Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts



First Advisor

Jesse Njus

Second Advisor

Keith Kirk

Third Advisor

Aaron Anderson


In the many decades since live theatre began certain rules, conventions, and norms took hold. These conventions would change over the years but as these customs were formed there were always those who pushed back against the hegemony. There were always figures, people, and organizations that rebelled against the status quo and wished to push the boundaries of the theatre. This is where the anarchic clown enters the fray. Those who wish to push the boundaries of theatre have existed since its creation, but the anarchic clown is a specific form of rebel. The anarchic clown wishes to break the conventions of theatre in specific ways. The clown wishes to change the theatre by rebelling against authority figures that strive to keep the theatre stagnant. The anarchic clown aligns itself with downtrodden and minority groups, to advance the types of theatre that are often overlooked. The anarchic clown is malleable. It can take the form of person, animal, mythical creature, or any form that fits its ideals. At its core, the anarchic clown is a trickster, and an outsider. It is this outsider mindset that allows the anarchic clown to avoid falling into tropes or contemporary theatrical conventions. Although the anarchic clown can fit many molds, the two greatest examples are Italian artist, Dario Fo, and French artist, Alfred Jarry. Jarry represents the birth of the anarchic clown while Dario Fo is the ideal most recent version. While Jarry represents the beginning and Dario the best since, we must also look to the future and where the anarchic clown can continue to grow. This thesis is not a study on the history of clowning. I am focused on the metatheatrical figure created by Alfred Jarry in his Ubu plays, a figure expanded on by Dario Fo. The figure of Ubu is taken from the history of clowning but Jarry separates him from that history and uses him to deconstruct theatrical conventions. All clowns speak truth to power, but Jarry’s Ubu exploded the rules of theatre and art, giving rise to twentieth-century genres like Theatre of the Absurd and its descendants. In this thesis, I focus on the metatheatrical possibilities of this figure—a metatheatrical anarchic clown—to help deconstruct artistic conventions and theatrical authority figures like Shakespeare. I also want to suggest that this metatheatrical anarchic clown might be a helpful entry point into canonical plays for students and others who have been excluded by western theatrical conventions.


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