Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Psychology, Criminal Justice and Sociology

First Advisor

Dr. Jenell Paris

Second Advisor

Dr. Ed Cohn

Third Advisor

Dr. James LaGrand


While working on this project, I struggled with what to actually call this category of theatre. Augusto Boal uses the term “theatre of the oppressed” to describe his model of theatre. Other theatre artists use terms like social justice theatre, grassroots theatre, political theatre, or popular participatory theatre. I decided that the best-fitting term was applied theatre, which is described by Prendergast & Saxton as a type of theatre that “works overtly either to reassert or to undermine socio-political norms, as its intent is to reveal more clearly the way the world is working” (Prendergast & Saxton, 2009, p. 8). Applied theatre, specifically applied theatre that takes its cues from Boal’s work, allows for both the development of knowledge and the experience of empathy. The combination of those two can create multiple levels of change. Applied theatre creates enlightened empathy by encouraging transformation, both internally/personally and externally/socially. This paper seeks to answer the questions addressed in the introduction through the lens of Augusto Boal’s work on applied theatre. Boal was a Brazilian drama theorist and theatre practitioner in the mid to late 1900s who created a new method of theatre called “theatre of the oppressed”, which served as the basis for much of future applied theatre globally. I will explore the foundations of Boal’s work, specifically Greek tragic theatre and the works of Bertolt Brecht. I will also examine Boal’s two main theories of applied theatre. One focuses on external action while the other focuses on internal development. The paper will investigate case studies of the application of Boal’s theories and technique as well as domains where applied theatre is commonly used. To honor Boal’s belief that theatre must be active and participatory, the paper requires action and participation on the behalf of the reader. At the end of each section is a connection to an applied theatre piece that I have written, entitled Reclamation x 5. Reclamation x 5 portrays the process of healing from mental illness by showing the experiences of young women at a mental health summer camp. I will ask the reader questions in the hopes of directly applying these theories and ideas to a real theatre piece. For a Reclamation x 5 plot summary and character list, please see the Appendix at the end of the paper.


Written as part of HONR 498