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Theatre for Changes. Applaud Yourself.

Theater for Changes, has tried to spread the idea of social theater in Armenia for the past few years. Using a method called “Interactive Forum Theater”, this non-profit group engages the most passive audience in theatrical performance.

Developed in the 1970s by Brazilian film director and politician Augusto Boal,Interactive Forum Theater helps audiences confront issues of social oppression and destruction. This genre was first introduced in Armenia in 2007.

“When we started, it was new and surprising for many to see that it is possible to break traditional theater. Today, however, the audience very actively participates in our performances,” said the theater’s Art Director Hayk Sekoyan.

During this type of show, the audience is asked to applaud themselves for participating in the performance and being active in a scene. Performances are mainly dedicated to social issues, like freedom of speech, family violence, sexual discrimination, the possible solution of which is expected to come from the audience. Red and green papers are placed on the audience’s seats, which they use to express their agreement or disagreement with the actors’ moves. Onlookers even have the opportunity to go to the stage and replace the actors. The only restriction is that options suggested by the audience must not include any elements of violence or fantastic solution.

Theater for Changes has neither a permanent location nor permanent financing, yet between 2007 and 2010, they staged 246 performances and participated in five international festivals, including their performance “Who Could Imagine”on World Aids Day 2010, which was aired on Y-PEER Network of Armenia. The organization also implements an educational program for school children.

“We never try to obligate anyone, but rather create an opportunity for you to express your opinion,” said Arsen Grigoryan, an actor who leads performances and explains the concept of Interactive Forum Theatre to the audience at the close of the program.

Ruzan Gishyan is a current Avedis & Arsho Baghsarian Scholar.

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