Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Richard Walsh-Bowers

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Having responded to a request from Community Justice Initiatives of Waterloo Region to enact a Forum Theatre presentation, I have here described the process that took place and evaluated that process from a community psychology social action perspective. Participants included both drama troupe members and audience participants who were attempting to utilise Forum Theatre to further their understanding of and to help prevent sexual abuse in their community. Forum Theatre is an issue analysis and social change process derived from the work of Augsto Boal, and adapted for use in a Canadian social service setting. The process closely parallels that described by Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed and involves presenting a community with a scenario that represents issues central to their lives. The scenario is posed as a problem for the audience’s consideration with the intention that the audience is to proffer potential solutions for the situation. Actors or audience participants improvise the suggested improvements in the hope that a more favourable outcome can be achieved. In this way the audience gains critical insight into the illustrated issues with an eye to improvement of the issues at micro and macro levels. To describe and analyse the application of Forum Theatre at Community Justice Initiatives, I performed a content analysis on a group interview, a participant journal and audience surveys, and used field notes to develop a case study of the project. My interpretation of the data indicates that Forum Theater is generally supportive of the main tenets of what I identify as the community psychology social action perspective that includes the elements: empowerment, an ecological perspective, social action and critique, and the valuing of diversity and equality. Empowerment received the strongest recognition by participants and the theme included discussion of democratic leadership style, mind-set challenge, and the importance of groups that are open, supportive, and provide safe opportunities to take risks. Hope was also recognised as fundamental to enabling empowerment and the Forum Theatre exercise was described as integrative and a useful tool for issue analysis and consciousness-raising. The audience also engaged in an annunciative process by directing actors to illustrate what the audience considered to be a "healthy" family situation. Participants made some reference to elements of the ecological perspective, although to a lesser degree than empowerment. With regards to social action and critique of the status quo, I discuss at some length the parallel of the Forum Theatre process to that of Freire’s process for community-based social change. Little was found inherent in the process that assures the valuing of diversity and equality. However, I discuss the importance of individual and group responsibility in keeping these issues central to any social action process. I also reflect on and forward recommendations made by participants on how to improve the project for future endeavours. Identified avenues of potential future explorations include facilitating intensified macro-level analysis utilising Forum Theatre, fostering broader community enhancement using artistic modalities, exploring the meaning of the ecological perspective for communities, and a challenge to community psychology to develop a legacy of value-true community work tools for its students and practitioners.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season