Dem Four Dawta proudly presents...

Imagine Anansi
email us

An introduction to Anansi, Augustus Boal and Theatre workshops

 Welcome to Dem Four Dawta's official "Imagine Anansi" website! This site serves as a refresher to our class workshop and provides extra information concerning Boal, Anansi and theatre processess. We hope that this site will offer you a better understanding of our workshop and all that we aimed to teach. Further more, should you choose to answer our exam question, we hope that this site will help you in your revision. Please refer to some of our referred links. Most of these links were used by members of Dem Four Dawta who had no idea of Boal or Anansi to begin with. Some of the links were also used by Boal, Anansi and theatre experts. All links will hopefully help you to better understand "Imagine Anansi". Should you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask one of Dem Four Dawtas in class, or if you have any of our contact details, send us a mail and we'd be happy to help you out.


Dem Four Dawta: Imagine Anansi Workshop

GOAL:  The "Imagine Anansi" workshop will foster a greater understanding of theatre    warm-ups, the Jamaican folklore hero, Anansi, and certain techniques from Augusto      Boal's Image Theatre by tying the three elements together in an a 40-minute                 workshop.

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION: The route to success in this workshop relies heavily on  audience participation, and therefore it is essential that we create a comfortable and     co-operative atmosphere that will excite the audience and encourage them to                 participate in the workshop.  By creating a safe environment in which to experiment,     the participants will be asked to show some of their work on a volunteer basis after     having explored and "rehearsed" the techniques in smaller groups. 

THE ACTIVITIES: "Imagine Anansi" begins with two warm-up games, chosen                 specifically to ease the audience into actively participating (explained below), a brief     explanation of the role of the trickster, Anansi, in Jamaican Folklore, an                         introduction/instructions to Boal's Image Theatre, smaller groups of the activity              Complete the Image, and then, finally, an all-group exploration of images from text in     an all-inclusive game of Complete the Image.

WARM-UPS (~10 minutes):

    1.)  The first warm-up, Fingering Deeper (a pun on "finger" and thinking"), is                     designed to open the participants' minds and encourage them to "imagine further"         than what they thought they were capable of. It has an element of pleasant                     surprise, which hopefully will loosen them up and ease the potential fear of                     participation.

     2.)  The second warm-up, Atoms, focuses primarily on group collaboration. It                     introduces the concept of creating images (aka freezes, tableaux, screen shots,             etc.) through the exploration of creating shapes to abstract images such as "fear,"         "liberation," or "knowledge." This is our way of introducing the class to the                     challenges of the upcoming workshop.

INTRODUCTION TO ANANSI AND IMAGE THEATRE (3-5 minutes):  We will briefly explain the history of Anansi and the main concepts of Image Theatre before elaborating on how the two can be linked together. As "Imagine Anansi" is a         workshop and our aim is to educate the audience mainly through class participation,     embodied education, and inquiry-driven analysis, this section will be very brief and to     allow for the experiential process to take place.

THE STORY (3-5 minutes): The story How Anansi Got His Stories will be read to the class. This is the story which the class will use to inform their images in Complete the Image.

GROUP COMPLETE THE IMAGE "REHEARSAL" (~10 minutes): The class will be divided into two groups and each group will be facilitated by two members of Dem Four Dawta. In this way, even Dem Four Dawta are enhancing their theatre and Boal experience by becoming "Jokers"/facilitators/directors to the group. The role of the Dem Four Dawta is not to direct the images, rather to encourage inquiry, to answer logistical questions that arise, and to challenge the participants in being as creative and true to themselves and the story as possible.

ALL-CLASS COMPLETE THE IMAGE (coupled with DISCUSSION - remainder of workshop period): Now that everyone has had a chance to express themselves in small groups and to become familiar with the process of Complete the Image, they will be asked to create and interpret new images as a whole class. By this time, having already embodied some images that relate to the text, we hope the group will be more comfortable participating in a whole-group setting, thus having the chance to work          with one another, better understand the text, and get to know each other some. This     group work will differ from the previous group work in that questions will be asked         about the images while they are being constructed and after they have been formed.     These questions will be the initiation of discussion. Some examples of questions         that will be asked are "What do you want?" and "What are you thinking?"  The             observers of the image will also be asked to create titles for the image, what they         feel individuals are thinking, etc.

DISCUSSION (remainder of workshop period):  Dem Four Dawta will react to images and ask for audiences opinions, thoughts, and insights throughout the final Complete the Image activity. It is just as important to reflect during the process as it is to revisit what was evoked during the process.  Dem Four Dawta may even ask certain people to reconstruct what they had previously shown and ask the audience why it is such an interesting pose. Usually, at the end of an image creation, participants are filled with insights, questions, and discussion topics, Dem Four Dawta will be there to help move these reflections and inquiries along.

  How Anansi gave people stories to tell
Short Story          Short Play
A short history of Ananis

 Augusto Boal's story

So the story goes, a young Boal in the early 1960s had formed an agit-prop theatre company and was touring around Brazil (during the 1960s dictatorship of a number of people in office who kept overthrowing each other to control the government) doing "message plays" for the peasants of the country.  The company would present a play in which the actors played revolutionary peasants, rising up against the oppressive landowners, and gaining back what was rightfully theirs - mainly land.  Boal found these plays really roused the masses, but when after one performance in which the audience was so activated they wanted to start the revolution right then and there, Boal and his troupe needed to break it to them that they were merely actors and that the guns on stage were merely play guns.  The audience said it was not a problem - they had guns, they had a peasant army waiting for leadership, they were ready to fight!  Boal knew something had to be done.  He couldn't fight - he was an actor!  

During a subsequent performance, one woman in the audience became so engaged in the actors' misrepresentation of a situation on the stage, that she stormed to the stage and took over one of the actor's roles.  The rest of the company played along and the woman created the first "intervention" on a Boalian stage.  Thus Forum theatre was born - and from that, came many other forms of theatre that are referred to under the umbrella term: Theatre of the Oppressed.  Boal sought to create different forms of theatre that would encourage audience members to step out of the role of spectator and take on the role of "spect-actor" in order to better understand the situation and find possible solutions to seemingly impossible scenarios.  The replacement of characters on stage can be found in all of Boal's theatre methods, which include improvisations (Forum Theatre), frozen images (Image Theatre), personal desire and fears (Rainbow of Desire), inner conflicts (Cops in the Head) and much more.  Boal is still practicing today, at the young age of 77, facilitating (or as he calls it: "difficultating") workshops around the world, meanwhile his methods can be found popping up in classrooms, prisons, prevention work, community organizations, on the street, Fringe Festivals, etc.

 What is Image Theatre and how do I do it?     

Goal: To embody and show a moment, tension, or challenge in the text rather than trying to explain the moment through words. 

"Words are emptinesses that fill the emptiness (vacuum) that exists between one human being and another. We know the meaning of the word we pronounce, because we fill it with our desires, ideas and feelings, but we don’t know how that word is going to be heard by each listener. IMAGE THEATRE is a series of techniques that allow people to communicate through Images and Spaces, and not through words alone." Augusto Boal, Rio de Janeiro 2004

  • With the help of Dem Four Dawta as facilitators, individuals will be asked to listen to and through a series of changing images share their interpretation/reflections on/understanding of the text: How Anansi Got His Stories.
  • The activity Complete the Image requires that one person creates a frozen image of their input into the story - it can be a tension they noticed in the story, a pinnacle moment of change, a peak in misunderstanding in the text, an emotion that they witnessed internally in Anansi or any other character, etc.  We will suggest that they not "act out" a moment in the play for the sake of "representation" unless it is necessary to their interpretation of the text.  We are seeking to interpret, not present without meaning. 
  • A second person will then jump into the image (completing the image) and add to the first person's image by inserting their own interpretation, thus, inevitably, changing the first person's interpretation some. 
  • A third person will then "tap out" one person and not take on the same shape, but change the entire image by contributing a completely new image.  Note: the second person should remain still.
  • After this goes on for some time (3-5 people "tapping" other out), we will then ask the observers to "change" the image in any way they feel may better represent the text.  They can do this by carefully physically moving the other person (we will give examples of how to move someone by touching them, or by guiding body parts without touching them).  If necessary, the Image Artist can bring additional people into the image, switch people up, change the entire image completely, etc. 
  • The overall goal is to have a constantly changing image that will inspire further change by the Image Artists. 
  • We will encourage the people in the image to stay as frozen as possible, complete with facial expressions and strength in the pose.  If they need someone to replace them because they are unable to hold the pose, that is fine. 
  • The facilitator will frequently remind the participants to continually seek out the challenges in the text, the moments of tension, the emotions represented, etc.  The "heavier" the interpretation, the better the image. 
  • WHOLE-GROUP - we will start off the activity in the same way when the entire group reconvenes, but we'll then be asking the members of the image, as well as the observers, or try and put basic words, emotions, and phrases into the image.  This is often harder than they anticipate.

Final Group Report

Well, here we are, the last stride before the final hurdle! For the past month, Dem Four Dawta have racked their brains and put their heads together to produce a creative and fun workshop that encompasses their personal passion and which hopes to spread new knowledge and interest to the class. It was hard, especially considering our diverse interests, but we managed to link it altogether eventually. We began our journey by dwelving into the realms of Jamaican folklore, Anansi. Who is he? What does he do? Why does he exist? Anansi, as we discovered, actually originated from the West Coast of Africa and is a creature composed of half man, half spider. He is considered a hero for his actions and deeds to society. For example, in the story which is presented in this workshop, Anansi completes the challenges set by the Sky God in order to bring back stories for the people of the Earth to read. In an other story, Anansi and the Tug - of - War, Anansi makes a stand for the smaller, "less important" creatures of the world by out - smarting the king of the land and ocean. He exists as a form of entertainment and relieve, but more importantly for this workshop, he represents a common civilian of the Earth overcomming oppression imposed by hierarchies. The stories of Anansi can be compared to Augustus Boal's "Theatre of the Oppressed" (TO). TO teaches it's audience forms of oppressions that one might encounter and how to overcome it. Examples of oppression that TO may teach us to overcome would include peer pressure, sexism, racism, bullying - in fact, all kinds of oppressions are covered under TO. TO is simply an umbrella term and it has many aspects, which all link to identifying and over comming oppression. Forum theatre is one example, as is the cop - on - the - head. However, what this workshop will teach is Image Theatre, and hence the name "Imagine Anansi". With Image Theatre, frozen images are sculpted from the human body - either by the sculpter or done by someone else. These images represent the oppression that is being faced. In particular, image theatre focuses on the emotional expressions and psychological consequences of oppression. The link between Anansi and Image Theatre were obvious. If Anansi was a story about over comming challenges, then we could adapt Anansi stories to Image Theatre and, in a series of still image, re - enact the challenges that Anansi must overcome. Here was the basis for our workshop. We could have chosen to present this all in the form of a presentation, but instead, we selected to do a workshop. Not only do we believe that one of the best ways to understand image theatre is through acting it out yourself, but Dem Four Dawta's were further interested in the processes of theatre. That is, how does the audience respond to workshop? How are Dem Four Dawtas going to ensure a successful workshop? In order to work through this, we spent some time brainstorming relevant and effective warm ups, we looked at past workshops we had attended and discussed what was effective for us and what was less effective. One of Dem Four Dawta further provided some background readings on the facilitating workshops, which complemented many of our other readings on TO and Anansi. What remains now is to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse again, and then present. The fruits of our work will be evident on presentation night.

Some useful links 


Getting to Know Yourself Through Acting: Very Basic intoduction to teaching theatre. Some great and helpful points in how to facilitate the actor, or help them reach understanding of their works and create new ideas. ie: the improv scenes to show emotion. look here for some useful language hints, like we talked about :) !
Peter Brook and Traditional Thought: Discusses "energy, movement and interrelations," very crucial to our workshop. Also, space and its elements and affect on the actor, and the actors affect on the space. What is our affect on our space? More information can be found in his book "The Empty Space."

Steven Ivcich Discussing acting: He describes why people go into acting, and why they stick with it. Inspiring!! "Transcending moment" and "pure creativity" is what we're looking for! Now...what is the process??
Sanford Meisner: A Study in Living: Meisner stresses the ability to "stay in the moment," a technique many individuals struggle with. He argues that this can be achieved by "committing to the action," which first requires the actor to know exactly what the action is (remember how we mentioned this is out rehearsal last class? This can be achieved by verbing or answering "what i want,"). He also works with actors on an improvisational level, therefore his work provides valuable insight to our presentation. More information can be retrieved from his book "On Acting".
Headlines Theatre, Vancouver, BC - Local theatre that uses Forum and Image Theatre.  David Diamond the Artistic Director is a friend of Augusto Boal and has been using his technuqies and adjusting them or the Vancouver community for over 25 years.  He offers workshops every summer, hits many local cafes, performance spaces, and alternative stages throughout the year doing "T.O." activities, and just wrote a book about his "Theatre for Living" techniques that explore the role of the oppressor whereas, Boal always leaves that exploration out. Wonderful archives on this website of old shows, activities, programs, workshops, travels, etc.
Pedagogy & Theatre of the Oppressed (PTO): Organization on the study and spread of the Theatre of the Oppressed techniques by Augusto Boal and the multiple pedagogical theories of Paulo Freire.

PTO Conference Program: Sarah attended this conference May 22-25, 2008.  Learned many techniques, pedagogical practices, and an a fabulous array of TO practitioners all over the world.
International Theatre of the Oppressed Organisation: "An organization dedicated to help all (Theatre of the Oppressed - "TO") centers to develop themselves, so that they can help other TO groups to grow and develop." An international library and on-line database for books, theses, photos, movies, groups, workshops, groups, theatre companies, and organizations practicing TO.


Adler, Stella - The Art of Acting

Boal, Augusto - Games for Actors and Non-Actors

Boal, Augusto - Rainbow of Desire

Cohen-Cruz, Jan & Schutzman, Mady - Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy,


Diamond, David - Theatre for Living: The Art and Science of Community-Based    


Freire, Paulo - Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Guskin, Harold - How to Stop Acting

O'Toole, John; Burton, Bruce; Plunkett, Anna - Cooling Conflict: A new

      approach to managing bullying and conflict in schools

Rohd, Michael - Theatre for Community, Conflict, and Dialogue: The Hope is

      Vital Training Manual


Catterall, James "Enhancing Peer Conflict Resolution Skills Through Drama: An Experimental Study"  - one study that tries to quantify a dramatic experience - I question if this is possible.
Cohen-Cruz, Jan "Boal at NYU: A Workshop and its Aftermath" - It's always great to hear about a theorist in the eyes of another theorist.  This is Cohen-Cruz, a Boal scholar, and her firsthand account of how Boal played to a critical audience of NYU theatre students - not an easy crowd. 

Conrad, Diane "Exploring Risky Youth Experiences: Popular Theatre as a Participatory, Performative Research Method" - A look at theatre and its effect in a rural area with first nations students.  Fascinating, and very moving.

Freeman, Gregory D., Sullivan, Kathleen, and C. Ray Fulton "Effects of Creative Drama on Self-Concept, Social Skills, and Problem Behaviour" - Exactly as it sounds, a quantitative study done of the effects of drama on a group.

O'Toole, John and Burton, Bruce "Acting Against Conflict and Bullying. The Brisbane DRACON Project 1996-2004 - Emergent Findings and
Outcome" - A great group of drama educators in Australia used Boal techniques to teach anti-conflict skills in a trickle-down effect from Grade 12 students, all the way down to Grade 4 (the students taught each other).  They later wrote a book about the project and a step by step guide on how to facilitate a similar process.