Performing Trauma: Race Riots and Beyond in the Work of Anna Deavere Smith

Alison Forsyth

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Over the past two decades, theatre practitioners across the West have turned to documentary modes of performance-making to confront new socio-political realities. This has led to an astonishing range of performance styles, ways of working and modes of intervention in varied sites of theatrical production. The essays in this collection place this work in context, exploring historical and contemporary examples of documentary and ‘verbatim’ theatre, and applying a range of critical perspectives that elaborate its impact and significance today. Focusing on examples from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa and the Middle East, this collection raises provocative questions about documentary theatre’s relationship to new technology, media, the body, the archive, memory, autobiography, and national identity. It examines the viability and resonance of documentary theatre in an era of infotainment, globalisation and postmodernity, and explores its past and potential contribution within the public sphere. Contents Acknowledgements Notes on Contributors Introduction; A.Forsyth & C.Megson The Promise of Documentary; J.Reinelt Mediating the 1930s: Documentary and Politics in Theatre Union’s Last Edition (1940); B.Harker History in the Driving Seat: Unity Theatre and the Embrace of the ‘Real’; C.Chambers The Documentary Body: Theatre Workshop to Banner Theatre; A.Filewod Living Simulations: The Use of Media in Documentary in the UK, Lebanon, and Israel; C.Martin Looking for Esrafil: witnessing ‘refugitive’ bodies in I’ve got something to show you; A.Jeffers Remembering the Past, ‘Growing Ourselves a Future’: Community-Based Documentary Theatre in the East Palo Alto Project; L.Smith Ngapartji Ngapartji: Telling Aboriginal Australian Stories; M.Casey Performing Trauma: Race Riots and Beyond in the Work of Anna Deavere Smith; A.Forsyth History, Memory and Trauma in the Documentary Plays of Emily Mann; A.Favorini When Heroes Fall: Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife and the Challenge to Truth; N.P.Highberg The Performance of Truth and Justice in Northern Ireland: the Case of Bloody Sunday; C-A.Upton Half the Picture: ‘a certain frisson’ at the Tricycle Theatre; C.Megson Verbatim Theatre in South Africa: ‘living history in a person’s performance’; Y.Hutchison The ‘Broken Tradition’ of Documentary Theatre and its Continued Powers of Endurance; D.Paget Index ALISON FORSYTH is Lecturer in Theatre Studies at Aberystwyth University, UK, and researches into adaptations and staging the real. Her publications include Gadamer, History and the Classics: Fugard, Marowitz, Berkoff and Harrison Rewrite the Theatre (2002). Her current research projects are an anthology of adaptations and The Trauma of Articulation: Arthur Miller's Holocaust Plays. CHRIS MEGSON is Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway College, University of London, UK. He is currently writing a book on the playwright Sarah Kane and has published a range of essays on post-war British playwriting and performance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGet Real: Documentary Theatre Past and Present
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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