The prankster’s passion: Using theatrical terms to unpack players motivations in popular social performance

Hadley, Bree (2015) The prankster’s passion: Using theatrical terms to unpack players motivations in popular social performance. In ADSA Conference - Revisiting The Player’s Passion: The Science(s) of Acting in 2015, 23-26 June 2015, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW. (Unpublished)

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Amongst social players, the prank, as a social performance form, holds a lot of potential to impact on personal, relational and social status within a group or between one group and another group. More than simply showing off, a prank in the strictest definition of the term, is a social performance in which one player, a prankster, deploys mischief, trickery or deceit, to cause a moment of anxiety, fear or anger about a happening for another spectator-become-collaborating-player, a prankee – to enhance social bonds, entertain, or comment on a social, cultural or political phenomenon. During a prank, the prankster’s ability to be creative, clever or culturally astute, and the prankee’s ability to be duped, be a good sport, play along, or even play/pay the prankster back, both become fodder for other spectators and society to scrutinize. In Australia, pranking traditions are popular with many social groups, from the community-building pranks of footballers, bucks parties and ‘drop bear’ tales told to tourists, to the more controversial pranks of radio shock jocks, activists and artists. In this paper, I consider whether theatrical terms – theoretical terms from the stage such as actor, acting, objective, arc, performance, audience and emotion, such as those offered by Joseph Roach – are useful in understanding the passion some social players show for pranksterism. Are theatrical terms such as Roach’s as useful as analysts of social self-performance such as Erving Goffman suggest they are? Do they assist in understanding the personal actions, reactions and emotions of prankster and prankee? Do they assist in understanding the power relations between prankster and prankee? Do they assist in understanding the relation between the prank – be it an everyday prank amongst families, friends and coworkers, an entertainment program prank of the sort seen on Prank Patrol, Punked or Scare Tactics, or an activist pranks perpetrated by a guerrilla artist, ‘jammers’ or ‘hackers’ intent on turning dominant social systems back on themselves – the social players, and the public sphere in which the prank takes place? I reflect on how reading pranks as performances, by players, for highly participatory audiences, helps understand why they are so prevalent, and so recurrent across times, cultures and contexts, and also so controversial when not performed well enough – or when performed too well – prompting outrage from the prankster, prankee or society as passionate as any debate about a performance by players in a theatre.

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ID Code: 95149
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Performance, Disability, Pranks
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400) > Drama Theatre and Performance Studies (190404)
Divisions: Past > Schools > Drama
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 Bree Hadley
Deposited On: 26 Apr 2016 00:57
Last Modified: 01 May 2016 04:56

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