Introductions

Introduction:

Interactive Resource Centre (IRC) is a non-profit info media organization striving to create self-empowerment opportunities for the marginalized members of the community through art-based development techniques. Formed in 2000, IRC employees a variety of interactive community tools such as interactive/forum theatre, documentary films, citizen journalism, radio broadcasting, and digital storytelling to create awareness and advocacy opportunities. In addition to utilizing these various tools, IRC has also developed unique platforms to further it’s objectives such as our annual Interactive theatre festival, Pakistan’s first documentary film festival, Vasakh International Film Festival and more recently it has also created a web-based interactive video site( www.maatitv.com ) aimed at creating an alternative narrative of Pakistan.

IRC has developed over 250 theatre groups all over the country and conducted more than 3000 performances in 13 different languages. It has worked on a variety of themes such as bonded labor, gender-based violence, democracy, countering violent extremism, safe drinking water, etc. Our theatre has been widely recognized by the Government of Pakistan as well as IGO’s as a significant tool for advocacy and awareness. Our director, Mohammad Waseem, was also the founding member of Ajoka and Lok Rehes and is the only Pakistani to have been directly trained by Augusto Boal.

Vision

A peaceful, democratic and just society.

Mission

We believe;

  • All humans are equal and deserve fundamental freedom
  • All cultures are equal and deserve respect
  • In non-violent and political solutions of conflicts and problems
  • Without influencing mainstream change transformation is not possible
  • Stigmas and social taboos can be challenged through dialogue and communication

IRC’s Goals:

  • Create and strengthen interactive communication within political and social stakeholders as a mean to achieve peaceful, democratic and just society.
  • Develop and experiment innovative techniques in interactive communication to increase outreach and effectiveness of social change process.
  • Build & promote capacities & knowledge of communities (women, minority, youth & children), media, and CSOs for increasing outreach and informed advocacy in and around human rights, democratic governance and peace & justice.
  • Develop a proactive and sustainable interactive communication institute for promoting arts, culture and communication in communities.
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2.3. Goals

  • Create and strengthen interactive communication within political and social stakeholders as a means to achieve a peaceful, democratic and just society
  • Develop and experiment innovative techniques in interactive communication to increase outreach and effectiveness of the social change process
  • Build and promote capacities and knowledge of communities (women, minority, youth, and children), media and CSOs for increasing outreach and informed advocacy in and around human rights, democratic governance and peace & justice
  • Develop a proactive and sustainable interactive communication institute for promoting arts, culture, and communication in communities
2.4. Values

  • Peace and Justice for all
  • Nondiscrimination and Nonviolence
  • Basic fundamental freedom / rights for all
  • Democratic processes at all level
  • Respect for culture without comprising on universal values
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3. Techniques and Tool

3.1. Interactive Theatre

3.1.1. The Evolution of Interactive Theatre

 3 Interactive Theatre is a technique developed by Brazilian theatre director Augusto Boal during the 1950s and 1960s. This particular type of theatre is rooted in the pedagogical and political principles specific to the popular education method developed by Brazilian educator Paulo Friere:

  • To see the situation lived by the participants;
  • To analyze the root causes of the situation;
  • To act to change the situation following the precepts of social justice

It is an effort to transform theatre from the “monologue” of traditional performance into a “dialogue” between audience and stage, Boal experimented with many kinds of interactive theatre. His explorations were based on the assumption that dialogue is the common, healthy dynamic between all humans, that all human beings desire and capable of dialogue, and that when a dialogue becomes a monologue, oppression ensues. Theatre then becomes an extraordinary tool for transforming monologue into a dialogue. “While some people make theatre,” says Boal, “we all are theatre.”

3.1.2. What is Interactive Theatre?

In this form, theatre is emphasized not as a spectacle but rather as a language designed to:

  • Analyze and discuss problems of oppression and power;
  • To explore group solutions to these problems

This language is accessible to all.

An Interactive theatre is a communication tool that provides community members with a platform to voice their problems and issues. The process not only induces community members to learn through acting but also broadens the vision of the performing actors. Central to the practice of theatre is telling stories. Equally, in community development practice, one of the primary functions is to hear peoples’ stories. Theatre provides a way of listening more fully to these stories, of maximizing their potency, of highlighting the tensions implicit therein and of delivering them irrevocably to the public domain.

Interactive theatre does not want to convince people of a specific idea or solution to their problems but creates a safe research field where a small or large population can reflect upon its own life and find ideas, solutions, and alternatives that it would like to put into practice.

A fundamental element in Theatre of the Oppressed: it is never didactic to its audience. It involves a process of learning together rather than one-way teaching. (Paulo Friere). Theatre of the Oppressed is about acting rather than talking, questioning rather than giving answers, analyzing rather than accepting. This is a technique for all those who are interested in theatre as a force for change. Three main categories exist within the Theatre of the Oppressed technique: Image Theatre, Invisible Theatre, and Forum Theatre. This differs from the typical commercial theatre where the audience’s participation is restricted to just being a spectator. Here the audiences are encouraged to engage in a critical discourse following the performance. At times they are encouraged to come on stage and replace one of the characters to show us how they would solve the situation presented on in the play. Also, in our theatre, the game is a form of a contest between “spect-actors” trying to bring the play to a different end and actors ostensibly making every possible effort to bring its original end. The proceedings are presided over by a figure called the “Joker”, whose function is to ensure the smooth running of the game and teach the audience the rules. This kind of theatre breaks away from the traditional monologue and moves towards a dialogue where people can understand the problems and collectively come up with a solution. In short, this form of theatre is a rehearsal for life.

3.1.3. Why Interactive Theatre?

IRC’s approach to development was evolved by challenging the very techniques and tools used in the development sector. In the development sector, we train people on human rights, gender, economic development, participatory planning, etc.

The bottom-line of these training is very simple a fission chain reaction, we train a group; they would go in a community and train others, thus the number of trained people will go on increasing. This, however, is not the whole truth.

 

When asked, the trained groups generally put three questions before you;

  • What if someone asks me a question and I don’t know the answer?
  • Who will help us when the community will condemn even more or displace us if we challenge the social norms?
  • Who will give us funds to replicate the same activity the way you did i.e. in luxury hotels will all the available facilities?
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Interactive theatre is an answer to all these questions. In interactive theatre you do not speak truth and make deliberate social error. Then again community itself gives comments and suggestions to make changes and adjustments. Thereof, there is no fear that someone might prove you wrong as you don’t have to answer the question, instead you raise a question and community gives the answer.

As the community is finding solution to a problem and challenging the norms themselves, there is no fear of opposition from the community.

Finally you don’t require resources to perform a drama. It can be performed anywhere on streets, under trees, in community centers, etc. and you don’t even need stationary and other material normally required to conduct a workshop.

Thereof, interactive theatre provides an alternate approach to development.

3.1.4. IRC’s Innovation in Interactive Theatre

5 IRC believe that interactive theatre is voice of common people of Pakistan. Pakistan has rich cultural traditions. Our folk lore, local stories, and music give an insight of our social practices. It also serves as a bond between people. IRC has used this bond and associated folk lore, local music and stories with interactive theatre.This has helped at two levels:1) local people associated themselves with interactive theater as it was displaying their culture. This has established their trust in interactive theatre.2) As this form of theatre portrayed their stories in their language, people broke the communication barriers and started a dialogue on issues and problems faced by the communities. This has also negated the myth that Pakistan is a close society and theatre would not flourish in Pakistan as development tool.

Using this technique IRC discussed all kind of community issues such as bonded labour, child rights, political problems, accountability of local governments, environmental problems, minority rights, discriminatory laws, peace, traumas, and disasters.

3.2.What happens in IRC’s workshops or during training?

IRC’s theatre services include 8 days’ workshop in which one day is allocated towards script and story development, and 6 days are allocated towards working with the actors, developing and rehearsing the play and one day is allocated towards the performance. In our workshop, we conduct brainstorming sessions for non-actors to teach them and learn different ideas from them. As this exchange of ideas is always a two-way process. This theatre is different in a sense, as we do social mapping and ask about the non-actor stories to make a script. Also, our workshop includes different ice-breaking theatre exercises so that the participants’ can feel comfortable and perform better. We make our narratives by garnishing their existing hidden talents. 6

 

  • MAATI (WEB TV)

We at Maati TV believe in the power of storytelling. It is an art inherent in all of us. We want our content to embrace the diversity of Pakistan and challenge the notions of extremism with that of hope, acceptance, and co-existence. Maati TV is Pakistan’s first web-based interactive channel and a product of the Interactive Resource Centre (IRC). Initially launched in 2011, the platform was revamped in 2016 to incorporate the digital millennial vision. With content geared towards the themes of human rights, democracy, and culture, the platform has been able to create a diverse audience that actively engages with the content.

Operating on the principle of non-corporate parallel media, Maati has its correspondents in 20 districts and different educational institutions across the country. It aims to become a mainstream but alternative voice of the people and is home to thousands of documentaries and video profiles produced by IRC on various social issues. Moreover, mobile films produced by citizen journalism are also put online, making it possible for the local stories to be heard by the larger masses, directly from the source.

Also, Maati TV produces its content in collaboration with its sister organization – Surt Communications Pvt Ltd. Surt is a broadcasting and media production house with professional recording studios, cameras, lights, and audio. Some of the clients of the company include Nescafe Basement, Coke Studio, Pepsi, Samsung, and Geo.

Currently, Maati TV has over 130,000 followers on its social media platforms, primarily Facebook and Youtube and its average views per video range from 60,000 to 80,000.

The new areas introduced by Maati Tv are:

CITIZEN JOURNALISM

IRC introduced Citizen Journalism as an advocacy and awareness tool around 2010. This form was developed as a way to create better communication strategies for disaster relief for the victims of the 2010 flood. Since then the tool of citizen journalism has become an integral part of IRC’s portfolio and has now transcended to a communication medium used with youth groups during IRC’s university training. Every year IRC engages youth from various universities from Pakistan in a peacebuilding and human rights advocacy workshops through citizen journalism, using their mobile phones. Their content is further connected to the platform of Maati TV, IRC’s web-based interactive video site, so that their issues and narratives, are highlighted. Currently, IRC has an ongoing partnership and signed MOUs with Quaid-i-Azam University, University of Peshawar, University of Central Punjab, Islamia University Bahawalpur and Bahauddin Zakriya University, Multan.

After two successful years of training a curriculum called “media and peace building” was developed by IRC in collaboration with 5 Fulbright scholars with formal training in conflict transformation and supported by United States Institute of Peace (USIP). The purpose of the curriculum was to use art-based development tools to create space for students to think critically about a given topic/conflict while equally respecting the views of the others. After 6 years of successful implementation of this curriculum which provided 3 hours of credit to the participating students, the program evolved by adding citizen journalism and audio documentaries to the existing module of participatory videos and interactive theatre.

RADIO

IRC is in the process of starting radio live streaming in which interesting programs will be presented live. These programs will not only entertain the listeners but also be a source of enlightenment for them.

IRC’ particular brand of theatre “Theatre of the oppressed” differs from the typical commercial theatre where the audience’s participation is restricted to just being a spectator. Here the audiences are encouraged to engage in a critical discourse following the performance. At times they are encouraged to come on stage and replace one of the characters to show us how they would solve the situation presented on in the play. This kind of theatre breaks away from the traditional monologue and moves towards a dialogue where people can understand the problems and collectively come up with a solution.

  • Documentary Films

Over the years IRC has established itself as a leading production house for documentary film production. Many of IRC’s documentary films on issues ranging from sexual harassment to countering violent extremism have received international recognition. It is equipped with state of the art camera and editing equipment as well as a media team comprising of experienced filmmakers. Several of IRC’s documentary films have also gained international recognition.

In 2015 IRC developed a series of 6 short films on CVE in collaboration with the US embassy Public affairs section. Three of the films were tributes to non-Muslim or non-Sunni soldiers who lost their lives fighting extremism and protecting Pakistan. These narratives promoted the idea of equal citizenship by broadening the identity as a Pakistani to go beyond religious identity. These films were showcased all over Pakistan and one of them was also the official selection of international film festivals in Pakistan and Sri Lanka

  • Using Media for Advocacy

For influencing the mainstream one requires mass advocacy which is not possible with theatre alone. While theatre has provided IRC a strong grip in communities, media becomes another tool for influencing mainstream for the effective and complete circle of social change. IRC has used media as a tool to link micro with macro issues.

IRC’s media unit is fully equipped with the latest production and post-production instruments. The media unit owns a purpose-built hall for media productions, editing and sound room.

IRC media team includes cameraman, editors, scripts, writers and producers. The media unit has produced documentaries on women rights, bonded labor, Theatre of the Oppressed, children rights and earthquake. It has also produced video recordings of various plays staged by IRC and other theatre groups and video profiles of various organizations.

  • Participatory Video Training

IRC arranges for participatory video training in which people belonging to different communities participate. They are provided with basic video making training which they then use to get an insight into the problematic areas of the society. The community filmmakers also become a source of providing content to be posted on Maati.tv.

IRC’s Achievements

Interactive Theatre

Interactive resource centre not only introduced interactive theatre in Pakistan but excelled in shaping it according to the socio-economic atmosphere. Due to the relentless hard work of IRC, this technique of art based development is widely accepted by the donors and government, in addition to becoming widely practiced all around the country.

Media Advocacy

The tool of media advocacy has been successfully adapted by IRC over the years. The initial start of community film making in 2007 has now resulted in a network of IRC’s community filmmaker and university student networks to be spread around in 20 districts. Another venture of IRC that falls under media advocacy is mobile video training that are being provided to students and members of the marginalized communities throughout Pakistan to encourage citizen journalism.

Maati.Tv

IRC has had the pleasure of launching Pakistan’s first web TV by the name of Maati.tv. It aims to provide an alternative voice to the grass-root communities and the urban youth regarding the social and political issues that are largely ignored by the mainstream media

Sexual Harassment

IRC has been a core member of AASHA (Alliance Against Sexual Harassment) and had an integral role to play in creating awareness regarding the issue of sexual harassment and in the struggle to get the anti-Harassment act of 2010 passed in the assembly.

World Cultural Open

The efforts of IRC were recognized on an international level when the organization was among the four finalists in the category of creative arts at the WCO (world cultural open) in 2004.

Our Festivals

IRC has succeeded in making 11 Theatre Festivals and 5 Vasakh Film Festivals in different cities of Pakistan. The huge number of audience at these festivals was a sign of the success of IRC’s team.

Theatre Festival

Every year IRC organizes its annual interactive theatre festival where theatre plays developed within that year are showcased over three days. While each festival is organized in collaboration with different donors, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Fund for Global Human Rights (FGHR) have been constant partners of this event for the past three years. These festivals highlight the thematic areas of minority rights, domestic violence, extremism, etc.

Vasakh Film Festival

Formed in 2008, Vasakh International documentary films festival has been established with the specific objective of creating a critical mass by sensitizing the youth on issues of human rights, equal citizenship, gender equity, and religious tolerance through the medium of documentary films.

Our Publications

For more information, check out the following links:

https:// https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4VwQ0F1cWfLu002kS9YFew

web.facebook.com/maatitvofficial/?ref=br_rs

https://www.thenews.com.pk/archive/print/90961-irc-organises-interactive-theatre

https://www.thenews.com.pk/magazine/instep-today/283478-conversations-through-theatre

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/05/09/15th-interactive-theatre-festival-kicks-off-at-ali-auditorium/

https://www.dawn.com/news/1146467

https://fp.brecorder.com/2006/12/20061216508479/

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/theatre-oppressed/

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/theatre-thought/

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1088711/vasakh-film-festival-to-begin-april-29-in-lahore/

https://www.youlinmagazine.com/story/10th-vasakh-documentary-film-festival-2017/ODMx

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1395539/movie-screening-film-festival-aims-sensitise-youth-human-rights/

https://www.youlinmagazine.com/story/9th-vasakh-documentary-film-festival-in-lahore/NTg0


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