After becoming an English teacher, Cecilia Antuna discovered that theatre can be a powerful teaching tool and is now promoting an approach called Theatre of the Oppressed. Jaquemate asked her how she got involved in theatrical activity.
“Actually, while I was training to become an English teacher, at ICANAES, when I was going through the optional texts, I came across a methodology textbook. It was one of those describing the outburst of 'methods' that were in practice in the United States during the 80's. TPR, The Silent Way, The Natural approach, and so on. Among the 'celebrity' teachers I had was a guy (whose name I can't remember) who used acting as a language teaching and learning skill. And I had the feeling that was a road that would be interesting to explore. Just thinking about it as a teaching tool, no as something I'd personally pursue. So, when I heard about the EFL Drama Certificate that was offered in CAECE, I enrolled. There I was fortunate to meet some pretty talented people who ended up kindling my interest for theatrical activity, not only as a teaching tool. I took some classes with Alfred Hopkins and also with Alberto Ivern, before deciding to do a drama teaching major.
What is theatre in your opinion and what is its role in society?
Obviously, theatre is an ART- and like all art forms it is a means of expression. I think when we can see 'art' in retrospective we get the 'essence' of the time. Before I used to think that some people were sort of born artists (and then trained or not) and the rest of us were spectators of their art. Artist were able to see, hear, sense more and express more than us regular sorts- who at the most were able to appreciate what the privileged crowd could do.
Now, I think we should all have the chance to not only appreciate the artistic expressions of others, but be able to have firsthand experience in different forms of art. I now think we can all do art and it is as important for a person’s development as learning your basic arithmetic and reading- It's what connects us to beauty and to the roots of human nature.
There are many different ways of doing theatre, as there are also many different schools of painting or music. What kind of theatre do you like to see and what kind of theatre do you like to practice or teach?
I like to see almost any kind of theatre-- when it's a good performance--drama, tragedy, comedy, although I'm not much into `comedia de puertas' type of thing-but I do love a good clown and I love physical theatre and street performers. I admire the talent street performers have to make people stop doing whatever they were doing to watch. I think they put spice to a day that may be otherwise dull.
I took acting classes for four years in Andamio 90 - most teachers there are method teachers- Stanislavski- I've also taken clown classes and now I'm in Cachimba which is a school that follows the Lecoq methodology- ( and I feel really good there , so I plan to stay)
Could you tells us a little about your experience with the "Theatre of the oppressed?"
I have a workshop where we use Boals techniques- basically we do the Image theatre and Forum theatre I learned at CELCIT with Raúl Shallom, however, I also took a few more workshops with Cora Farestein--and what really got me hooked was the idea of using theatre as a tool for social transformation. The basic idea of the methodology is that anyone can do theatre--the different exercises are used to explore different themes that arise from the group. This results in the creation of pieces that are then subject to the forum. In the Forum, basically, any spectator can interrupt the performance to suggest a different course of action, taking the place of any of the actors. In this way the performance becomes a rehearsal for life.
Do you mean to say that anyone do it, or is it a technique for experienced actors?
Yes, absolutely anybody can do it; that’s what makes it so powerful. There are w-up games that prepare the group for the task- and then everybody just plays along.
I understand that you have established your own school or workshop based on Theatre of the Oppressed. Could you tells us what you do and who participates in your theatrical activities?
The workshop is a 15 hour workshop done in five three-hour meetings which I do in LA Galpona (CENTRO CULTURAL IN VILLA MARTELLI). Anybody can do it. So far, most of the participants have been teachers, coordinators of several organizations, neighbors- First we play- (to lose inhibitions, to improve body register, etc- ) then the participants choose a theme to work on and depict that theme as an image. The individual images are transformed by the participants into a collective image- Then they are improvised to add text, rehearsed, presented and transformed again during the forum.
An extraordinary number of persons are involved in theatrical activity but most of them do it out of passion, dedicating long hours to rehearsals with little or no income resulting from their efforts. Do you think that is a positive or negative aspect of the society in which we live?
I'll say it in Spanish 'cause I'm tired right now and it takes too much thinking: la autogestión y la producción en cooperativa por un lado permiten la increíble proliferación de espectáculos teatrales que hay en Buenos Aires pero por otro continúan alimentando la mitología popular de que al artista no le interesa el dinero, solo su arte- cuando en realidad también pagan su alquiler, sus servicios, etc. como cualquier hijo de vecino-y se ven obligados a trabajar de otras cosas para solventar sus gastos. Considero injusto que se paga la sala, se pagan los derechos de autor, se pagan los técnicos y por último se reparte a los actores... como si no fueran los que sostienen el espectáculo y obviamente antes se ensaya sin sueldo. Creo que los actores debiéramos cambiarlo- no actuando gratis.
What are your plans or projects for the near future?
I want to become a referent of Theater of the Oppressed in zona norte- and obviously I also want to perform- as much as I can.