freedom and action that allow the formulation of individual and collective strategies of denunciation and overcoming. In the core of the approach a fundamental question: "can the theatre raise consciousness and empowerment in the context of gender equality?". Methodologically the approach combines pedagogical influences of authors such as Paulo Freire, Peter Jarvis and Jack Mezirow. Freire's pedagogy is the root of theatre practices aimed at raising critical awareness and encouraging personal and social engagement as it catalyzes a creative basis of discussion, analysis and action on political and social problems. As the case of gender (un)equality awareness. On the other hand, and adopting the perspective that "personal is political", the Empowerment Labs also invest in the "transformative" nature of learning. That is, the belief that the experiential learning gives way to the construction of self (Jarvis) and also the critical consciousness, by the individual, about him/herself and about the surrounding reality (Mezirow). Regarding the analysis of the results and implications, information obtained through different internal assessment tools indicates changes in what concerns awareness and personal empowerment. It is particularly expressive the perception of young and women participants about personal change on "strengthening the personal and social well-being" and "development of critical thinking." We also seek to discuss the limits of applied theatre’s focus on certain types of outcome, namely what James Thompson calls "... the shift in focus from effects to affects." (2009: 7).
applied theatre, gender (in)equality, empowerment, consciousness, transformative learning