BACKGROUND OF VAT THEATRE FORUM GROUP
VAT Theatre Forum Group has been the oldest forum theatre group in Estonia. It has been active since 1999 when the first forum theatre stories were presented in Mustamäe youth culture festival „Youth Without Violence“. The primary target audience up to now has been school youth, but the group has also collaborated with university students, teachers, convicts, prison workers, school theatre leaders and social workers. The topics have included: violence (at school, at home, on the streets etc), drugs, theft, and discrimination on different levels and many other topics. We have been part of aswell initiating big amount of different projects in national and international level.
We have been creating performances, workshops and schoolings of forum theatre. In recent years Jokers (leaders of performance) and participants (actors) have been gathering in VAT Theatre according to projects and events, invitations from community. See more from Activities for the community.
Contact and information: Mari-Liis Velberg, firstname.lastname@example.org, leader of educational activities.
In 2019 we celebrated in VAT Theatre forum theatre´s 20th birthday in Estonia. Here you can find the presentation, that represented rich history and work of forum theatre in VAT Theatre during 20 years. Presentation is in Estonian and can be read, when downloaded from here: Ettekanne “Foorumteatri arengud Eestis VAT Teatri Foorumgrupi kogemuste valguses 1999-2020” (Mari-Liis Velberg).
When celebrating forum theatre´s history in Estonia and VAT Theatre during 20 years, we raised awareness on the method with some articles and radio program:
- Ministry of Education and Research blog Huvitav Kool post by Mari-Liis Velberg “Dialoogi ja mängu võlujõust ehk foorumteater VAT Teatri juures juba 20 aastat! “
- Article in newspaper Õpetajate Leht by Tiina Vapper, interview with Mari-Liis Velberg and Piret Soosaar-Maiberg “Miks meile on vaja foorumteatrit?
- Piret Soosaar-Maiberg ja Mari-Liis Velberg talking about forum theatre and performance in Klassikaraadio program Delta
Here you can download (click on the photo or link) and read first book and research in Estonian about forum theatre, „Forum Theatre’s applicable possibilities through the example of school violence preventionwork“ by Mari-Liis Velberg 2008). Estonian: “FOORUMTEATRI RAKENDAMISE VÕIMALUSI KOOLIVÄGIVALLA ENNETUSTÖÖ NÄITEL”
In VAT Theatre you can also read and borrow the paperback version.
Throughout the years there have been many forum actors (participants) and Jokers in VAT Theatre Forum Group who have been creating the processes for the community, some are named here: Mari-Liis Velberg (also project leader of forum theatre in VAT Theatre), Margo Teder, Piret Soosaar, Kadi Jaanisoo, Nikolai Kunitsõn, Ann Kulasalu, Anete Pelmas, Anne-Liis Rips, Kristel-Liis Feld, Gertha Teidla, Uku Valner, Agnes Merilo, Liisi Randma, Mihkel Roolaid, Madis Raie, Aare Taveter, Mihkel Vaim, Erika Sall, Rahel Otsa and others. The student members of VAT Theatre Forum Group formed also new group MTÜ Foorumteater and these two groups have been collabarating and have been interwined.
The mission of Forum Group has been: We seek to activate dialogue between different people and groups of people through the forum theater method (and other theatre of the oppressed methods) in order to explore social issues that concern them. We have been creating workshops in the community where stories and forum performances amongst community have been born. Within the framework of the workshop, the community members themselves (eg schoolchildren, youth center youth, teachers, youth workers, the elderly, etc.) have played in the stories of the forum theater.
Thus, people who participate in the forum workshop will have the opportunity to play through problem stories that are important to them and to find solutions together. The target group of the forum theater have been people from children to adults – people who need to research their stories and find solutions through a creative method. The heart has been working with young people and prevention of different topics. The aim has been also to educate new people on the method and to offer development opportunities for the young people of the forum group, raising awareness on forum theater in Estonia and development of cooperation with foreign partners.
FORUM THEATRE METHOD
Forum was the centre in Ancient Rome where important topics were discussed. Forum Theatre as social theatre is based on active participation, interaction and dialogue. Forum Theatre is one part of Augusto Boal’s system of The Theatre of the Oppressed, that he deveolped in 1960s in Brazil. Website of The Theatre of the Oppressed: www.theatreoftheoppressed.org.
The purpose is to help to restore the communication between people, so they can stand up for their interests and rights. The aim is to develop as personalities in order to grow and develop as well as to help those around us.
Forum Theatre is the meeting point of theatre and community work. Theatre and play can spring from every person. They give us a chance to dream and discover the goodness together even in places where the world appears in dark colours. Forum theatre examines the possibility of change. It is simultaneously interactive, social and participatory theatre as well as a social pedagogical method.
The ideology of the theatre of the oppressed is based on the belief that all people have the ability to influence social change and that oppression is manifested when communication between people does not work – when dialogue becomes a monologue.
Theater and play live in every human being and give us the opportunity to dream and discover the bringing together of goodness where the world seems to be in dark colors. Forum theater explores and encourages the possibility of change – it is also inclusive, participatory theater and social pedagogical method. Through forum theater, it is especially good to study cause-and-effect relationships and to foster the development of an empathic worldview.
The forum theater process is guided by facilitator called the Joker. The ethics of the performer or Joker is a philosophy in itself. Check out the Declaration of the Theatre of The Oppresed Principles, which is the basis for forum theater performers around the world. (Estonian: rõhutute teatri põhimõtete deklaratsioon).
On the developments of the VAT Theater Forum Group in 1999-2012, you can read from the presentation here made at the Forum Theater Friends’ Day here. The authors of the presentation are Mari-Liis Velberg and Piret Soosaar.
One option to summarize and give some keywords for the development of forum theatreby VAT Theater Forum Group during the years (longer from ppt presentation, click here):
2001-2002 – The charm of simplicity, performances all over Estonia, the main Jokers VAT Theatre actors;
2003 – Second coming, the beginning of spreading wider awareness of forum theatre method all over Estonia by VAT Theater Forum Group and the activation of international cooperation with foreign partners, which continues through decades;
2004 – The beginning of understanding the effects, the beginning of research work at the university, the beginning of describing forum theater as an EQ developer, the beginning of the introduction of forum theater as a prevention method;
2005 – Starting longer interconnected school violence prevention projects;
2006 – Start of trainings through LKL, new target groups (eg prisoners), gaining recognition in society for the method and more and more people notice how special and necessary this method is in our society;
2007 – Prevention of school violence continues, material for traditional theatre plays are being found through forum theater, etc;
2008 – Can a butterfly be placed in a box? In other words, teaching at the university, group was aiming for more theatricality through open/public forum performances at VAT Theater; publishing the first theoretical and research material in Estonian „Forum Theatre’s applicable possibilities through the example of school violence preventionwork“ (M-L Velberg).
2009 – Forum theater festivals begin, again new applicable possibilities of forum theater – beginning of educational workshop after VAT Theatre’s production “Belt from Paper Clips”, collecting material for the play through the forum method, etc .;
Platform 11+ is a project which started in autumn 2009. It has opened new gateways for forum theatre to work with youth. In this project we started to work on new ways in finding forum theatre stories in plays. Also, we are investigating how forum theatre can be used to open up social issues behind traditional theatre performances. In this project the group also collaborated with a designer and a dramatist. Also Forum Theatre as research method, to find material for plays, performances.
In 2009 we made steps towards more in-depth social approaches with the target groups. Through the years we have worked with school violence prevention and this remains one of our goals, whereas we prefer longer term projects with groups.
VAT Theatre Forum Group and Estonian Centre for Child Welfare social theatre group MEIE begun collaborating. That year we also celebrated our 10th birthday. One goal in 2009 was to enthuse creation and continuous work of small Estonian forum theatre groups. For this reason we organised in collaboration with Estonian Centre for Child Welfare the first forum theatre festival, which took place May 2-3, 2009 in Tartu.
The goal of initiating people working with children and youth to use forum theatre has been met over the years by organising different informational and prevention projects. We also started to teach forum theatre methodologies in universities – Viljandi Culture Academy and Tallinn University.
The second forum theatre festival took place in June 2010. The guests included among others our long-term partners from Finland – Jouni Piekkari ja Micke Renlund.
In 2010 VAT Theatre forum group continues giving forum theatre performances, organising workshops and trainings all over Estonia. We had also collaborations abroad. In order to collaborate with groups in Estonia and to support forum theatre development in Estonia, we are organized RESEARCH ABOUT ESTONIAN FORUM THEATRE GROUPS. There used to be long time also a forum theatre mailing list (FoorumTeater_Praktika_Teooria_[at]yahoogroups.com ) where we notified about any upcoming trainings and other events.
2011 and 2012 – Changes and innovations. Since autumn 2011, we have wanted to dedicate ourselves to creating workshops. The social side.
Continued prevention work on schoolchildren’s problems. The aim is to continue to provide development opportunities for the forum group’s younger members – offspring, students. Raising awareness on forum theater in Estonia and the development of cooperation with foreign partners.
Forum theater is an important part of VAT’s educational work.
From 2012 onwards – Various workshops, performances and trainings will continue. Active cooperation with schools.
The forum theater method is also part of the educational work and engaging youth, actively part of finding materials for new plays, in process of creating performances and after performances have premiered as educational workshop that helps to analyze the social stories and characters.
There have been alot of different processes and projects since forum method became part of educational work. Big influence has been also from international projects Platform 11+ and Platform Shift + where VAT Theatre has been partner.
Besides educational workshops, there have been various separate social projects in community since this time.
The activities of VAT Theater Forum Group have been organized in different ways since 1999, but we have been connected with the VAT Theatre in one way or another and were long time the main initiator of the activities of the Forum Theater in Estonia. Thus, we can talk about the development of the Forum Theatre in Estonia and we can talk about the development of the VAT Theater Forum Group. And they are also connected in some important places, because the forum group has supported the development of forum theater in Estonia during so many years through many different activities.
Of those who started with forum group in 1999, there are many people who have trained new young people and adults over the years. If at the beginning VAT Theatre Forum Group was more involved in performing, then more and more the direction was to organize traninings and workshops, to find people’s stories during the workshop and to look for solutions. It means – going to the roots of community theater. Direction – passing on the method to young people has been always important. But the direction to broaden the target groups has been also important. More and more new forum theater troupes were emerging, but there are also many individuals who have participated in trainings and use elements of forum theater in their work – games, techniques, philosophy. It is particularly important and gratifying that more and more people have been emerging during years who have cared to learn the method and deepen and understand the value of forum theater.
It is a great pleasure that good and active future generation has grown up from VAT Theater Forum Group previous students and members, students. Many of them were also part of the youth of the Child Welfare Association (LKL). Also NGO Forum Theater (MTÜ Foorumteater), who promote and organize a lot of the activities, in time of 2021. As well Piret Soosaar has been training actively Jokers throughout many years. Activities are developed by also many other former students from university courses and other trainings all over Estonia responsibly and with dignity. They are doing, experiencing, learning, working. With heart. Because the Joker is a kind of lifestyle. It’s a journey.