Joker Runs Wild: Introduction

This piece is an investigation of how the strategies of tricksters, jokers, jokes, and joking of all kinds might enhance the dramatic techniques and political goals of Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed (TO). Attention is given to various sources for expanding the notion of Boal's "jokering" the term used to identify the directing role in TO. One of these sources is the Joker System, a theatrical approach within Boal's oeuvre that merges the influence of Brecht and circus. It is a core aspect of his aesthetic language that has been neglected in critical scholarship on TO. Other sources include joker/fool imagery and symbolism, clowning and carnival, stand-up comedy, vaudeville routines, ventriloquist dummies, and court jesters with their baubles. A fundamental question asked in this chapter is how indirectness, ambivalence, and humor work as strategies of resistance. What kind of a leader is a joker? Several concepts and images of trickster, joker, and clown uncovered in the study become inspiration for a workshop conducted by the author.