Post Workshop Reflections

* Good jokering requires a move away from a how-to mentality. In planning workshops, we may attempt to mimic one of the workshops Boal conducted, or reenact one of our own "successfully" jokered workshops, or conceive and plan the ideal workshop based on a study of Boal's books. Nevertheless, what seems to work best, if anything works at all, is to get intimate with the underlying principles of TO philosophy and practices and then enter each situation relatively unprepared, trusting one's self to invent the workshop based on the particular participants and circumstances. We can come with a template, of course, but more importantly we must come with a willingness to disregard it. This is the challenge of jokering and the one that I believe yields the most gratifying results for all.

The emphasis on jokers and joking, tricksters and paradox, has reaffirmed this position. What happens if we put the joker back into jokering? Such jokering reflects an improvisatory spirit, no matter how "controlling" the joker may be. The joker's control would be dedicated to a structure that is flexible, perhaps unclear, always-in-motion, seeking connections and tolerating contradictions. A leader who is a joker privileges labyrinthine movement, however mysterious, over pre-determined templates, no matter how comfortable, especially when goal-oriented processes begin to render predictable results. I have learned that it is an un-easy position for both joker and workshop participants and worth the 'trouble.'

* But leader as joker offers something more than a warning to steer from how-to templates. What kind of a leader is a trickster/joker? A Ganserian leader, for instance, might devise strategic riddles to answer workshop questions. Certainly, the results of using one technique would dictate the next. Exercises would be invented on the spot, if necessary, to investigate some dynamic more intuitively, or more analytically, or more physically, as the case dictates. Thus, designing exercises might be a workshop exercise. Resonance, as one of Boal's three forms of responses, would be favored over identification and recognition. Given the laughter and buffoonery that was stirred by at least two of the exercises we tried— A-effect and Be Your Own Dummy—and the subsequent agility and quickness they seemed to inspire, the joker's joker might employ a handful of such comedic techniques as regular "palate-cleansers" and "joint-oilers" during a workshop. There might be merit, in fact, in an entire day of "deep amusement" or explorations of carnivalesque mirth around political themes and issues of oppression before tackling scenes with any intention of rehearsing solutions.

* One of the fundamental questions I hoped to answer in doing this work was how ambiguity and imprecision and indirectness might enhance practices of resistance. I am now a bit wary of the question itself, for it begs the issue of efficacy and I find the efficacy yardstick disturbing and inappropriate in realms of art (and I believe that TO lies there fundamentally). I have learned that a trickster can disarm authority but s/he can also aggravate authority. It is no more fool-proof an intervention than any other. It works in some instances and in others it backfires. If the authority figure resides near the border of his own social role—that is, if he has begun to glimpse himself through the eyes of those his discreet borders effect—then perhaps (and only perhaps) he will be ready to shift from defensiveness to self-awareness in the face of the trickster's antics. He who holds tightly to his order and his social place may only respond to the trickster's ways with intensified rage. The agelast—he who cannot laugh—tends not to learn or change when being mocked or undermined.

We never know how any technique practiced in the studio environment will "work" outside the studio environment: will we be capable of enacting the interventions of rehearsal when faced with the actual antagonist? how will the approach inevitably change in real time and real places? what might the actual antagonist do that we didn't imagine in workshop? Ambiguity and imprecision and indirectness may or may not enhance practices of resistance. What we can do, however, is expand the repertoire of workshop and technique structures to allow, encourage, and teach trickster-like, paradox-informed, imprecision-vested interventions and improvisations. We can learn what they are about, how they feel, what they incite, and then—as with all possible interventions—use them as our instincts designate.


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