The Joker System began in 1965, when Augusto Boal’s Arena Theatre performed Arena Narrates Zumbí. While working on Zumbi, Boal and his group tried new non-traditional way of performing spectacles and created an approach he later called the “Joker System.” The Joker System laid the theoretical foundation for the Theatre of the Oppressed, the umbrella term Boal employed for all his subsequent theoretical developments. Even in the Forum Theatre, his most popular theatrical format, the lineaments of the Joker system are apparent. The system incorporated both dramaturgy and staging techniques, bringing together all the experiments and discoveries Boal had previously made. The word “Joker” had, in Boal’s mind, the same significance as the “Joker” playing card, a card which has more mobility than any of the other cards in the deck. Like the cards, in his tecnique, the joker plays different roles within varying contexts and combinations, including director, referee, and workshop leader. The system also facilitates the creation of a character, which can play various roles: actor, character, chorus, and protagonist, all in the same performance. This article studies the Joker System and how Boal transformed existing, traditional theatrical codes and the audience’s habitual way of viewing a play.
Keywords: Joker System, Theatre of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal