1st Edition

Tactical Performance The Theory and Practice of Serious Play

By L.M. Bogad Copyright 2016
    324 Pages
    by Routledge

    324 Pages
    by Routledge

    'Lucid, sharp, funny, Bogad's Tactical Performance is the book we've been waiting for on creative activism.' Diana Taylor, Director, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, New York University, and author of Performance

    'Tactical Performance rehearses theatre and social justice strategies at their best: historically connected, culturally informed, alive and nimble in their responses to the political moment. With the savvy of a participant/observer and the acuity of an historian and critic, Bogad provides a lively overview of important activist performances, asking us to reconsider their effects and their promise. A crystal-clear argument in a must-read book for all who care about performance and social change.' Jill Dolan, Dean of the College, Princeton University

    'Beautifully written; a playful, potent mixture of history, how-to, and theory, informed by the author’s many years of personal front-line experience.' The Yes Men (Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno)

    'The love child of Lenny Bruce and Saul Alinsky, Bogad has worked, on the street and behind the scenes, at the nexus of some of the most compelling art-interventions of the past 15 years. He brings his truly original and bizarre performance-art sensibility both to his activism and to this ground-breaking book. Read it!' Guillermo Gómez-Peña, writer, performance artist and pedagogue

    'Appalling bad taste and worse judgment make Bogad’s interventions memorable and frequently effective. Don’t try this alone at home. These actions should be undertaken with friends, and preferably with very good friends.' Peter Sellars, theatre director


    Tactical Performance explores creative protest in unique depth, looking at the possibilities for direct action and theatrical confrontation with some of the most powerful institutions in the world. It effectively combines theory and practice, illustrating the basic principles of artful activism in an absorbing, accessible manner.

    L.M. Bogad draws on his own experience as a writer, performer, and strategist working with groups such as the Yes Men, the Clown Army, Reclaim the Streets, and La Pocha Nostra, to share the most effective nonviolent tactics and theatrics.

    An inspiring practical and theoretical guide, Tactical Performance is essential reading for anyone interested in creative pranksterism, subvertisement, cultural sabotage, and the global justice movement.

    Introduction A Red Carpet on the Picket Line: Tactical Performance

    1 Tactical Carnival: Dialogism and Social Movements

    2 Clownfrontation and Clowndestine Maneuvers: the Clown Army and the Irresistible Image

    3 Reclaim the Streets: Tactical Interaction and the Urban Mallification/Mollification in New York City

    4 Breaking Conventions, Breaking into Conventions (From the WTO to WTF?)

    5 Critical Simulacra and Tricknology: Oil Enforcement Agents, Yes Men, and Survivaballs

    6 All the News We Hope to Print: The Creation and Mass Distribution of Progressive Prank Papers

    7 Crisis in Califorlornia: Creative Protest at the University of California

    Conclusion Earning Moments for the Movement


    L.M. Bogad is Professor of political performance at the University of California at Davis. He is the author of Electoral Guerrilla Theatre: Radical ridicule and social movements, the plays Haymarket, Tahrir, COINTELSHOW: A patriot act, and Economusic: Keeping score. He is the founding director of the Center for Tactical Performance.

    "Bogad’s latest book, Tactical Performance: The Theory and Practice of Serious Play, takes readers to the front lines of contemporary activism, offering both a detailed critical analysis of the field, as well as practical guidance in how to construct effective action. His latest offering draws heavily on case studies stemming from his extensive personal repertoire of tactical practice: he either helped found, wrote for, performed with, trained or advised (or some combination of these roles) many of the groups he discusses. [Bogad’s] first-hand experience and knowledge has translated well, giving the book significant authoritative weight. This close involvement has also allowed Bogad to entertain readers with the kind of amusing observations and anecdotes that can only come from being an insider to events… The book subsequently operates on multiple levels: as a monograph on contemporary activism, a catalogue of successful and unsuccessful tactics, and a practical guide and workbook for would-be activists… Bogad’s text provides a much-needed addition to the literature on activism as an inherently useful text that allows us to rethink effective strategies for engaging with the powerful… What makes Bogad’s contribution to this lineage distinctive is his first-hand experience with the issues he raises… The book could not be more timely. Readers will appreciate not only its sound practical guidance, but also its sense of humour." -- Contemporary Theatre Review

    "Tactical Performance does it all: juxtaposes the theory of performance to protest actions, jumpstarts creative messaging, and models the thinking and practice of the protestor... The memories of Bogad's processes, protests, and perturbations are humorous and revelatory.Actual strategic conversations that took place between activists are recalled throughout the book to model the thinking that leads to a tactical performance. Bogad presents a real problem a group confronted, shares the ideas they invented, and identifies how they developed a solution. What is so unique about this approach is that Bogad often asks the reader, "What would you have done?"(30). Readers are encouraged to devise tactics they might use in the same circumstances... Tactical Performance is a unique hybrid between a theoretical exploration of performative processes and an introductory textbook for the blossoming artivist." -- Theatre Survey

    "In Tactical Performance, Bogad articulates how cultural intervention’s playful politics can serve to augment the work of more traditional long-term social movement organizing (51). Tactical Performance is part historiography and part manual, seeking to draw out the key role of play in countering power on the ground. As a committed participant researcher Bogad is in a unique position to offer a much-needed local account of praxis that might help conceptualize creative intervention, political solidarities, and social movements through theatre and performance practices. Bogad is primarily concerned with tracing how the symbolic can be deployed to support the work of social movements, taking hold of the public’s imagination and creating an "irresistible image that is so compelling or beautifully troubling that even one’s ideological opponents must reproduce it" (32)... Engaging with Aristotle, Augusto Boal, and Mikhail Bakhtin, among others, Bogad outlines a productive place for performance in social movements while briefly touching on its limits and the role class, race, and gender privilege have in regulating participant play... The book does its most striking work in its introduction, which is a useful and accessible entry point to the field of aesthetics and activism. It offers an indispensable overview of "serious play" in 20th-century social movements through the deployment of specific case studies seen through the lens of rehearsal and sociodrama. Bogad’s attentiveness here to the way the civil rights movement’s nonviolent actions, in particular its lunch counter sit-ins, were workshopped, meticulously cast, and thoughtfully prepared pieces of performance throws into relief how theatre and direct action productively intersect. Inspired by community organizer Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicalsn (1971) Bogad then produces a series of clear, compelling, and inspiring principles and practices for developing tactical performances, which he illustrates with specific contemporary examples... Bogad’s book is a testament not only to important practices that should be remembered, but also to his commitment to progressive change and belief in the vital role performance can play in political struggle." -- TDR, The Drama Review

    "In a current climate so wholly influenced by the images and sound-bites of social media and news geared toward capturing even the shortest of attention spans, Bogad provides a radical alternative to the customary battles and quid-pro-quo encounters, achieving transformation by staging more creative forms of protest. Simultaneously historical record, tactical handbook, and inspirational guide, Tactical Performance is packed with both relevant theory and practical advice. Teachers, students, and anyone looking for methods that work both outside and alongside the norms of familiar forms of engagement will find this an invaluable reference for affecting social change." -- Linda Noveroske-Tritten, University of California, Davis