Witness onstage

Documentary theatre in twenty-first-century Russia

Since the early 2000s, Russia’s most innovative theatre artists have increasingly taken to incorporating material from real-life events into their performance practice. As the Kremlin’s crackdown on freedom of expression continues to tighten, playwrights and directors are using documentary theatre to create space for public discussion of injustice in the civic sphere and its connections to the country’s twentieth-century past. This book traces the history of documentary theatre’s remarkable growth in Russia since its inception in 1999 and situates the form’s impact within the sociopolitical setting of the Putin years (2000–). It argues that through the practice of performing documents, Russia’s theatre artists are creating a new type of cultural and historical archive that challenges the dominance of state-sponsored media and invites individuals to participate in a collective renegotiation of cultural narratives. Drawing on the author’s previous work as a researcher, producer, and performer of documentary theatre in contemporary Russia, Witness Onstage offers original insight into the nature of the exchange between audience and performance as well as new perspectives on the efficacy of theatre as a venue for civic engagement.

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