Documentary theatre is a genre that uses “verbatim” technique: texts that were written or said by real people are taken on the stage word for word. A playwright, stage director, actors go on the streets with cameras and recorders to explore real life. Another material for a play could be real documents, letters, and archival records – everything that gives us facts in the topic of research. The Playwright creates a play out of collected material. However, he does not edit anything but compiles true stories and documentary texts into dramatic structure.
Documentary theatre can be an excellent educational tool for teenagers as well that develops:
- communication skills (teenagers need to leave the world they are used to, they talk with new people, ask questions and learn to listen to other people);
- critical thinking (teenagers ask questions, critically analyze the answers, explore the reality they live in, compare the opinions of different people, begin to understand that world is not divided into black and white);
- a sense of empathy (teenagers play the real characters whom they interviewed during the project, they try to understand their hero, even though it could be not really close to them);
- involvement in the problems of society they live in (documentary theatre helps to explore social problems, to understand them by yourself and shape your own position on many issues).
The “School of Documentary Theatre” is a project that lasts 3-4 months and uses documentary theatre for educational goals. It starts with a choice about the topic of research and a future documentary performance. Then the teenagers interview people, collect and analyze documentary material for the play with the help of a stage director and playwright. After a script is ready, the rehearsal period starts. All efforts culminate in the final performance where participants play real people and tell real stories of real people.
This project gives participants a possibility to work with different kinds of teenage groups and on different topics such as: environment they live in (my district, my city), memory and connection between generations (memory of grandparents and parents about particular place or time) etc. This research approach can be used as integration programs for migrant children into a new environment or for creating a performance inside a museum.
In our practice, we have already worked with teenagers on such topics as “how people of different cultures live in one city”, “Jewish community of St. Petersburg”, “we and they: how we divide people”, “search for the new kind of human-being”, “modern communication”. Our partners for this project were the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre, The Jewish Cultural Centre “ESOD”, Laboratory ON.Theatre, and The Museum Festival “Children’s days in St.Petersburg», A.S. Popov Central Museum of Communications, Upsala-circus and Youth Centre of the Hermitage Museum.
The School of Documentary Theatre made already 5 performances:
- «Fridge — for vanilla ice-cream only!» (trailer)
- «Lyudeyskaya history»
- «18th diary with a blue cover and a teapot on it» (trailer)
- «___________» (read: opening quotation mark fourteen spaces closing quotation mark) (trailer)
- «ZEMLYA ONE» (trailer)
- «The DOT»
You can find photos of our performances here, videos — here, press — here. If you have an idea of cooperation or you are interested to collaborate with the “School of Documentary Theatre” with a particular group of teenagers or about a particular topic, you can contact us via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.