Documentary Vanguards in Modern Theatre  book cover
1st Edition

Documentary Vanguards in Modern Theatre

ISBN 9780367735562
Published December 18, 2020 by Routledge
228 Pages

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Book Description

Practitioners and critics alike often attribute great authenticity to documentary theatre, casting it as a salutary alternative not only to corporate news outlets and official histories but also to the supposed "self-indulgence" and "elitism" of avant-garde theatre.

Documentary Vanguards in Modern Theatre, by contrast, argues for treating documentarians as vanguardists who (for good or ill) push, remap, or transgress the margins of historical and political visibility, often taking issue with professional discourses that claim a monopoly on authoritative representations of the real. This is the first book to situate documentary theatre’s development within the larger story of theatrical experimentalism, collage art, collective ritual, and other avant-garde dramaturgical and performance practices of the late 19th and 20th Centuries.

Table of Contents


Part One: Sordid Actuality (1835-1922)

1 Georg Büchner and the Breakdown of the History Play

2 Embarrassing Relatives: Naturalism, True Crime, and Bohemian Memory

3 Karl Kraus’s Cannibal Satire and Pedagogies of Reception

Part Two: Vanguards of Revolution and Reform (1917-1984)

4 The Documentary and Communist Vanguards

5 Midcentury Documentaries: For and Against Liberalism

6 Activist Endings and Optative Documentaries

Part Three: Documentary Theatre after Postmodernism (1977- )

7 The Wooster Group and Anna Deavere Smith: Parallax, Play, and Collage Ethics

8 Handspring Puppet Company: Reconciling with the Avant-Garde

9 Too Much Information

Conclusion: "This Is Not a Story about Failure"

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Timothy Youker holds a PhD in Theatre from Columbia University. He has taught Theatre and Drama at Columbia and at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and was most recently appointed as an Assistant Professor of English and Drama at the University of Toronto, Mississauga.