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Trying new (and fun!) participatory research approaches:

Theatre Forum 

As part of the Usumacinta Roc Project, Dr. Julia Martin-Ortega from the University of Leeds, Dr. Azahara Mesa-Jurado from ECOSUR and Dr. Paula Novo from Scotland Rural College tested an innovative participatory research method. Using Theatre Forum, they presented some of the results of a project, which focus on understanding the risks that using an ecosystem services framing of environmental problems might bring in terms of commodifying nature, to an audience of environmental professionals in Mexico.


A Forum Theatre to reflect on environmental management issues, implemented in two communities in Chiapas, Mexico:

This video is an opportunity to show our experience implementing a Forum Theatre regarding environmental management issues in Galacia and El Piru, two rural communities in Chiapas, Mexico.


Forum Theatre is an imaginary mirror that asks us to reflect on what needs to change. In the forum, performers represent a scene from real life in which a character is oppressed by attitudes, the status quo or other people’s behaviours. During the presentation, audience members can stop the scene, go on stage, become ‘spect-actors’, and transform that imaginary reality.

In this example, Forum Theatre was implemented to develop dialogue on participation issues related to environmental management and to stimulate the co-construction on how locals might achieve desired socio-ecological changes.


Interviews carried out with participants after the Forum Theatre.

After the Forum Theatre activity, semi-structured interviews were carried out with participants. The objective of the interviews was to understand local people’s perception of Forum Theatre as a means to dialogue and share ideas regarding environmental decision-making.

This Forum Theatre was the first encounter with theatre for most of the participants. Despite the local people not knowing what to expect, they identified the activity as reflective, relaxed, and fun. Also, the participants mentioned that they transformed into specta-actors because they identified with the characters or problems, and they needed to say something to change the story.

In this video, some scenes of the interviews are presented to show the perceptions of some participants about Forum Theatre.


Environmental professional perceptions on Forum Theatre as a mechanism to improve representation of local people’s values in the environmental decisions:

Environmental professionals’ perceptions about Forum Theatre are a critical interest to understand the potential of this method for improving environmental decisions because they shape and implement environmental decisions in practice.

A focus group and interviews were implemented with environmental professionals working in Mexico, by Dr. Azahara Mesa-Jurado (ECOSUR) and PGR Silvia Olvera-Hernandez (University of Leeds). They discussed whether Forum Theatre is perceived as a useful method to improve the representation of the values of those directly affected by these environmental decisions, as well as its potential to be used in environmental decision-making processes.



These posters are the graphic notes of the focus groups:


Photo Gallery

In this gallery we would like to show you some photos of two main activities in the Performing Change project. The implementation of a Workshop with local performers about the techniques of Forum Theatre and the implementation of a Forum Theatre in two communities, in Chiapas, Mexico.

Forum Theatre workshop with local performers:

One of the first activities of the Performing Change project was the implementation of training on the techniques of Forum Theatre to select the local performers to go with us to the communities.

This workshop was implemented by Dr. Alywyn Walsh (University of Leeds), Dr. Azahara Mesa-Jurado (ECOSUR), and Silvia Olvera-Hernandez (PGR at the University of Leeds). This training took place in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico. Seven performers were selected for rehearsals before departing to the communities. These are some of the photos of the process:




Forum Theatre in the communities

A Forum Theatre was implemented in Galacia and El Pirú, two communities, in Chiapas, Mexico. It aims was to develop dialogue on participation issues related to environmental management and to stimulate the co-construction on how locals might achieve desired socio-ecological changes. These are some of the photos of the activities:

Additional Resources and updates

A spotlight interview with Prof. Julia Martin-Ortega

Prof. Julia is interviewed by  Dr. Sahla Aroussi, Deputy Director of Leeds Social Sciences Institute. In this interview, she talks about the use of Forum Theatre to try to inform environmental governance. Follow this link to view the interview: Professor Julia Martin-Ortega



The Bridge Builder Award

Silvia Olvera-Hernandez has received the Bridge Builder Award from the Society of Conservation Biology. The award acknowledges Silvia Olvera-Hernandez’s interdisciplinary research on performing values in local governance in Mexico.



Illustrated summary of the Forum Theatre research project (PDF).