Documentary theatre

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Plays

audio Additional Dialogue: An Evening With Dalton Trumbo

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

In 1947, witty, outspoken, irascible Dalton Trumbo - the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Roman Holiday and Spartacus - went to prison for defying the House Committee on Un-American Activities and became one of the framed Hollywood Ten. Through his wildly funny and thought-provoking correspondence, Trumbo’s son has created a touching portrait of an extraordinary man.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Jeff Corey, Harry Groener, Christopher Trumbo and Paul Winfield.

Featuring: Jeff Corey, Harry Groener, Christopher Trumbo, Paul Winfield

audio Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

In the mid-1950’s, the House Un-American Activities Committee began investigating the communist influence in the entertainment industry. This searing docudrama from actual transcripts of the hearings reveals how decent people were persuaded to “name names,” and the steep price paid by those who refused.

An L.A. Theatre Works full cast performance featuring: René Auberjonois, Edward Asner, Bonnie Bedelia, Jack Coleman, Bud Cort, Richard Dreyfuss, Hector Elizondo, Robert Foxworth, Harry Hamlin, James Earl Jones, Richard Masur, Franklyn Seales, Joe Spano, James Whitmore, Michael York, and Harris Yulin.

Featuring: Ryan Vincent Anderson, Michael Canavan, Jake Green, Harry Hamlin, Shannon Holt, Alan Mandell, James Morrison, David Selby, Kate Steele, Nick Toren, John Vickery

audio Betrayed

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Based on the journalist-playwright’s original article in The New Yorker, Betrayed is the story of three young Iraqi translators who risk everything for America's promise of freedom while their country collapses around them. “The clarity of the writing, the urgency of the story being told … give the play a sharp dramatic impact and a plain-spoken beauty. Painful human experience is presented here as just that. Nothing else is necessary to awaken sympathy, despair and awareness of a grave moral failure on the part of the American government.” - New York Post

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Jeremy Beck, Kevin Daniels, Andrea Gabriel, John Getz, Sevan Greene, Sam Kanater and Waleed F. Zuaiter.

Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.

Featuring: Jeremy Beck, Kevin Daniels, Andrea Gabriel, John Getz, Sevan Greene, Sam Kanater, Waleed F. Zuaiter

Blackbirds

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Blackbirds is the play that emerged from the London Bubble Theatre's research and interviews of South Londoners who lived through the Blitz between 1940 and 1941. Using personal testimony, physical theatre and the combined skills of a cast of contemporary Londoners ranging in age from 7 to 78, the play explores the experiences and events that made London the city that we know today. For use in schools, colleges, community groups and youth theatres.

The Blue Ball

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Blue Ball is a strange and melodic play, an attempt to comprehend the experience of space travel.

Paul Godfrey used a travel grant from the National Theatre to visit centres of space travel in America and Russia to research The Blue Ball. His conversations with astronauts inspired the play and are partly replicated within it, as the play weaves his interviews into the story of a fictional first man in space.

It is an imaginative investigation of a culture in which the wondrous is rendered mundane, what seems commonplace is rendered absurd, and no-one ever stops asking, ‘What is it like?’ Godfrey explores the myths surrounding astronauts, and the impossibility of describing space, in scenes alive with irony and sharp comedy, creating a play which is both delicate and vastly ambitious.

The Blue Ball premiered at the Cottesloe Theatre in 1995.

Care Takers

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Ms Lawson, a new teacher at Newall South High School, believes Jamie Harrow is being bullied because he's gay. She wants to help but Mrs Rutter, the Deputy Head, thinks it will sort itself out. Is Mrs Rutter speaking from experience or is there something more unsavoury about her uncaring attitude? A battle royale occurs between youthful idealism and the system that evolves to choke it.

Most plays that deal with homophobia in schools look at the children in the playground, but what happens when the people in charge of our children are homophobic? Care Takers is an intense two-hander that follows a new teacher who tries to do something about one of her pupils who is being bullied for being gay.

Homophobia remains a fault-line in our society and especially in our multicultural, inner-city schools where original research undertaken by writer Billy Cowan showed these tensions are still very real. The play shows how complicated things have become for teachers in these schools when it comes to dealing with homophobic bullying, and how vulnerable young gay people still are in these environments – especially if the system gets in the way of their safety.

Includes Teachers' Resources to aid structured discussion and exploration of the themes raised in schools, colleges and beyond. Care Takers is part of an Edge Hill University (Birmingham, UK) research project on homophobia; and can be used as a source text for all those interested in the impact of creative practices in health, psychological well-being and enhancing social inclusion of people (hospitals, social and community centres, mental health centres, schools, and museums).

audio The Chicago Conspiracy Trial

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Reality is stranger than fiction when seven 1960’s radicals refuse to behave in Judge Julius Hoffman’s courtroom. Based on actual trial transcripts and starring a cast of top Chicago actors, this play centers on events following the protests and riots during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Tom Amandes, George Czarnecki, Christine Dunford, Richard Fire, Kevin Gudahl, Gary Houston, Tony Mockus, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, Peggy Roeder, David Schwimmer, Jeff Still, Ron West, Ed Wheeler and Andrew White.

Featuring: Tom Amandes, George Czarnecki, Christine Dunford, Richard Fire, Kevin Gudahl, Gary Houston, Tony Mockus, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, Peggy Roeder, David Schwimmer, Jeff Still, Ron West, Ed Wheeler, Andrew White

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Tom Amandes, George Czarnecki, Christine Dunford, Richard Fire, Kevin Gudahl, Gary Houston, Tony Mockus, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, Peggy Roeder, David Schwimmer, Jeff Still, Ron West, Ed Wheeler and Andrew White.

Featuring: Tom Amandes, George Czarnecki, Christine Dunford, Richard Fire, Kevin Gudahl, Gary Houston, Tony Mockus, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, Peggy Roeder, David Schwimmer, Jeff Still, Ron West, Ed Wheeler, Andrew White

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Tom Amandes, George Czarnecki, Christine Dunford, Richard Fire, Kevin Gudahl, Gary Houston, Tony Mockus, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, Peggy Roeder, David Schwimmer, Jeff Still, Ron West, Ed Wheeler and Andrew White.

Featuring: Tom Amandes, George Czarnecki, Christine Dunford, Richard Fire, Kevin Gudahl, Gary Houston, Tony Mockus, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, Peggy Roeder, David Schwimmer, Jeff Still, Ron West, Ed Wheeler, Andrew White

Crocodile Seeking Refuge

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

This play tells the stories of five individuals seeking asylum in the UK: Zakariya from Darfur; Destin from the Republic of Congo; Jalal from Iraq; Parvaneh from Iran and Marie-Elena from Colombia. Each has been forced to flee their homeland in the face of death, each is haunted in a different way by the past. Finding themselves in situations that veer between the comic and the tragic, they try to make sense of the British way of life. “Scars are like medals. They show we have taken part in the life.” Inspired by the real-life testimony of people who have sought refuge in the UK, Crocodile Seeking Refuge is an incisive look at the asylum stories behind the headlines.

In 1997 Sonja Linden set up the Write to Life Project at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, a creative and testimonial writing programme to enable survivors of torture and persecution to process their ‘heart of darkness’ experiences through the medium of writing. Real-life testimony therefore was the catalyst for Crocodile Seeking Refuge. Working with five individuals as part of the Write to Life project, the play was developed for three years. Pierre Junior N’Khiembet, a torture victim from the Republic of Congo, whose treatment in this country was a major, traumatising factor. Nasrin Parvaz from Iran, Doctor Qasim Albrisem from Iraq, Aziz Idris and later Sharif Barko from Sudan and Maritza Jubelly from Colombia. Many of the encounters in the final version of the play have been invented, but the back stories of what happened to each of the five characters and how they have been treated by the British asylum system are entirely accurate.

Frangipani

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

The powerless are given voice in this play by Chhon Sina (Cambodia), reminding us that poverty can easily lead to abuse and exploitation.

From Docks to Desktops

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Created from dozens of personal testimonies, this is the story of the changing face of work today. Surrey Docks in South-East London was once a thriving commercial hub, hosting some of the UK's leading commercial brands, including Crosse & Blackwell, Sarson's, Peek Freans and Lipton's. These huge organisations created a myriad of jobs for local people, and the community prospered. But, with the decline of the docks in the 1970s, factories closed down or relocated, work patterns changed and redevelopment began. 'From Docks to Desktops' explores the fascinating story of how one community has survived the 21st-century challenges of urban change and renewal.

Terms using ‘documentary’ and ‘drama’ in combination (most of which relate more to the world of television than to the stage) can be confusing. ‘Documentary drama’, describing plays with a close relationship to their factual base, is a twentieth-century extension of historical drama or the pièce à thèse where the factual basis gives the action its credibility. In ‘documentary theatre’, documents themselves are projected into text and performance. Documentary theatre has a declared purpose and an evident factual base. It follows the model pioneered in the 1920s by Erwin Piscator. Non-naturalistic epic theatre techniques are used in documentary theatre to present oppositional critiques of dominant ideologies. Its four major functions are to reassess national/ local histories; to celebrate communities/ marginalized groups and their histories; to investigate important events and issues past and present; and to be openly didactic in its use of information. In documentary theatre, photographs and/ or film project actualities; placards and/ or slides project quotations from source documents; actors and/ or loudspeakers address the audience directly with facts and information; voices of participants in historical events are used on tape/ film. In addition, authentic music and song can add a critique of events, and acting techniques like Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt (Alienation Effect) can enable representation (rather than impersonation) of historical figures to take place. Information becomes the protagonist through a rhetoric of fact (printed documents, statistics, graphs, maps, actuality tape, film and photograph, song), as it did in the Federal Theater’s Living Newspaper. Such theatricalization is the opposite of naturalistic drama, which seeks to mask performance techniques in favour of surface realisms, especially of character. Documentary theatre was sometimes called Theatre of Fact in the 1960s, following Piscator’s Berlin productions of Rolf Hochhuth’s The Representative (1963), Heinar Kipphardt’s The Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1964) and Peter Weiss’s The Investigation (1965). Theatre Workshop’s Oh, What a Lovely War! (1963) and Peter Brook’s US (1966) were landmark productions in Britain, where the methodology derived from these plays became briefly a staple in repertory theatre, having been pioneered by Peter Cheeseman at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent. The ‘verbatim play’ was a 1980s variant of the local documentary. Britain’s 7:84 and America’s San Francisco Mime Troupe were notable alternative theatre exponents of documentary theatre, and the British Theatre in Education movement used it extensively as does radical theatre in the Third World.

from Derek Paget, The Continuum Companion to Twentieth-Century Theatre, ed. Colin Chambers (London, 2002).