Nelly Bassily | July 5, 2010
In the last twenty years, drama, music and puppetry have become popular tools for communication and development work (alongside radio drama of course!) Participatory theatre can be used in a variety of settings and needs little or no equipment. Music and drama are also useful for situations where few people read and write, or when audiences speak different languages. Done well, these creative communication methods can overcome social, linguistic and cultural barriers. Many attribute the rise of what is known as Theatre for Development or TfD to Augusto Boal, a Brazilian educator. In TfD, audiences participate in dramas and learn through experience. This can be a non-confrontational way to encourage communities to talk about difficult subjects.
Here is a short background piece on theatre for development:
And here are some basic notes and suggestions on how drama can be used in communities:
Here is an FRW story which includes an example of using public theatre to raise awareness:
–Burkina Faso: Maternal health is a human right, insists Amnesty International
A good proportion of Farm Radio International’s scripts are mini-dramas. Like face-to-face theatre, music and puppetry, mini-dramas are an opportunity to educate listeners while entertaining them.
Here is a link to a Farm Radio International script, developed with an organization which uses theatre in its work:
–Developing cotton organizations in Mali: From Village Association to cooperative
Drama, theatre, music or puppets do not work in all cultures. Some people are too shy to join in. Others just find it does not suit their working method or style of learning. Participants and audiences may react in different ways; it is good to be aware of this.
You might consider producing a radio drama with theatre as the theme. Issues to explore include:
-Is theatre relevant in your culture? Is theatre used just for entertainment or does it sometimes have an educational role?
-How would people react if asked to join in a participatory drama? Would youth be interested?
-How comfortable would participants or facilitators be discussing topics such as HIV/AIDS through drama? More or less so than with other communication tools?