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Alternative pedagogies: Invisible Theatre

Invisible Theatre (IT) is a type of performance used in Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed. Boal developed this series of theatrical techniques as a way of responding to and critiquing social injustice in order to promote change and discourse. Boal (2007) described IT as "a presentation of a scene in an environment other than the theatre, before people who are not spectators" (p. 213). IT challenges communication to disrupt the way norms are unquestionably embraced. IT also allows actors to role-play dramatic situations by intervening in a real-life, controversial issue. Donovan King, a theatre activist and narrator of the short documentary Global Invisible states that IT is "designed to theatrically challenge hegemonic thinking and oppressive systems."

One formula for an IT performance includes: (a) one actor reacting to an oppressive situation or the by accepting it and supporting it, (b) a second actor challenging the situation by rejecting it as an activist, (c) an argument or discourse occurring in public between the first and second actors, and (d) a third actor who reacts to the situation by framing it in a larger context beyond just the existing situation.

Traditionally, a play or theatre production allows audience members an escape into a fictional world from their everyday lives, which they return to once the production is over. In IT, the production focuses on a social reality and allows actors to interact with their audiences. Actors anticipate and rehearse possible responses to the scene, and they hope to provoke interaction with the audience. The actors do not want to reveal themselves as performers in a fictional situation to the audience. Rather, they want to use the situation as a building block to intervene in a hegemonic reality. They want the audience to engage in a discourse about a topic that they may never have cognitively addressed.

This type of performance can be used to challenge prejudices caused by language differences and the effect of language-in-education policies. An unfortunate social reality is that subordinate languages and subordinate language users are not viewed with the same respect as the dominant language or users of the dominant language. Social injustice can occur when the Other exists outside of the norms of society and is discriminated against for doing so. (See What are LEPs, The Importance of LEPs).

The picture above shows Mannequin Art by Kittikun Atsawintarangkul.


Boal, Augusto (1998). Invisible Theatre. In Jan Cohen Cruz (Ed.), Radical Street Performance (pp.213-215). London: Routledge.


Boal, Augusto (2000). Theatre of the Oppressed. London: Pluto.


Boyd, Andrew & Mitchell, David Oswald (2012) Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution. New York: OR.


Burstow, Bonnie (2008) Invisible theater, ethics, and the adult educator. International

Journal of Lifelong Education, 27(3), 273-288.


Golan, Gan (Presenter). (2013). Art is a hammer: Reshaping the narrative through cultural intervention [Training session presentation]. USA: Netroots Nation.



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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as


Zuidema, M.  (2013). Alternative pedagogies: Invisible Theatre. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date).