Applying Forum Theatre as a community design method: A collaboration between landscape architecture and theatre education
To Cite this article
Chan, Y.-L. J. & Chan, B. Y. Y. (2015). Applying Forum Theatre as a community design method: A collaboration between landscape architecture and theatre education. p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e.org, 2. http://www.p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e.org?p=3456
Traditions exist for both participatory planning/design and community theatre. Participatory design attempts to concretise citizens’ vision of place into the physical fabric of the city, in which the designer’s role becomes a facilitator between stakeholders’ ideas and the built landscape. Theatre, through forms such as Forum Theatre, reveals conflicts in lived situations and encourages dialogues that would derive collective solutions. Given the rising concerns over the politics of public space, it may not be difficult to conceptualise the potential marriage of these two seemingly disparate fields into a method that generates visualised dialogues on urgent urban issues. Perhaps surprisingly, to date, there has been little collaboration between urban designers and theatre artists in the community planning process. Jointly held with students from the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Hong Kong and the Drama and Theatre Education programme from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, our project addresses this practise gap by attempting to formulate an envisioning process that combines visualisation techniques and theatrical representation. Staged in Tai Kok Tsui, a neighbourhood in Hong Kong significantly faced with gentrification, our project culminates in the staging of an open-air Forum Theatre performance that took place in the spring of 2013, addressing issues of urban renewal.
Community design, theatre education, landscape architecture, performance, Landscape Theatrics, Hong Kong.
In Lefebvrian terms, our societies are going through complete, planetary urbanisation, and the urban problematic can only be resolved by total participation of citizens. In the past decades, the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, and planning have explored and experimented with a range of collaborative community design techniques, which aim at coming up with collective design solutions to urban situations. These methods, while focusing on the discussion on the different possibilities of constructing the material fabric of cities, they often find it difficult to face up to the challenge of incorporating humanistic dimensions and personal narratives into the consideration of neighbourhood spaces. There is, then, much room to extend this collection of methods to capture the transient, the tactile, and the intimate into the dialogues of community planning and design.
Community theatres such as Forum Theatre and Playback Theatre are often effective in capturing and revealing personal narratives and emotions. Therefore, if combined with community design methods, these theatre techniques provide ample opportunities for the expansion of the creative imagination and sensibilities required of community design dialogues. Furthermore, we argue that the incorporation of real locations gives community theatre new spatial and material aspects, which are often ignored in generic theatrical settings. Hence, the cross-fertilisation between community theatre and design carry huge potentials for the benefit of both fields.
In this paper, we will first introduce some of the urgent urban issues facing Hong Kong (issues that are also pertinent to other world cities under different local contexts). We will then briefly explore the histories of community design, and community theatre in the region, and also the contexts in which they are applied. With such background, we go on to propose the Landscape Theatrics method, which attempts to combine both families of techniques, taking on a new collaborative approach in addressing the aforementioned urban issues. We conclude the paper by presenting a case study of a Landscape Theatrics workshop, our evaluation of its effectiveness, its limitations and challenges, and our recommendations for further development.
Urban planning in the context of Hong Kong
The urban history of Hong Kong has been one that has witnessed continual erasure and reconstruction. The city’s urban areas have experienced multiple iterations of redevelopment. As much as 6% (67.4 km2) of its current land area has been reclaimed from its native shorelines, with the earliest reclamation dating back to the mid-1800s (CEDD 2008). Development pressure has always stood high since the early days of British colonial rule. Owing to the urgent need to provide for mass number of housing for refugees in the post-war period, and later, in the context of property boom under the neoliberal climate of the late twentieth century, the overarching ideology of urban planning has been one dominated by developmentalism, which prioritises economic gains over maintenance of urban identity. People worked in hope for upper mobility and better living environments, and the removal of old structures in exchange for constantly larger and taller buildings in the name of progress has largely been unquestioned (see e.g. Ku 2012; Chung 2011; Ng 2011; Ng et. al. 2010). The lack of efforts in fostering a strong sense of urban identity has also been accounted for by a generational discourse (Lui 2004). The earlier immigrants, which may not have considered Hong Kong their permanent homes, have been depicted by the famously coined historic sentimentality of “Borrowed Place, Borrowed Time” (Hughes 1968). As late as the 1990s, the demolition of historic buildings in the name of development has not faced strong oppositions besides occasional laments and sentiments of nostalgia that was manifested as last photographing opportunities before demolition.
In the political context of undemocratic governments, planning has largely been top-down, and for a long time has been little questioned due to combinations of colonial history, collective hope for better livelihood, and economic gains from property speculation. Representative of the government’s official discourse, the dominant value of developmentalism has been illustrated by the formation of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) in 1999, which has the stated aim of “accelerating redevelopment to provide a better living environment and neighbourhood.” (URA website) This has been achieved by granting the URA more power than its predecessor, the Land Development Corporation, both administratively and financially, to resolve the perceived inefficiencies in carrying out urban redevelopment.
The top-down nature of the government’s attitude in property development is evident even in the metaphoric sense during the naming of places. Deliberate erasure has not only happened to the city’s colonial history, but also to the organic past of the common people. Underlying the government’s preference for politically “neutral” terminology that are politically safe, the chosen place and building names are often consistent with the festive imageries of place rendered in the design drawings presented by the authorities and the developers. This is aptly illustrated in the recently announced renaming of the commonly known “Wedding Card Street” (an URA redevelopment project which faced significant protest during its demolition in 2006) into the distasteful “Avenue Lane” (the Chinese name literally translates into “Loving You”), that appears to many as a brutal attempt to erase the history of resistance during the process of redevelopment. This new name has instigated significant uproar in the online social media.
The attitudes of cynicism or servility of Hong Kong’s citizens over conservation issues have seen significant changes in recent activist events landmarked by the protest and controversies over the demolition of the late Star Ferry Terminal and Queen’s Pier (Ku 2012; Ng 2011; Ng et. al. 2010). Extending the generational discourse of Lui (2007), the new generation of Hong Kong citizens born and grown up locally has developed a new set of values with strong sentimental attachments to the place they call home. Accompanying socio-economic and political changes over the past decade or so, there has been an explosion of efforts that urge for a redefinition of the identity of Hong Kong, partly as a way of distinguishing itself from Mainland China. The political scene has witnessed the uprising of a localist discourse, accompanying new concerns over the architectural heritage of the city. Voices have strongly called for democratic mechanisms in planning, and paradigm shifts away from the traditional developmentalist values. Heated debates have been generated over the necessity for continual land development, which has been argued that it only benefits the “ruling class” (who are the real estate developers), while leaving the mass of property-less only with escalating rent.
Methods of participatory planning
There is therefore an urgent need for the adoption of democratic planning processes, whether in the government’s practical interest to ease social unrest, or ethically to resolve issues of social injustice. There is a need for methods to allow for community dialogue that arrives at collective visions to the city, whether as a way to resist hegemonic forces; or as means for planning authorities to consult and incorporate community aspirations in lieu of confrontational approaches. Planners have long developed tools to engage stakeholders in exercises of community-building and visioning. From the perspective of the physical urban fabric, what is of particular concern to the urban design professions are means to generate and communicate visualised dialogue of the possibilities of the city.
Traditionally, this democratic engagement of the community into the physical design of the city takes the form of community workshops or the different ways of running design charettes. Common tools employed are mapping, brainstorming ideas using verbal/textual means, choosing from a catalogue of reference images from other places, gathering of ideas into sketches of ideas by artists, and exhibiting design options to generate further discussions (see, e.g. Avin 2012; Wates 2000). These methods of inviting community dialogue are constantly being explored and developed through continual creative practice and research.
In the digital age, increasing attempts are made to explore the technologies in facilitating the desired interaction and communication with facts, data, and planning resources with stakeholders, including the growing use of interactive websites, modelling softwares, games, and film (Sarkissian and Hurford 2010). In particular, the use of film has the most relevance in the current study as it involves the focusing on the element of time in the representations of urban planning options. As moving images are arranged in directed sequences, narratives and persuasions are incorporated into the presentation of planning proposals (see e.g. Sandercock and Attili 2010).
It becomes obvious, that the need for adding the human, narrative component into the planning visualisation techniques are strongly called for. Given the various well developed tools of the community methods used in the theatre arts, it is perhaps surprising that these theatre methods has not been more commonly applied in a planning context to generate interaction and dialogue.
The development of community theatre in Hong Kong
Community theatre has been introduced to Hong Kong for more than thirty years. In 1982, the Hong Kong government commissioned Andrew Leigh, then the administrator of the Old Vic Theatre in the UK, to come to Hong Kong for a three-week study on local drama. In the report of the study, Leigh suggested that every district in Hong Kong should have their own artists-in-residence to promote drama activities within the district and bring drama to the grassroots (Leigh 1983, cited in Poon, date unknown). Following the recommendations from the report and the availability of government funding, theatre companies with a community focus, such as the Sha Tin Theatre and the People’s Theatre Group came into existence (LCSD 2013; Tsoi 2004).
The term “community” in application to theatre is somewhat ambiguous. The concept of community theatre in its contemporary understanding started in the 1960s. Quoting van Erven, the community theatre under discussion refers to “…the improvisation-based collectively oriented community theatre that first started to evolve in South America in the early 1960s and not long thereafter independently sprung up in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the United States…[Community Theatre] is united…by its emphasis on local and/or personal stories (rather than pre-written scripts) that are first processed through improvisation and then collectively shaped into theatre under…guidance” (van Erven 2001: 2).
The early community theatre approaches in Hong Kong have been criticised of treating theatre only as a tool to promote art appreciation but ignoring its social empowerment capacity (Mok 2005). Answering to this, the People’s Theatre group and the Asian People’s Theatre Festival Society advocated for paradigm shifts in Hong Kong’s community theatre. Members of these two groups joined workshops and international exchange projects on community and people’s theatre in the 80s, and brought back different forms including Playback Theatre and Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed (Mok 2008; Boal 1979). In the early 1990s, drama education/drama-in-education was introduced to Hong Kong which made some of the community theatre forms such as Forum Theatre more popular. In 2002, the Hong Kong Drama/Theatre and Education Forum (TEFO) was established, later holding the IDEA Congress in 2007. The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) and the Hong Kong Art School now both offer Master programmes in theatre and drama education.
Community theatre forms such as Playback Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed are generally adopted for their developed methods to allow non-professional actors to perform under limited financial resources, achieving the aim of creating theatre “for the people, of the people, and by the people.” These forms usually do not take the naturalistic approach and are usually artistically minimal. This minimalist tendency enables these forms to quickly spread to different parts of the world and to be adapted quite quickly for the way they speak to universal human conditions. Take Playback Theatre as an example, its performances normally do not require any stage setting besides a few chairs and a cloth tree. All props and costumes are symbolised by using fabric pieces. In Forum Theatre, often only small props or fabric are used to identify the protagonist instead of making expensive and realistic costumes. Precisely since these community theatre forms do not require a formal stage and can easily fit into any cultural contexts, they are also regarded as “portable theatre”. However, although the universal quality makes these forms easily adaptable worldwide, their aspatial and acultural characteristic might be restrictions and barriers when it comes to site specific and culturally specific topics and performances. This becomes a blind-spot of these theatre forms and makes it difficult to generate discussions that are concretely grounded in the physical landscape.
The Landscape Theatrics proposal
The Landscape Theatrics proposal attempts to add a spatial dimension to community theatre approaches, and through such means, apply these methods in the complex issues of urban planning. Part of this engagement of site follows the lineage of site-specific theatre, staging the city for theatrical encounters (Garner 2002), urban performances (Cohen-Cruz 1998), cultural tours, urban games (Getsy 2011; McIntyre 2003), and psychogeography (Schleiner 2011). The proposal provides the ground for the cross-fertilisation of planning, design, and theatre disciplines, which situates itself within the context of broader efforts to negotiate the rights to the city through urban explorations and performance (Pinder 2005; Makeham 2005). It addresses concerns of the city through the lens of performance (Schechner 2002); and actively addresses the application of complex reciprocal relationships between urban sites and scenographic designs (Olwig 2011; Govan and Nicholson 2007; Oddey and White 2006; Chaudhuri 2002).
In applying some of the methods of Theatre of the Oppressed, we argue, that the landscape, as a concept encompassing the city’s physical fabric and its inhabitants, is the object of being oppressed. We employ Boal’s methods to give voice to the landscape. Through allowing the landscape to speak through personal narratives of its inhabitants, the objective is to facilitate a visualised dialogue that would illustrate collective visions of the urban landscape that is lived by real personalities, that borrows from, but not necessarily strictly adheres to Forum Theatre and Playback Theatre’s rules and forms.
This project attempts to tie together design and theatre concepts in creating an understanding between the multiple aspects of the physical space of the city. The theatrical staging of that space, using urban imageries, visualised design possibilities, and other multimedia “immersions”, adds to interactive theatre’s bag of tools in addition to what is offered by improvisational acts and abstract, universal props. The incorporation of theatre methods arising from Boal and other forms of interactive theatre is seen from two perspectives: 1) The landscape can be seen as the “protagonist” of being oppressed, and is given “voice” through our interventions; 2) Given such, the landscape also actively engages into the improvised dialogue, meaning that the Joker or performance facilitator, along with the audience, would have the tools and capacity to manipulate the representations of the landscape as part of the improvised performance.
Collaborative devising as an experiential learning process
From a pedagogical and research perspective, this project can be seen as a response to the various calls for extending the traditional boundaries of arts and design/planning education (e.g. the use of film and creative writing in planning education) and transdisciplinary research in generating knowledge (Doucet and Janssein 2011; Weinstein 2011; Decandia 2010; Isserman et. al. 2010; Neelands 2006).
The first experiment to put together a Landscape Theatrics piece was done at an academic/pedagogical setting, where students with design backgrounds (Architecture and Landscape Architecture) collaborated with students with Theatre Education background. The workshop and devising process required cross-disciplinary mutual learning, which is necessary in the merging of two fields, each with different expertise. We believe that despite the project itself, this aspect of learning is important to the process of learning. Traditionally, the curriculum of the academic programmes are always packed with disciplinary technical know-hows and lacks the opportunities for different artistic fields and applications to cross-fertilise. It therefore somewhat comes as a surprise that community theatre techniques basically have not appeared in the community planning process, although it is not difficult to see how the two can mutually benefit each other.
The other aspect of this exercise was that, given the participants were students of two fields, the way that workshop was designed also allowed for the students to explore the different ways in which the Landscape Theatrics method could be developed, with reference to, but not strict adherence to established forms. As the students were required to learn along the way, not only to gain experience in their own field of study but also to as quickly as possible to learn the basics from their collaborators in order to facilitate the collaborative learning process, it simultaneously presented opportunities and limitations. But this is also necessarily true in all instances of cross-disciplinary collaborations. This is especially true in both community planning and community theatre, in which the facilitators are required to collaborate with people from all different backgrounds with different needs and interests. In the tradition of action-based research, the development process of the method itself is conceived of in broad terms of methodological and pedagogical experiments.
Creating the setting for a landscape theatre for Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s Tai Kok Tsui neighbourhood has been chosen to be a first site of this experiment, based on several considerations. Tai Kok Tsui, originally a seabound peninsula at the turn of the nineteenth century, has through its development become an area centred on docking and related industries. Along with Hong Kong’s large-scale reclamation process up to as current as the 1990s, the shoreline of the area has extended as much as 600m, as part of the West Kowloon reclamation, with a land-based urban-transit systems replacing the older ferry terminals and all associated ship-related industries. Within the larger context of deindustrialisation of Hong Kong as a city, the original light industrial conglomeration of Tai Kok Tsui has become a focus of current renewal efforts. The landscape is striking in its juxtaposition of sprouting high-rises within a neighbourhood that is internally transforming quite quickly.
Another reason for the choice of site is for the support given by the Centre for Community Cultural Development (CCCD) and FM Theatre Power (FMTP), both experts in community arts and community theatre, established within the district over the past decade. Through the development of the piece and the method, it is also hoped that further local networks could be built with local residents and stakeholders for fruitful visioning dialogues to continually occur.
The core participants of the workshop were Master-level students from the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Architecture (with a mixture of Architecture and Landscape Architecture students) and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts’ School of Drama (MFA programme in Theatre and Drama Education). The workshop was run over a course of three months, with weekly three-hour workshops that addressed urban theatrical components that are layered over each week towards a final performance. The authors of this paper (coming from landscape architecture and acting backgrounds) were the main facilitators of the workshop, supported by continual input from Mr. Mok Chiu-Yu of the Centre of Community Development and Ms. Estella Wong from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
Based on previous experience in running design studios and directing devised performances, the authors designed the workshop surrounding the key elements of urban experience that are also possible to be carried into a theatre performance. The topics of a landscape theatre explored during the workshop included, sequentially, 1) bodily experience of the site; 2) moods of the urban fabric; 3) characterisation and role play; 4) myths and storytelling; 5) manipulation of space; 6) soundscapes; and 8) temporality. The purpose of each of these sessions was to produce workable fragments that could lead to a larger performance piece towards the end of the workshop. Both community design methods (mapping, drawing, discussion of imageries) and theatrical methods (Playback and Forum Theatre techniques, improvisation in respond to urban images and sounds) were employed to develop a sense of understanding of Tai Kok Tsui as a landscape, and the different means of expressing the urban landscape, incorporating narratives and interactive dialogue via theatre. The objective was to develop, through such means, a sensual and visualised account of the essence of the urban moods and atmospheres of Tai Kok Tsui, and through its presentation, the performers as facilitators would be able to generate a discussion of the neighbourhood’s planning vision.
The collectively devised piece was performed at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre (JCCAC) rooftop on 27 April 2013, with more than sixty people in the audience. The performance lasted slightly more than two hours, consisting of two individual pieces that addressed two aspects of the current urban problems of Tai Kok Tsui, namely, of the controversies surrounding public space; and the hardship of small businesses facing redevelopment pressures that result in perpetually rising rent.
Both pieces were performed with a loose adaptation of the Forum Theatre form. The first piece had a facilitator (identified as the Joker), facilitating the discussions and overall flow of the piece; while the second performance piece employed a “paired” facilitator arrangement, with each facilitator supporting arguments from one side of the debate. Both pieces incorporated, where possible, opportunities for the audience to participate in the presented conflict situations. In the first piece, the politics of public space is tied together through the narrative of the day-time security-guard and part-time hawker, who supports his family through selling products in the highly regulated public spaces of the neighbourhood’s new developments. In the second piece, issues of gentrification are illustrated through the consecutive relocation of a noodle shop in the changing industrial neighbourhood.
Landscape Theatrics performance at JCCAC rooftop. Photo showing part of the performance where hawker is negotiating the use of public space.)
The first trial of the Landscape Theatrics workshop was meant to explore the forms and approaches and the pedagogical practicalities in execution and operation. There were a few stated limitations, as follows. This first experiment was run as a course with specific pedagogical objectives, which required the freedom for students to explore and come up with creative content. Students of both disciplines were in learning stages of within their own fields, on top of the learning curve required for the understanding of the other discipline. There was a lack of participants and audience from the local stakeholders (none of the students had been resident of Tai Kok Tsui), and the performance location was at the rooftop of an artists’ village (due to logistical constraints). The original conception of delivering the performance in a more public area such as the public streets or a more central park or plaza shall be further explored in the future.
Given the constraints of the first Landscape Theatrics workshop, there were many valuable lessons learnt, both from the authors’ perspectives as the facilitators of the overall workshop (not the Jokers of the performance), and also from the feedback from the workshop participants and the audience. The cross-collaboration of the two fields was a welcome addition to the disciplinary discourses and practical applications in community engagement. The visualised dialogue informed by performed narratives was a powerful way to engage an informed discussion of the current understanding and futures of communities.
Regarding the specific workshop and performance that has taken place, a few observations have been made to reflect on the possible directions of future adjustments. First of all, the technical aspects of “performing” the landscape were still immature, leading to the inflexibility in the use of urban images and the tendency to over-script. Some audience felt that the direction of discussion was slightly forced by the Joker(s) towards a pre-determined course of action, resulting in the visioning dialogues appearing somewhat not genuine. This relates of the difficulty of the performance both as a way to inform the audience of certain planning backgrounds and at the same time to generate meaningful discussions, as Ciacci (2010) discussed in his review of the use of film in the planning process and the danger or associating it with propaganda.
Secondly, some limitations and restrictions were felt from applying the Forum Theatre form. The participants of the devising found tremendous challenge in the setting up of conflict situations in specific time and space to allow for the intervention from the “spect-actors”. While many urban planning problems are not solvable in personal-scale situations, the attempts to resolve/address these issues in a Forum Theatre script easily leads into dead-ends, i.e. unresolvable conflicts. The use of the metaphor for treating landscape as the “protagonist” may be problematic in a Forum theatre setting, stemming from the fact that the landscape could not physically and directly be “replaced” by an audience in an intervention.
Thirdly, there were also the obvious challenges encountered in facilitating cross-disciplinary collaborations, in which the learning curve demanded of the workshop participants were high. Given the experience of the performers and perhaps restriction in form, the workshop participants also found it difficult to use improvisation techniques in creative process, partly affected by the anxiety to understand the “complete picture” of urban issues, which inhabited the looseness of creative improvisation. The Jokers or the facilitators of the performance also felt insecure in that they felt that their knowledge of the neighbourhood and of planning issues were limited and may be challenged by experts in the audience.
Much of these problems may stem from the general issue of having to deliver a performance in a limited time frame, rather than a more open-ended arrangement, such as a discussion session in a more causal workshop setting. The need to perform partly contributed to the general problems of over-scripting and the inflexibility and forced direction of the performances. An associated problem was the lack of preparedness to open up the floor to audience’s ideas in more unstructured formulations more akin to Playback Theatre for collective improvisation (also affected by the way that the images were prepared). In the current set-up, the time investment required to develop the performance restricts it from broader applications with limited preparation time.
From an experiential learning point of view, the production of performance piece had great value in the interdisciplinary collaboration itself. The participants of the workshop, learnt through practice, the tools and methods used in collective devising and applications of theatre to address urban issues, and also the logistics of collaboratively producing a performance.
From the urban planning and design point of view, both the audience and the workshop participants felt that the immersion into communities and making the personal narratives explicit was helpful in conceiving an understanding of the socio-economic aspects in the design of the physical urban fabric. The value lies in both the process of developing the workshop and the final delivery of the performance. During the workshop process, traditional site analysis techniques were enhanced by phenomenological explorations and research into personal narratives. The opening up to using their bodies to experience and express spatial elements encouraged the investigation of deeper concerns during the design of urban sites. These components suggests an alternative creative/design process, in which the importance of engagement in the dialogues necessary in community designs is placed at the forefront.
The theatre educators, on the other hand, were encouraged to view oppression from a larger perspective, or the way that they could be represented within a larger context. Oppression of individuals or community groups does not operate in vacuums and that materiality of the city could potentially have a much larger role to play in resolving the complex structural injustice in urban societies. However, feedback from the workshop was that some of the participants remained confused about urban issues, and the professions of urban planning and design in general.
Conclusions and way forward
Addressing the limitations, feedback, and reflection of the first Landscape Theatrics performance, there are a few obvious components that require continuing effort in achieving the goals set at the outset. These include the inclusion of community collaborators at more site-specific locations. The imaging content and techniques need to be further enriched and developed, to allow for less structured forms of interactive performance. A looser opening has been suggested to capture the ideas of audience and shape the sense of genius loci, the essence of place, so that more flexibility is allowed for audience participation. Training for improvisation techniques could be enhanced and given more emphasis. Part of the reason for over-scripting stems from the fact that there was not enough confidence by the Joker and actors to instantly respond to complex urban discussions. Improvisation during the creative process shall also be more strongly emphasised, borrowing from, for example, Playback techniques in enabling theatrical responses that does not require concrete “plots”.
Directions shall be clearer as to the need for using landscape images/characters/plots to visualise possibilities and provoke discussions rather than forcing towards predetermined designs and outcomes. Further combination of theatrical elements, including sounds, text, colours and textures of the urban fabric shall be choreographed to illustrate an essence of place. The choice of Joker has been an aspect that has not been fully addressed in the first experiment. Whether more concrete knowledge of planning issues is required of the Joker shall be further explored. Are there bags of tools that could be given to the facilitator in preparation in order to give him/her more confidence? A core aspect is to be able to further reflect upon the effectiveness of the improvisation techniques employed in the devising and rehearsal process (see e.g. Heddon and Milling 2006).
Another point of note regards to the fact that, while we propose that the landscape is the object of oppression in the Forum Theatre setting, it does not mean that the “spect-actors” are able to simply walk on stage and “replace” the landscape to take action. While the attempt is to give “voice” to the landscape through images, sounds, and stories, what is at stake remains the relationship between the landscape and its inhabitants. What our forums allow us to do, is really, let people understand that they are also in charge of deciding the future of their landscape, that they must actively participate, and that decisions of urban spaces are not restricted to the jurisdiction of government technocrats or real estate developers. Our forums allow “spect-actors” to actively intervene.
Finally, we wish to make a few notes on the Landscape Theatrics form in its potentials to reconcile between the artistic, applied, and pedagogical components. The multiple goals shall not stand in opposition to one another. Artistically engaging representations and performance of space shall stimulate and provoke emotions and sentiments necessary for meaningful contributions to the visioning dialogue. Both directions warrant further explorations and development. Ultimately, pieces could be developed that are either more heavily invested in the representational aspects of urban explorations or are more focused on community engagement. The two shall be able to mutually inform each other in fashions that would strengthen the depth and effectiveness of both.
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