In Africa and in North America, in both rural and urban settings, theatre can be an effective means of health promotion. Projects on women's health, care for patients with mental disorders, and AIDS prevention show the usefulness of this medium for community action programmes.
PIP: "Forum theater" is a dramatic piece composed of sketches that depict situations requiring change. Actors and actresses first enact the situation and then a facilitator helps the audience explore new solutions through improvisation. The goal of forum theater is not to discover the optimum solution but to produce a variety of options. This technique can be used very effectively to promote health education and was used with great success in three different settings. The first was during a November 1989 exchange project involving women from Canada and from Mali. Rural educators in Mali entered a training program with the Canadian women, and the first topic broached was menopause. Using forum theater sketches, the information generated from their exchange was passed on to traditional birth attendants. Without prompting, the midwives entered into the sketches and proposed solutions. Each day, they formed a circle and sang about what they had learned and how it would affect their practice. A second success occurred in rural Quebec, where forum theater was chosen as a means to allow community people with serious mental disorders to communicate about their lives and, thus, improve them. The play that developed, "Not as mad as all that," was made into a video for use in training workshops throughout the province. The third project involved educating women in urban Quebec about AIDS prevention so they could develop a positive attitude towards safe sex, strengthen their capacity for self-assertion and communication, and become more informed about safe sex. When assured of anonymity, the women involved were able to express their fears and to break their silence. The resulting play has been taken on regional tours in 1994 and 1995. Many variations of forum theater are used around the world, but the most effective one for health promotion seems to involve allowing the spectators to act directly rather than to direct the actors. This allows spectators to experience what it would be like to affect a change in their lives.