Germany and the pre-histories of contemporary verbatim theatre
Piscator, Hochhuth and Weiss
in Performing the testimonial
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This chapter interrogates the much-contested notion that verbatim theatre is defined by its claims of truthfulness understood as factualness; it does so by exploring the influence of German director Erwin Piscator on the development of documentary theatre in the first part of the twentieth century. Beginning with Piscator’s early documentary theatre work, where character was structured as an emblematic figure that tended to be representative of the proletariat, this chapter examines how Piscator’s approach to documentary theatre was informed by his exile in America in the 1930s and his growing interest in psychological realism and the Stanislavski-influenced Method he encountered there. Through an exploration of The Deputy (Hochhuth, 1963) and The Investigation (Weiss, 1965), both of which were directed by Piscator, the chapter traces how documentary theatre moved away from representations of social reality and shifted instead towards approaches rooted in truth-telling where the culpable were called to account. Positioning The Deputy and The Investigation as part of a pre-history of contemporary verbatim theatre, the chapter argues that these plays established dramaturgical strategies that engaged in forms of interrogatory truth-telling that emerged, not from a re-enactment of the real, but from a fidelity to the witness and the event.

Performing the testimonial

Rethinking verbatim dramaturgies

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