Radical Doubt: The Joker System, after Boal, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Radical Doubt

The Joker System, after Boal, 1st Edition

By Mady Schutzman


194 pages

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Radical Doubt investigates ethical play across a spectrum of performances, on and off the stage. In witty, recursive, personal, and propulsive prose, Mady Schutzman elaborates on the Joker System, conceived by Augusto Boal, best known for Theatre of the Oppressed. The Joker System is a collaborative approach to representing social dilemmas through a rare fusion of destabilizing ambiguity and journalistic rigor. Schutzman models the Joker System while expanding well beyond the theatrical. In polyphonic compositions that perform their own philosophy, she uncovers illuminating links between calculus and conjuring, kōans and resistance, humor and witnessing, complexity theory and sorely needed new practices of living in our divisive times.□ These life practices rely upon crafty and circuitous strategies to deliver their subversive punch. Jok(er)ing matters, Schutzman insists. When communities fragment and identities fixate, enter the trickster!

Sonja Kuftinec

Theatre Arts and Dance, University of Minnesota


"These chapters are populated with jokers, clowns, schlemiels, fools, tricksters and comediennes, all of whom test the boundaries of meaning and find novel ways of telling the truth. Schutzman’s deep expertise in Augusto Boal’s Joker System opens a major chapter of political theater history to our contested present, offering readers methods for imagining a different future, and that’s no joke."

- Malik Gaines, Performance Studies, NYU

"I had the good fortune to see Schutzman’s play UPSET! back in 2006, ?and I can testify to the innovative, radical nature of seeing the Joker System in action. A lifetime’s worth of experiment and study with the capacity to unsettle our thinking has produced a warm, eclectic, and totally original work."

- Maggie Nelson, Author of The Argonauts

"A fine example of Boal's legacy in action--with wit and wisdom Schutzman captures the potential of a 'system' that not only resists convention but offers a transformative and at times subversive theoretical framework and performance practice."

- Sara Brady, Bronx Community College

"Reading this book feels like an affirmation of my own work, and that of many of the people I work with. It is also a guide and a challenge. It is a joy to have someone writing about this kind of work as she [Schutzman] does."

- Lib Spry, McGill University

Table of Contents


Introduction The joker runs wild


SECTION I The Joker System on the stage

Chapter 1 What a riot!

Chapter 2 UPSET!


SECTION II The Joker System off the stage

Chapter 3 Being approximate: the Ganser syndrome and beyond

Chapter 4What we talk about when we talk about community

Part I Ritual: play, paradox, and communitas

Part II Joint work, joke work

Part III A case study: Llano del Rio

Chapter 5 Encyclopedia of radical doubt

Chapter 6 The joker never dies: the world "as if"





About the Author

Mady Schutzman is a writer, scholar, theatre artist, and filmmaker. She is author of The Real Thing: Performance, Hysteria, and Advertising and co-editor, with Jan Cohen-Cruz, of two anthologies on the work of Augusto Boal. Schutzman is Faculty Emerita at California Institute of the Arts.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / General