Using Theatre in Schools to Address Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities
- Forum Theatre
- Keystone Human Services International - Moldova Association
- Country of Implementation
- Start Year
- First published
“Thanks to Forum Theatre, we know how to advocate for ourselves and for our rights. We understand how to stop discrimination.” Student after a Forum Theatre performance
Keystone Moldova was founded in 2004 with support from US-based organization Keystone Human Services International. Keystone Moldova works with public authorities, donors and civil society organizations to develop community services for people with disabilities leaving institutions, and to advocate for their right to live in the community. Since 2012, Keystone Moldova has developed four social theatre troupes that perform the Forum Theatre method in schools and kindergartens. Over 5,000 students and 700 teachers have been involved in performances as of 2018. Participants report that as a result schools have lower levels of discrimination and improved accessibility policies.
Discrimination against people with disabilities is a significant problem in Moldova, often linked to a lack of information about disability and people not recognising discriminatory behaviour.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
Keystone Moldova uses the Forum Theatre method in schools and kindergartens to increase awareness of discrimination and its impact. Theatre practitioner Augosto Boal developed Forum Theatre in Brazil in the 1970s in which scenes portray incidents of social injustice that are relevant to the audience. The character of The Joker interacts directly with the audience, encouraging them to develop alternative solutions to the situations presented. The audience can also interrupt and replace the performers to act out these solutions. All the actors are trained volunteers, both with and without disabilities. Performances help audiences understand various forms of discrimination and how to address them. Forum Theatre follows up with the schools and kindergartens after the performances to measure the impact. This has included changes to school accessibility policies and teachers using Forum Theatre methods in their classes to address discrimination. People with disabilities report that the performances have led to greater support from peers, teachers, and parents to advocate for their rights.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
Keystone Moldova has funded the Forum Theatre programme through external grants from 2012 to 2018. The main expenditure is training volunteers, which costs about €3,000 for 12 volunteers, and for play development. A single performance with 12 participants costs approximately €300. Keystone Moldova started its first social theatre troupe, ‘Alternativ’, in 2012 and has added three regional troupes since then. Two additional regions in Moldova are looking to develop Forum Theatre troupes, but require funding to do so. Since its development in Brazil nearly a half-century ago, the Forum Theatre method has been used in many different countries worldwide. The method is best replicated through partnerships with existing theatre troupes so as to benefit from their training and expertise. Once trained, volunteers can use the method in different contexts and to address other forms of discrimination.
THE STORY OF MARIA IVAȘCU, MEMBER OF THE ALTERNATIV THEATRE TROUPE
“Since I began acting, I have learned that I don’t have to be afraid anymore.”
Fear. Fear kept me home. Fear wouldn’t let me talk to people. Fear prevents many people with disabilities from participating in society. I am Maria Ivașcu and I am 20 years old. I am in the Alternativ theatre troupe and I support other people with disabilities to overcome fear and integrate into society. I always dreamt that one day I would perform, but never imagined that I would fulfil my dream. I never imagined that I would speak to so many people and explain that I can do the same things they can. I don’t have to stay home just because I use a wheelchair. Since I began acting, I have learned that I don’t have to be afraid anymore. I am a person and I have equal rights. My life has changed, and the lives of people with disabilities in the communities where we perform have changed as well. Our performances are designed to stop and prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in schools and kindergartens. We show audiences the reality of the situation in their community. We then invite spectators to the stage and they offer solutions to help stop discrimination. Audiences learn that they don’t have to avoid people with disabilities, because we are all the same. We can all learn from each other.