Augusto Boal's She Made Her Brother Smile carried within it the spark that I believe makes theater special. And it made me think about the effects that theater has on people and how it can be used as a tool. I find myself taking a very humanistic standpoint on using theater as a tool, rather than thinking about political implications and social change associated with theater like Boal's. It is true that, in this example of forum theater, a political and/or social change is occurring, but I was more drawn to the emotional connection behind it. What makes theater interesting is the human connection, the communitas, where people are connected in a way that is not constrained by social boundaries. On stage, people are free to express emotions and interact with each other in a way that is normally considered taboo. And it is this human connection that makes theater effective as a way to change people's lives. This freedom is expressed in the girl's performance with the drug-addict brother: "...[she] danced with him, ran, made a clown of herself, twirled around and did somersaults.
Theater is superior to literature in that things can be expressed that have no words. For the girl in this example, "She made her brother smile." Instead of an intellectual stance on revolution, or a lot of political mumbo jumbo that gets lost in jargon, theater instead can connect to people beyond the bounds of language. Language, along with social conventions and oppression, is learned. Emotion is innate. Because theater can speak to people in such a way as to connect them without language, without social conventions, without boundaries, it is truly a universal art that can connect people and make the world a better place. For those people who have no cars or houses or big-screen TVs, something universal is very much needed. "It was so little. And yet, for them, it was so much."