Doing Street Theatre

What is Street Theatre?

Street theatre is a theatrical presentation performed in a public space that does not have a paying audience. Street theatre is extremely useful for raising awareness because its informal nature provokes the audience to discuss difficult and controversial issues like those surrounding HIV/AIDS. In addition, because street theatre is free of charge and takes place in a public area people of all socioeconomic backgrounds have the opportunity to enjoy, benefit, and contribute to it.

Why use Street Theatre for HIV/AIDS Education?

Street theatre can be used effectively to propagate social and political messages and to raise public awareness regarding critical issues. Street theatre breaks the formal barriers and approaches people directly in a variety of creative ways. Some different kinds of theatrical performance that can be used as street theatre include: dramatic monologues, short plays, narratives, and miming. The diversity of performance type makes street theatre an interesting, flexible, and dynamic artistic medium to work with, which is one reason it has existed both as a form of entertainment and a tool for raising public awareness for centuries.

Pros:

    ✓ Reaches a wide audience
    ✓ Variety of different forms
    ✓ Can be done cheaply

Cons:

    x Lacks a focused follow-up
    x Audience may not hear the whole message
    x Hard to evaluate effectiveness

How to Use Street Theatre for HIV/AIDS Education

Before getting started it is important to consider the location of the performance. Street theatre is performed in a public place, ideally one where there is a high enough level of traffic to attract an audience. Good locations include:

  • Public Parks
  • Malls
  • Schools
  • Community Centres
  • Seniors' Residences
  • Town Squares

Some of these locations will require approval from local authorities. It is important to plan ahead and make sure necessary procedures are taken prior to the performance date.

*TIP* The audience may end up on three sides of the performance. If you can, perform with a structure to your back, to shape the performance and keep people from walking through it.

After deciding on the location, it is time to begin the development of a script.

One simple method of devising a script is by:

  • Developing a rough outline of the scenario the group wishes to perform including the main characters and the starting and ending points of the scene
  • Using the outline as a guide and have the actors improvise how the scene unfolds
  • Running through this process a number of times discussing and noting what worked and discarding what did not
  • Writing up what worked best into a script. (A third party observer or a non-actor member of the team could be responsible for this).
  • After this process is complete, the theatre group can add flourishes such as song, dance, etc. to the script

*TIP* Street Performances are designed to be short and to the point therefore it is important to make the main message clear and to emphasize it frequently.

How to Make a Message Memorable
  • Incorporate into a short poem recited by a main character
  • Create a song or rap that is performed between scenarios or performances by one of the performers or a group of singers
  • Have a narrator introduce the message or theme at the beginning of the presentation, between scenes, and at the end of the performance (as the audience will arrive at different stages of the performance)
  • Have the characters emphasize it throughout the performance

The Performance

Street theatre is a situation where the audience has not usually come prepared to watch a play and thus many audience members may not have a great deal of time available to do so. This means that street theatre performances need to be attention grabbing, exciting, and short. The message must be delivered effectively and memorably in a way that is appealing to people from many different socioeconomic situations. Keep in mind that street theatre performance can have many different elements including puppetry, music, dance, hip hop, etc. See the medium specific how-to guide on YAHAnet for more details.

Street theatre performances are relatively inexpensive because they are not taking place in an actual theatre and therefore very few props or costumes are possible. However, this also means that the success of the performance relies heavily on the strength of the actors' ability to be convincing and captivating in their role. This means that while most street theatre will require some degree of improvisation, rehearsal is extremely important to a successful production.

*TIP* Rehearse outside or in a space similar to where the performance will take place so as to practice the voice projection that will be necessary to make the performers heard.

There is an almost endless variety of theatrical forms which can be adapted into a street theatre performance. The following are two common variations:

Music and Mime

In this rendition of street theatre there is usually a loud and rambunctious musical introduction. This is followed by an introduction of the theme by a narrator. Following the introduction the narrator tells the audience a story which is acted out by mimes to music. This capitalizes on the fact that outdoor locations make projection difficult and minimizes the necessary amount of dialogue.

Mile-a-Minute Drama

This style of street theatre involves more dialogue, more character development and can be more detailed. A narrator usually introduces the theme and the characters often do music for the sake of grabbing attention. The actors then take the stage giving a fast-paced, high-energy dramatic performance. The narrator then wraps up and summarizes the main theme at the end.

*TIP* It is often effective to engage the audience following the performance by inviting them to stay for a short discussion of what they have observed. This allows the performers to see what their audience has taken away from the performance and it allows the audience the opportunity to ask questions and gather more information.

There is no universally right way to do street theatre; it is important to experiment with what works in the specific environment and mix and match many different methods, incorporating music and song to create a unique and captivating performance.

World Wide Web: Information on Existing HIV/AIDS Street Theatre Resources

What Kids Can Do : One Love: Ethiopian Youth Create AIDS Education Circus (2009). Retrieved May 2010, from
http://www.whatkidscando.org/featurestories/2009/05_ethiopian_youth/inde...

Street Theatre Bibliography

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Street_theatre

http://www.indiaprofile.com/religion-culture/streettheatre.htm

http://www.odap.org/Default.aspx?sID=-523074244&cID=-1530520984

http://www.cantieregiovani.org/ActLearn&Teach_web.pdf