Even though the concept of “Empathy” was mentioned in the earliest texts about performance, there has always been a dispute among theatre theorists in different eras regarding its impact on the audience. Although some have considered empathy as the basis of the theatre, others viewed it as a dangerous ground that can result in inappropriate and unhealthy feelings in the audience. Recent findings of neuroscientists have revealed that empathy (with both real people and fictional characters) is inevitable for human beings, and its unconscious mechanism exists in every mentally healthy person. I believe that this inherent ability can allow us to contribute to making practical changes in the attitudes and behaviors of theatre audiences by utilizing their empathy. As pointed out in this essay, Forum Theatre, as a technique of the Theatre of the Oppressed, is more based than anything on the empathy of its spectators (or so-called Spect-actors by Boal). More than any other theatrical form, it provides a chance for its audiences to identify with theatre subjects, which in turn, through repetition and practice, contributes to the emergence of neural patterns, thereby improving the audience`s reactions in similar situations in everyday life.
"The Mechanism of Empathy in Forum Theater,"
Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Journal: Vol. 7, Article 13.
Available at: https://scholarworks.uni.edu/ptoj/vol7/iss1/13