Training Paralegals in Theater Education

Starting 2015 Namati Myanmar program will introduce theater education for community awareness raising activities for more attractive and effective ways of community education. The idea is local theater group to train paralegals from our program, then the paralegals will conduct theater education sessions in their local communities in collaboration with active members from the communities.

May I request colleagues who has theater program experiences to share with Myanmar team for better preparations of community theater education from paralegals to the communities.

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Please keep us updated what you are doing, how it is going, etc. I am very interested in using theatre for legal education - so exciting!

Rachael

That’s great to hear, theater can be a really interesting and accessible way to teach legal rights. I have some experience with using theater to teach land rights within forced evictions in Cambodia and it was very useful there.

Some initial thoughts: You want to determine whether you want to create a performance that is to be watched by communities (with local artists and activists acting perhaps) or whether you have a more flexible, participatory method (more like a longer role play scenario). Making the theater for just viewing allows you to teach very specific points and have more control over the outcomes and scenarios, although creating a role play certainly gives participants more opportunities to learn the substance more through their own experience. We always preferred a role play as the learning is more extensive and retained better, but this depends on the objectives of the training.

Depending on the audience and the topics being taught, you can also teach a series of exercises about legal rights and then apply them through a half or full day role play theater exercise. I helped draft curriculum for a 3 day training on land rights and evictions which had a last day that involved a full day role play where some participants played roles as the private company, the community and the local chiefs. This was very effective, but was intensive in preparation.

I will search for some materials online for theater for rights-based education and send that through email too - would be good to add this to our resource database as well!

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Transparency International includes Drama in its Empowering Youth: Anti Corruption Kit for Young Activists, featuring work done in Tunisia. Might be worth looking at for inspiration. There are also interesting examples of using drama in Kenya and Morocco.

2014_AntiCorruptionKit_Drama.pdf (52.0 KB)

Yes - we have also used theater in our right to health work here in Mozambique. In 2013/early 2014 we worked regularly with several local theater troupes in our program catchment areas, who had been trained by Grupo de Teatro do Oprimido (GTO) - a Mozambican cultural association that seeks to advance citizenship and civic education by transforming traditionally passive audiences into active participants. Based on the work of Brazilian theater practitioner Augusto Boal, GTO’s approach promotes solidarity and reflection, fostering a collective search for solutions to problems that undermine community development. You can read more about Boal’s Teatro do Oprimido (Theatre of the Oppressed in English) methodology:

We found in practice that it was challenging to ensure the quality of the performances using local actors who were not deeply familiar with the content of our work (we prepped them with material, but often felt the performances were not very rich in terms of engaging community as participants in actively seeking and discussion solutions) and had often received only very limited one-time training from GTO. Very often they attracted crowds, but we were not convinced that the performances went beyond entertainment - I think also related to the experience/skill level of the actors. In early 2014, after evaluating all of these factors, including the factor of cost of the theater activities (paying the groups for their time, providing them transport often to remote areas) we opted to continue to use theater only for larger events - for example right to health fairs and in our new media efforts we are planning for 2015 - where we would surely attract larger crowds and could work with GTO centrally more closely to ensure quality of the material.

Karnataka team does skits on coastal regulation at community meetings. They all surprised me with their acting abilities. One of the paralegals in particular, Maruti, has people falling out of their chairs. @mrhegde can elaborate?

Here’s an (somewhat excessively) academic paper about a Nepalese radio drama designed to disseminate info about health services, gender rights, family planning etc, and also involved community activities. It addresses some problems around participation, impacts on local agency and culture, and measuring impact, so might be useful background reading: Participatory Communication in Nepal.pdf (99.6 KB)

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Thanks Jaimie.

excessively academic…well said. (smile)

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Theatre is a good medium to reach out, to talk about issues and convey messages of change in an interactive way. Theatre can be used in many ways to give messages directly to people, provoke public debates, or present nuanced understandings of issues.

I have done some performances in the streets, colleges and universities on women’s issues.

Based on my experience I advise you to keep the script short. This way the message would be sharp. You can repeat the main message two-three times in the play.

If the issue is new to the audience then I suggest that satire not be used in the play. I have seen it backfire at times in such instances!

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great work on the paralegal front, using theatre is awesome and simplifies many issues, while making it easier to address all our paralegal needs in one seating.

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Hi all, I recognize that this is an old thread, so apologies if the conversation has been picked up elsewhere. In the last 6 months or so our paralegals in Lagos and Port Harcourt have (spontaneously!) taken up using skits and short performance pieces as part of their community legal education on a variety of legal topics (DV and SGBV, housing rights and evictions, criminal law/engaging with the police, etc) – paired with other communication/teaching techniques. Generally they are brilliant, often very funny, and always quite powerful at communicating important legal information and skills. Aside from a related recent workshop on creative civil disobedience to resist evictions, our paralegals have no formal theater or acting training. However, seeing that its become a more regular part of their community legal education work, we may try to provide them some more focused training/tips. @michaelotto I’d be keen to see the curriculum you developed for the role play on land rights and evictions. Thanks, and all the best!

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