1st Edition

Creating Verbatim Theatre from Oral Histories

By Clare Summerskill Copyright 2021
    220 Pages
    by Routledge

    220 Pages
    by Routledge

    Offering a roadmap for practicing verbatim theatre (plays created from oral histories), this book outlines theatre processes through the lens of oral history and draws upon oral history scholarship to bring best practices from that discipline to theatre practitioners.

    This book opens with an overview of oral history and verbatim theatre, considering the ways in which existing oral history debates can inform verbatim theatre processes and highlights necessary ethical considerations within each field, which are especially prevalent when working with narrators from marginalised communities. It provides a step-by-step guide to creating plays from interviews and contains practical guidance for determining the scope of a theatre project: identifying narrators and conducting interviews, developing a script from excerpts of interview transcripts and outlining a variety of ways to create verbatim theatre productions. By bringing together this explicit discussion of oral history in relationship to theatre based on personal testimonies, the reader gains insight into each field and the close relationship between the two. 

    Supported by international case studies that cover a wide range of working methods and productions, including The Laramie Project and Parramatta Girls, this is the perfect guide for oral historians producing dramatic representations of the material they have sourced through interviews, and for writers creating professional theatre productions, community projects or student plays.


    Part 1: Overview

    1. What is Verbatim Theatre?

    2. Oral History and Verbatim Theatre: Similar but Different

    3. Discussions within Oral History that Inform Verbatim Theatre Processes

    Part 2: Ethics and Verbatim Theatre

    4. Ethical Considerations and Guidelines for Verbatim Theatre Processes

    5. Ethical Considerations in the Creation of Plays from Interviews with Members of Marginalised Communities and Vulnerable Narrators

    Part 3: Creating a Play from Interviews: Step by Step

    6. Getting Started

    7. The Interview

    8. After the Interview: Transcribing and Preparing for the Scripting Process

    9. Sculpting your Play: From Transcript to Playscript

    10. Scripting Options and Techniques

    11. Beyond the Script

    12. Rehearsal and Experience

    13. Over to You, Now!

    Part 4: Examples of Work by Verbatim Theatre Playwrights and Companies

    14. Examples of Plays Created from Interviews

    Checklist for Producing your Verbatim Play


    Appendix 1: Approaching your Narrator – Examples

    Appendix 2: Sample Consent Form for an Audio Recorded Interview

    Appendix 3: Scripting Exercise

    Appendix 4: Projected Production Expenditure

    Appendix 5: Glossary

    Appendix 6: Suggested Sources for Further Information on Verbatim Theatre, Documentary Theatre, and Oral History


    Clare Summerskill is an independent academic researcher who has recently completed her PhD at Royal Holloway University of London in the Drama department. She is chair and co-founder of the UK’s Oral History Society LGBTQ Special Interest Group. She is also a playwright, stand-up and singer-songwriter.

    "This is a welcome, informative and very helpful resource for students and practitioners of oral history and verbatim theatre. In her detailed consideration of the history, ethics and practicalities of verbatim performance, Summerskill guides the reader with expertise and insight drawing on examples from world theatre and her own professional practice."

    Chris Megson, Royal Holloway University of London, UK