Popular Theatre: Vehicle for People's Development in the 90s


The formal growth of Popular Theatre in Dominica can be traced back to the staging of the full length play Chemein Letang (the Lake Road) by the Koulirou Cultural Group of La Plaine. The Koulirou Cultural Group is no longer active, but since then the Movement for Cultural Awareness (MCA) has been able to plant and nurture the seeds of Popular Theatre throughout the country, and therefore looks forward to a rich harvest of people's development in the 90's and beyond.

But what exactly is Popular Theatre? Popular Theatre or PT for short, can be described as the process of collective analysis and creation through which community and/or cultural groups identify major problems affecting their communities; analysing the causes and effects of these problems; and propose realistic solutions which can be implemented by the community itself for the most part.

This process is conducted within a framework which focuses on the cultural forms of the community and uses the language of the people. Role play is also used extensively to elevate the understanding of the participants in relation to the issue in question, as well as to provide new knowledge and perspectives.

It can therefore be said that Popular Theatre provides a voice for the silent majority in our communities, and allows persons to participate in analysis and community action in a manner that is not usually made available to them.

MCA has been able over the years to experiment with the usage of PT methodology in a wide variety of situations including:

  1. Historical research in La Plaine, Clifton, Paix Bouche, Grand Fond and Vieille Case.
  2. Community mobilization in relation tothe need for the Public Convenience in Salisbury and a playing field in Paix Bouche.
  3. Community reaction to mental illness (Psychiatric Unit).
  4. AIDS prevention (National AIDS Committee ,Vieille Case Cultural Group).
  5. Drug Abuse, specifically crack/cocaine addiction (Clifton).
  6. Issues relating to gender balance, and the development of Women (Sisters in Solidarity).
  7. Teenage sexuality and pregnancy (Dominica Planned Parenthood Association).
  8. Child Abuse (Operation Youth-quake).
  9. Chemical Handling and Safety (SPAT Ltd).
  10. Adaptation to life in prison, and the question of rehabilitation (Sate Prisons).

Each of these topics was chosen by the specific group concerned, and much work was involved in doing a proper analysis of the issues involved so that the correct facts could be presented. In a number of cases, resource persons were brought from the outside to provide correct information, and the views of community leaders were also sought. However, care was taken that the presentations which were developed did not "preach" to the audiences,but rather aimed at providing education and entertainment at the same time.

The success of the Popular Theatre programme in Dominica can be attested by the fact that the two rural based community groups, (Clifton Capuchin Cultural Group, and Koulirou) were able to successfully present their PT pieces (or presentations) in the capital, and in a number of communities around the island. No less successful from our point of view are the numerous other presentations which were not brought to the capital, but were very well received in their host village and were also taken to neighbouring communities.

Perhaps the greatest testimony to the work of MCA over the years is the fact that Popular Theatre has established itself in Dominica at present, and more and more persons involved in community and development work are presently embracing the concept.

MCA is therefore confident that Popular Theatre will continue to grow from strength to strength in Dominica, and will provide a viable vehicle (together with grassroots initiatives) for people's development in the 1990's and beyond.

Extracted from: Dominica's Arts & Culture Magazine, Division of Culture, 1994.

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