Improv and Invisible Theatre

G11 came to the aid of Grade 3 teachers today. Teachers wanted a provocation for their PYP unit on Peace and Conflict – a performed argument which would generate conversation and debate in the students who happened upon the piece of ‘invisible theatre’. The experience, and subsequent reading on Boal’s Invisible Theatre pieces in his book ‘Games for Actors and Non Actors’, began an interesting debate – how much can we rely on improvisation in Invisible Theatre? Boal’s position is – not a lot. He writes about the importance of working to a tight structure and carefully crafted script particularly when describing the piece for the Paris Metro. Is it responsible to go into a situation without careful planning and script writing? When do we know when to move away from the script and respond to our audience ‘off script’? Is the safety of actors and audience always carefully considered? Is the stuff we see in some of TV shows seen below examples of invisible theatre? I would like to argue that they are not – mainly because of their over reliance on improvisation, this means they no longer follow the conventions set out for the style of work Boal named ‘Invisible Theatre’.

About La (Paula) Mor

La (Paula) Mór is a theatre teacher and director. She has taught and directed in the UK and internationally for 20+ years, both at Secondary and University level. La is currently working on Jeju Island in South Korea at Branksome Hall Asia where she develops original, contemporary theatre with her students and continues research into the applications of the Viewpoints in Theatre Education. La has been trained in Anne Bogart's 9 Viewpoints by SITI Theatre Company and Zen Zen Zo and delivers international Viewpoints training to young people, undergraduates, performers and lecturers. Academic background: BA(Hons) Bristol University; PGCE Leeds University; MA Applied Theatre, Central School of Speech and Drama.

7 Responses

  1. I did not know that invisible theater should be structured out before the performance. I knew that they would have some sort of practice before the performance, but I did not know that they would carefully examine all the aspects that can be happened and write up the full script as well. I think this planning session is very important, because it will show the guide line to audience and also the actors lead to the topic that the director intended to show in the invisible theater.

    I think that the invisible theaters are very adaptable and various based on the place where the invisible theater occur, because sometimes the invisible theater would not work in certain area and would work in other area. Thus, the invisible theater is flexible based on the place where it takes place to be performed.

  2. Invisible theater is an theatrical experiment; therefore, a successful work of invisible theater must involve careful examination and trials before deciding on the result. Therefore, if a piece of invisible theater performance is only played once, the value of the performance lessens.
    On the other hand, the purpose of a work also determines the efficacy of the performance. For instance, if the purpose of a particular piece is to promote advertisement and increase profit (e.g. Samsung’s promotion), it is likely to lack its quality as an invisible theater piece.
    I also learned about the value of the rehearsal and planning process in the invisible theater, especially writing down the outline of the performance. When a performance is only communicated verbally between the actors, the intention of the performance may be spoiled, because there is a danger of the actors improvising without considering the director’s purpose.

  3. My understanding of invisible theatre made me to see these clips based on various perspective by asking these questions.
    1. Is it a serious problem that is arisen in a community?
    2. What is the message through this performance?
    3. What is the purpose of this performance(Ex: tv shows-to increase their rating)
    4. Does this performance does not threat or hurt actors and audience?
    5. Was the energy level high or low? why?

    Furthermore, I realized that the invisible theatre should also write script for actors to stay in their character rather than come out with personal opinions, and flow of the performance.

    After understanding of invisible theatre I could also applicate to our real life by asking questions “What is the serious problem that is arisen in Branksome/Korea? which place would be better to perform? and What are the dangers?

  4. roh

    Augusto Boal says invisible theatre should be in daily life situation but quite exaggerated in order to follow the theatre. Creating invisible theatre through using daily life situation is still nice way, but I could think in another way that sometimes actors can create unbelievable and unexpected invisible theatre. Maybe the time during invisible theatre can be only time we escape from real life and show people another world and provoke their imagination

  5. Having understood the concept of invisible theatre, I now know that the rehearsal process is of the utmost importance. From what I’ve experience, the preparation is mandatory to give structure to the audience and make the performance to flow in a slick manner. A well prepared and scripted performance is also to prevent actors to reveal their personal beliefs and stereotype apart form the characters they are given. As invisible theatre addresses socially sensitive topics, directors and actors should make a clear line between theatre and reality even though they should be in an alive state.

    Before creating a piece of invisible theatre, one must consider the social impacts that the piece will trigger. The application of theatre will not be efficacious in Korea; for example, If a director is planning to address the division of social class and hierarchal system, the director should be fully aware of the cultural context – the director has to consider a situation where the audience is put into a dangerous position. Furthermore, a director must consider whether he/she is forcing his own bias into the audience.

  6. Dayoung Lee

    Invisible theatre
    Made to arise problems in society for oppressed people.
    Burning importance -> How can we determine the importance?
    -> Actually doing the invisible theatre helps finding out the importance of the problem. It might not be as important as someone thought, or the problem might be bigger than expectation. The reaction of the audience tells the problem. The reaction can differ in various ways depending on different culture.

    Sometimes, invisible theatre can be dangerous and hurt people without knowing. It can cause physical conflict or the explosion of emotion of the audience.

    Written script, more planning and more structure make better performances. Our performance in Stem -V was improvisation, but it could have been better with actual script. It will allow more precisely intended play.

    Example- Paris Metro
    My example- Domestic violence in a restaurant. People in the restaurant (audience) help the woman and call the police. In this piece of invisible theatre, the production team has already told the police in case of an audience calling them. This showed problem of society.

  7. As I researched about Invisible Theatre so far, it is not an onstage performance, and it is viewed as real to audiences. So I think it could seems to be very interested to performers about deceiving people just for entertain them. However, Agusto Boal, who started the Invisible Theatre, created this to help people by treating oppressions, and performers don’t tell the fact that their performance is an Invisible Theatre to people (audiences). I don’t think these videos are pieces of Invisible Theatre, because they told the people that these were all performances. Having said that, some of those performances were in good purpose in my opinion. Those looked like to criticize serious oppressions in specific society, so I think those almost had the role (aim/purpose) of the Invisible Theatre.

    I also found that Invisible Theatre requires a significant amount of preparation and rehearsals. Since it can’t tell audiences the fact that it’s a performance (Invisible Theatre), this needs to be realistic. Audiences have to feel seriousness of social issues or oppressions by showing up a big conflict in front of target audiences, usually happening on the street. On the other hand, four of our IB Theatre students performed a piece of Invisible Theatre by improvisation. They didn’t have time to rehearse for it, so they were not able to perform realistically at the most.

    I wonder what were the most efficient consequences of pieces of Invisible Theatre. (examples) Does it really work to people nowadays? I don’t quite believe that people nowadays are very influential from others actions. (and how does it impact to audiences?)

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