The subject of play has come up before when studying the methods of “Theatre of the Oppressed.” In “Theatre of the Oppressed”, play is a way to know yourself through exercises practiced alone, with a partner and progressively with a group. It is instrumental in the transformation of participants from spectators to actors. In our relationship with the state, our role in society is reduced to spectatorship. We often participate passively in matters decided in advance by capitalist production. In order to break out of passive participation in a process quickly leading to our extinction, we must develop the capabilities to actively participate in the social, economic and political structuring of our lives. “Theater of the Oppressed” creates a living forum of experiences to be transformed in a playful setting. But how can that playful, creative activity, so essential to the liberation of the spectator, be applied to our everyday lives?
Alejandro De Acosta has helped me start answering that question. Acosta writes philosophically about the games which exist in our universe and in our society. He writes about the differences between discreet games or unspoken games in which we all participate but do not create the rules; and games that are communicated– the rules of which are freely developed by all participants. Acosta also writes about seriousness and how it leads to superstition, impeding free play and hence progress. The essay ends with a kind of invitation to play. Acosta writes, “This is my move, my position: nature or cosmos is the outside, unbounded in every sense. Which is perhaps how, playfully, we might have come to admit that nature also – and eminently – plays games. But if that kind of language is too abstract, turn to your lover and say, “this is a game.” Turn to your parents or children and say, “this is a game.” Turn to your friends and enemies and say, “this is a game.” Say silently to your self and any imaginary entities you discover in solitude, “this is a game.” See what happens next.” After reading this I find myself playing truthfully in situations where before I might have been more passive. I can see more clearly the rules which I once followed subconsciously, and can visualize actions to change those rules which oppress me. But my ability to play is still limited. I have to build my capabilities alone, with a partner and progressively with a group.
What are your experiences with games, playing. or seriousness? How do you think we can be free from spectatorship and become free actors? What are your impressions of Acosta’s essay or this reflection?