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Documentary theatre in twenty-first-century Russia
Author: Molly Flynn

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.

Rethinking verbatim dramaturgies

Responding to the resurgence of verbatim theatre that emerged in Britain, Australia, the United States and other parts of the world in the early 1990s, this book offers one of the first sustained, critical engagements with contemporary verbatim, documentary and testimonial dramaturgies. Offering a new reading of the history of the documentary and verbatim theatre form, the book relocates verbatim and testimonial theatre away from discourses of the real and representations of reality and instead argues that these dramaturgical approaches are better understood as engagements with forms of truth-telling and witnessing. Examining a range of verbatim and testimonial plays from different parts of the world, the book develops new ways of understanding the performance of testimony and considers how dramaturgical theatre can bear witness to real events and individual and communal injustice through the re-enactment of personal testimony. Through its interrogation of different dramaturgical engagements with acts of witnessing, the book identifies certain forms of testimonial theatre that move beyond psychoanalytical accounts of trauma and reimagine testimony and witnessing as part of a decolonised project that looks beyond event-based trauma, addressing instead the experience of suffering wrought by racism and other forms of social injustice.

Discourses on the real in performance practice and theory, 1990–2010
Author: Liz Tomlin

This book examines how new performance practices from the 1990s to the present day have been driven by questions of the real and the ensuing political implications of the concept's rapidly disintegrating authority. The first part of the book addresses the existing poststructuralist narrative of radicalism that currently dominates contemporary performance theory, and seeks to deconstruct its conclusions. It first traces the artistic and philosophical developments that laid the ground for the sustained twentieth-century interrogations of theatrical representations of the real. It examines the emergence of the discursive act which aligned the narrative of radicalism exclusively with such interrogations. The book also examines how key strands of Derrida's poststructuralist critique have been applied to performance practice to strengthen the ideological binary opposition between 'dramatic' representations of the real and 'postdramatic' deconstructions of representational practice. The second part of the book embarks on an ideological examination of a wide spectrum of performance models that share an engagement with the problematics of representation and the real. It directs this investigation specifically towards an analysis of the representations of 'real' people in performances which adopt verbatim methodologies drawn from the documentary theatre tradition. The book continues to explore performance environments that break down the dichotomy of performer/spectator and seeks to replace mediated representations with experiential realities.

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Molly Flynn

eschewed traditional concepts of dramatic heroes. It was, in part, these playwrights’ investment in the depiction of lived experience onstage that drew Russia’s first generation of post-Soviet theatre artists to their exploration of documentary theatre forms, beginning in the late 1990s. In their pursuit of realistic dialogue, Russia’s New Dramatists discovered a close affinity for ‘verbatim’ theatre as it was introduced to them through a series of masterclasses led by delegates of London’s Royal Court Theatre in 1999 and 2000. Since that time, many of the country’s most

in Witness onstage
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The origins of Russian documentary theatre
Molly Flynn

1 Called to the stand The origins of Russian documentary theatre The emergence of New Drama in the 1990s and the development of documentary theatre methods in the early 2000s marked a vital shift in the development of Russian dramatic practice. It was, in part, the rapid changes to all spheres of cultural production following the dissolution of the Soviet Union that created the space for a new mode of theatre making. However, while the appearance of verbatim playwriting and the advent of New Drama at the end of the twentieth-century is often thought of as a

in Witness onstage
Piscator, Hochhuth and Weiss
Amanda Stuart Fisher

: 108). When Weiss speaks of forms that ‘change and reappear’, then, as quoted in the epigraph at the outset of this chapter, he refers to the way that The Investigation draws on documentary theatre techniques but, in so doing, both changes and transforms them. By constructing this play around blocks of testimonial text and eschewing the use of individualised characterisation, Weiss reimagines documentary theatre, rethinking its use of character and what character means in this play. For the characters in The Investigation do not depict a recognisable social reality

in Performing the testimonial
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The pursuit of justice in Russian documentary theatre
Molly Flynn

3 Evidentiary hearing The pursuit of justice in Russian documentary theatre The year 2010 was an important turning point for Russian documentary theatre practice. Until that time, the works of Russia’s documentary theatre artists were primarily focused on giving voice to otherwise marginalized members of society. Many of Teatr.doc’s best known productions from the collective’s early years were focused on specific communities or subcultures which would not otherwise have been represented on the Russian stage. For example, Bezdomnye (The Homeless, 2001–03) by

in Witness onstage
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Performing memory in twenty-first-century Russia
Molly Flynn

veneration of Stalin have been purposefully reintegrated into public spaces in Russia in the twenty-first century. This chapter explores the role of memory and commemoration in twenty-first-century Russian documentary theatre. It focuses on two documentary plays that were the first to draw their audiences into explicit conversation about how people do or do not remember both the victims and the perpetrators of Soviet totalitarianism. The first production, Legacy of Silence (2010), staged two interviews excerpted and translated from the book of the same title. First

in Witness onstage
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Theatre and protest in Putin’s Russia
Molly Flynn

6 A special verdict Theatre and protest in Putin’s Russia The years between 2008 and 2012 were an exceptionally productive period for the development of documentary theatre forms in Russia. By 2008, the momentum of the form’s early years had produced a lively and innovative community of young theatre artists dedicated to the exploration and explication of lived experience onstage. The socially engaged nature of their endeavour is apparent in the selection of plays analysed in this book. Russian documentary theatre’s potential as a mode of civic engagement can

in Witness onstage
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History, belief, and the theatre of enactment
Molly Flynn

4 Material witness History, belief, and the theatre of enactment Russia’s twenty-first-century documentary theatre artists draw upon the legacy of their country’s twentieth century in their search for new methods with which to stage collisions between theatre and everyday life. Chapter 2 illustrated how the artists of the Joseph Beuys Theatre and Moscow’s Sakharov Center use documentary theatre to make meaningful interventions in Russia’s culture of commemoration. Chapter 3 showed how the artists at Teatr.doc draw out important connections between the

in Witness onstage