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Invisible theatre, ethics, and the adult educator

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This article probes the ethics of one of the more controversial as well as exciting forms of adult education—the mode of theatre of the oppressed called 'invisible theatre'. Looking at claims made by practitioners—Augusto Boal's especially—and drawing on concrete theatre pieces, the author asks: What are invisible theatre's claims to ethicality? How valid are the claims? Are the claims and practices compatible with adult education principles? And how might invisible theatre be conducted more ethically? The article demonstrates that despite invisible theatre's highly ethical mandate, Boal's defences of invisible theatre are wanting, the levels of deception and danger are problematic, and the standard practices and claims are incompatible with certain adult education principles and commitments, including the Freirian commitment to non-manipulation. At the same time, it is shown, there is potential for invisible theatre praxis which is both effective and ethical, albeit changes are called for. Suggestions for improved practice include: invisible theatre troupes committing themselves to becoming ethically reflective practitioners, making minimal deception the new norm, reining in the level of conflict, exploring the 'opaque', and no longer taking as a given that invisible theatre should never be 'outed'.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Toronto, Canada

Publication date: 2008-05-01

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