Theatre and Revolution in Clinical Legal Education

40 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2019 Last revised: 20 Jan 2019

See all articles by JoNel Newman

JoNel Newman

University of Miami - School of Law

Fergus Lawrie

Independent

Donald James Nicolson

University of Strathclyde - School of Law

Melissa Swain

University of Miami - School of Law

Date Written: January 8, 2019

Abstract

How does a theatre method developed in the 1960s and 1970s by a Brazilian intellectual and revolutionary activist fit into clinical legal education? This paper urges the legal profession, and particularly law school clinics, to use the pathbreaking Forum Theatre method developed by Augusto Boal to train lawyers. Boal, a colleague and disciple of Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed), developed Forum Theatre (also called Theatre of the Oppressed) to transform traditional sit-and-watch theatre into a democratic, participatory, and collaborative production between the actors and the audience aimed at achieving social justice. Spectators in the audience halt the oppressive element in a scenario, take the place of characters, and eliminate oppression. Because of the already frequent use of role-playing methodologies in clinical legal education, as well as its client-centered approach to legal representation, law school clinics are an ideal place to develop Forum Theatre as an instructional exercise for lawyers. This method offers students a excellent opportunity to identify oppression in legal settings, to interrupt it, to observe and check their own paternalistic instincts, to empower vulnerable clients, and to act in other more ethically informed ways.

The authors introduce Boal and Forum Theatre methodology, review the role of Forum Theatre in education, especially the fairly sparse literature on its use in legal education. They then recount their experiences using this medium in clinical legal training and offer some suggestions and conclusions for legal educators interested in trying this technique. They also attached as appendices a selection of scripts that they have developed and used in order to illustrate some of the points made and to provide examples for others to use.

Keywords: clinic, law, education, Boal, Forum Theatre, oppression, ethics, scenario, spect-actor, student, transform, methodology, pedagogy, justice

Suggested Citation

Newman, JoNel and Lawrie, Fergus and Nicolson, Donald James and Swain, Melissa, Theatre and Revolution in Clinical Legal Education (January 8, 2019). University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-3. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3312251 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3312251

JoNel Newman (Contact Author)

University of Miami - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 248087
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States
305-284-4125 (Phone)
305-284-6407 (Fax)

Fergus Lawrie

Independent

No Address Available

Donald James Nicolson

University of Strathclyde - School of Law ( email )

Lord Hope Building
John Anderson Campus 141 St. James' Rd
Glasgow G4 0LT, Scotland G4 0LT
United Kingdom

Melissa Swain

University of Miami - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 248087
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States

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