HOMELESS THEATER – Vancouver’s Theatre for Living

by Red Cell

ARTSPIX_Homelessness_2
after homelessness… is an unusual kind of theater. The questions of homelessness, addiction, affordable housing, mental health, and social work are examined by the very people that they effect most. The work is created and performed by community members in the city of Vancouver who have struggled or are living with homelessness and mental health issues. This creates an interesting dynamic between life, art and those that come to see the performance.

Headlines Theatre’s multi-award winning director David Diamond conducts courses called “Theatre for Living” workshops that stem from the work of Augusto Boal and his famous “Theatre of the Oppressed.” Since the theater’s inception in 1981, they have moved away from the dynamic of oppressor/oppressed as examined by Boal, and instead have chosen to believe in the power of community, or as they put it, “a systems-based perspective; understanding that a community is a complexly integrated, living organism.” The workshops are six days long and prepare the participants to theatrically tell their stories. Headlines has been winning awards with this approach for over 27 years.

The play that is formed by the people in the workshops is then performed once in it’s entirety, allowing the audience to understand the issues and problems involved. Then the work is presented a second time and the audience is able to intervene on behalf of the cast members by taking their place in the performance and trying his or her hand at bettering the situation with alternate choices. This interaction creates a dialog between the life of the story and the ideas of the spectators, inviting a real life interest in the puzzle begging to be solved. The plays never has a real ending and offers no quick fix solutions to the problems on display. But, in treating the story as something the audience can actively do something about, one can only hope that those present take their interest in problem solving back out into the street. This type of theater has the potential to help shape not only social activism, but Government policy as well.

Firehall Arts Centre, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
Nov 20 through 29, 2009
and for the Community Dialogue Sessions – Nov 24, 25, 26

The Holy Trinity Cathedral, New Westminster
Dec 1 through 6, 2009

LINK TO AFTER HOMELESSNESS

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