Drift Interview

From spectator to spectactor: becoming a transition maker with Luc Opdebeeck – Formaat

How do you drive fundamental change? A diversity of lecturers and practitioners offer insights, strategies, knowledge and skills during the Masterclass Societal Transitions, to help you to become a systemic change maker. On day 2 of the program we dive into power in transitions with Luc Opdebeeck, artistic director of Formaat and expert on participatory drama. What are we going to experience – and how does this contribute to your development as change agent?

With Formaat, Luc and his colleagues take away personal and societal barriers that prevent people from reaching their full potential – especially those less privileged. How? With participatory drama. ‘The connection between people, and between people and institutions, is often characterized by a lack of a shared language,’ Luc explains. ‘Participatory drama, in which the audience becomes the actor, can bridge that gap. Stakeholders share urgent problems on stage, leading to a performance that expresses the complexity of the problems. What would you do? What would you do different from another stakeholder? Alternately, everybody takes his or her role in the play, exploring different perspectives for action. It is a rehearsal for tomorrow’s reality.’

Luc Opdebeeck
Luc Opdebeeck. Photocredits: Mohamad Ali Mirzaei

It is 27 years ago that Luc first experienced the power of participatory drama. At that time he worked in different coffee-shops in Rotterdam, guiding and educating Moroccan youth. ‘I was having a hard time trying to activate those youngsters’, Luc tells. ‘Until I visited a play about racism in the neighborhood, which was also visited by the young guys I worked with. In this play the day-to-day problems of the youth I worked with were visualized and articulated – but the young visitors were also given a role on stage, which helped them to express their own ideas and feelings. What I saw there, was a method to get people moving, to become an actor on that stage and subsequently in their own life.’

Taking your role, transitioning from spectator to spectactor: this is the core of the theatrical experience Luc will offer in the Masterclass Societal Transitions. ‘In the Masterclass, we are going to work with image theater,’ tells Luc. ‘We are going to experiment with tableau vivants, with shareholder constellations and living sculptures. Which stakeholders are part of your problem? How do they relate? Which mechanisms and power dynamics do we recognize when it comes to transitions? By expressing these ideas with our bodies, we can analyze the current and the ideal images – and we can learn how to transform from one living image to the other. This is a holistic way of learning: we are going to reflect on oppression in the system – not with our minds, but with our bodies and hearts. We will experience power relations in our environment and explore our own position in society. This is where every change starts: who am I? What can I do? In this personal transformation, you change from spectator towards spectactivist: instead of being a consumer, you become the producer of the transition you are working on.’

This will help the participants of the masterclass to take the next steps. Participation, Luc explains, is a prerequisite for a democracy that allows people to develop their full humanity. Dialogues replace monologues, solidarity and respect gain meaning, and everybody can take the role he or she wants – enabled by participation. Working and communicating with image theater helps you to analyze those situations that withholds you and other stakeholders from fully experiencing and expressing humanity, and to prevent exclusion.

“We will experience power relations in our environment and explore our own position in society. This is where every change starts: who am I? What can I do?”

‘We need a transition, a revolution,’ Luc states. ‘If we don’t do anything, the world will perish. The founder of the Theatre of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal, did however stress that revolutions often come with a price – a price that is also paid by those that did not choose for the revolution to begin with. Who am I to tell people that they have to pay this price, in favor of my ideals? Instead of obliging others, we need to research alternatives to work together, to move together. We practice these alternatives in different constellations and roles – learning tools to start your own revolution, your own transition tomorrow.’

Dive into power relations and start your own revolution: join the Masterclass Societal Transitions with a workshop participatory drama by Luc Opdebeeck. Find out more about Lucs work on the website of Formaat, read more about the Masterclass or apply immediately!


March 25, 2019

Marieke Creemers
Coordinator of Communications DRIFT / Transition Academy