Why does a revolutionary theatre method developed in the 1960s and 1970s by Brazilian intellectual and activist Augusto Boal belong in clinical legal education? Use of the transformative Forum Theatre method can greatly enhance legal education. Boal, a colleague and disciple of Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed), developed Forum Theatre as a democratic, participatory, and collaborative production between the actors and the audience, to revolutionize traditional sit-and-watch theatre. Spectators in the audience become spect-actors, halt the oppressive element in a scenario, take the place of the actors, and eliminate oppression. The over-arching goal of Forum Theatre is to illuminate and achieve social justice.
Because of the frequent use of role-playing methodologies in clinical legal education, and its client-centered approach to legal representation, law school clinics are an ideal laboratory to develop and explore Forum Theatre as an instructional exercise. Students learn to interrupt oppression, to observe and check their own paternalistic instincts, to empower vulnerable clients, and to transform the legal encounter into one that is more ethical and just. Three scripts the authors have developed and used in clinical training are included as an Appendix.
JoNel Newman, Fergus Lawrie, Donald Nicolson, and Melissa Swain, Theater and Revolution in Clinical Legal Education, 26 Clinical L. Rev. 465 (2020).