Theatre Troupe

By Rohith Bhargavan, Communications Assistant

“All of us have ideas of how things should be changed. We don’t need it handed down to us from some leader, we can make the choices about the world we want to live in.” – Metta, YouthCO Theatre Troupe Coordinator

With World AIDS Day rapidly approaching, it’s nearly time for YouthCO’s annual Groundswell event. On December 1st, we will gather at VIVO Media Arts to showcase and celebrate the creativity of YouthCO’s arts-based programming. The event includes works by YouthCO members and volunteers, and will feature an interactive performance by our Theatre Troupe. Theatre Troupe is one of YouthCO’s most dynamic and creative outreach programs. This dedicated group of volunteers meets weekly to explore issues and experiences of HIV amongst youth in the community, including oppression, poverty, the sex trade and drug use. They take these issues and bring them to young people in the community through performances at youth groups, schools, summer camps and elsewhere.

The Troupe practices what is called “Theatre of the Oppressed”, a participatory form of theatre developed by Brazilian Augusto Boal in the 1960s.  Based on Paolo Freire’s concepts of power structures and hierarchical relationships in the community – power over, power with and power within – Theatre of the Oppressed evolved into a way for people to recreate their experiences dealing with power. At their workshops, the Troupe acts out a scene until the climactic moment; audience members then have a chance to enter the scene and try out their response to the situation, or to resolve the tension. In this way, the Theatre Troupe refers to their art as “a dress rehearsal for real life.”

Theatre Troupe at Groundswell 2010

Theatre of the Oppressed aims to create community dialogue around HIV and Hep C by using our bodies to represent both where the power is in a situation as well as how we can respond to that scenario. The issues explored in a workshop deal with issues confronted by the people in the room. Therefore, Theatre of the Oppressed can look vastly different depending on who is in the audience or where it is taking place. However, it is always engaged with the goal of letting people discuss their ideas, fine-tune them, and challenge each other in a safe space. There is often a recognition that there are people who make decisions which have negative impacts on others’ lives due to stereotypes or stigma.

Advances in antiretroviral treatment have radically changed the face of HIV over the past fifteen years, making HIV a more manageable lifelong condition. While we recognise that this has resulted in a privilege of access in richer regions and populations worldwide, it also means that we forget that HIV it still has great impact on communities within BC and Vancouver. The Theatre Troupe is integral to YouthCO’s mission to break down social barriers to understanding and combating the ignorance and stigma surrounding HIV, and to show us that we can all contribute in the fight for health and wellbeing in our community.

YouthCO marks World AIDS Day with Groundswell to highlight the work that we do year-round. Groundswell will be held on Thursday, December 1st at VIVO Media Arts, with entrance by donation. We invite you to come meet local activists and meet the many people who have contributed to our work.

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