The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB) is a multiracial collective of educators, cultural workers, organizers, and artists. TOPLAB uses Theater of the Oppressed techniques and methodology to promote and engage in democratic processes, and creative approaches to community building for radical social change.


TOPLAB was founded in 1990 and is the oldest organization in the United States dedicated to providing ongoing training in the techniques of the Theater of the Oppressed, founded by renown Brazilian director Augusto Boal. TOPLAB has hosted workshops by Boal annually, until his passing in 2008, and continues to host his son, Julian Boal.

TOPLAB is a multiracial, multiethnic collective of 7 women: Marie-Claire Picher, Ellen Baxt, Gail Burton, Kayhan Irani, Larraine Brown, Janet Gerson, and Lisa Lindstrom. We are based in NY, Boston, Maine, and are active as cultural workers, educators, organizers and theater artists. We have trained and worked extensively with Augusto Boal. We are committed to practicing and modeling non-hierarchical leadership and creative democratic process through our work.

Theater of the Oppressed has many applications and social functions. The TOPLAB collective chooses to stay close to Theater of the Oppressed's political roots which are grounded in the struggle for social justice, peace and the liberation of all people. TOPLAB uses the techniques and methods as organizing tools to affect radical social change.

Marie-Claire Picher, PhD, is a Theater of the Oppressed
trainer and popular educator who collaborated annually with Augusto Boal from 1990 until his death in 2009. She is a
founding member of TOPLAB (1990) and the Institute of
Popular Education at the Brecht Forum (1992). In addition to leading hundreds of workshops in the New York, she has
facilitated sessions in numerous cities throughout the United States, as well as in Mexico City and the Mexican states of
Chiapas and Tabasco, in Santa Cruz del Quiche in the
Guatemalan highlands, in Guatemala City and in Cuba. An
article of hers, Dramatizing Democracy: Theater of the
Oppressed, appeared in the Fall 2006 issue of Fellowship.
Another article, Democratic Process and Theater of the
Oppressed, was published in the December 2007 issue of
New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. She was Executive Director of the Brecht Forum from 1989 to 1993.
She is also a tenured professor of French and Spanish, and
Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and
Literatures at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in
Riverdale, NY.
Ellen Baxt has been a facilitator of Theater of the Oppressed
and a member of the TOPLAB since 2005. In addition to
facilitating public workshops at the Brecht Forum, she has
led workshops at Bard High School/Early College, New York University, and JusticeWorks Community. She has worked
with organizers at Make the Road New York and Falconworks Artists Group to develop ongoing theater projects based in
the lived experiences of social injustice. She has worked
teaching immigrant and low income adults in New York for
over ten years. Currently she coordinates the College
Transition Initiative at Kingsborough Community College.
Gail A. Burton has been active with TOPLAB since 2002 upon completing the facilitation internship program. She has studied Image, Forum, and Rainbow of Desire theater techniques under the guidance of Marie-Claire Picher, Julian Boal and Augusto Boal. She is currently on faculty at Emerson College and Roxbury Community College in Boston, MA. Related performance work: Along These Shores, addressing African American women and violence; Medea Project Theater for Incarcerated Women in San Francisco, CA; New Freedwoman Project, Boston, MA. Awards: 2007 Black Butterfly Leadership Award from Boston Black Pride Committee and the Cambridge Peace Award.
Kayhan Irani has been a facilitator of Theater of the Oppressed since 2002 and a member of TOPLAB since 2003. Kayhan's works on issues such as immigration/migration, women's rights, and internalized racism for people of color.
She has run projects with community and advocacy groups, colleges and universities, government agencies and has worked abroad in Baghdad, Iraq and most recently in Kabul, Afghanistan using Theater of the Oppressed as a community building tool. Kayhan is also a writer/performer and has won a NY Emmy Award for her writing.
Larraine Brown is an active member of TOPLAB New England. For the past fifteen years Larraine has concentrated on the uses of theater, Theater of the Oppressed techniques, the creative process, and the arts in general, to promote and support activism. She formed and directed The OutCast Players, a group of adults who toured the state of Maine over a period of nine years to educate, inspire, provoke and entertain audiences - specifically around the issues of literacy, poverty and ingenuity. The OutCast Players performed for the public, the governor, the state legislative body, and at a variety of prison, library and adult education conferences.