UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Productive tensions : a theory of documentary theatre Ferguson, Alexander


Perhaps the most basic tension in any theatrical performance is that of the actual and the fictive. There is always a doubling of performer (actor-character), time (now-then), and place (here-there) in theatrical representation. Performance theorists such as Fischer-Lichte, Boal, George, Schechner, and Turner all argue that between the poles of actual and fictive, between that which is materially present and that which is absent and referenced, lies the liminal state. The liminal state is a self-referential state that collapses binaries of here-and-there, now-and-then, and subject-and-object. This thesis examines how the idea of the document in documentary theatre complicates the basic representational tension of actual-fictive, adding other tensions that enable the liminal state (which I call the event-state) to occur. Drawing on the work of Fischer-Lichte and others, new theoretical concepts particular to the genre of documentary theatre are introduced, such as actual-documentive, embodied document, and emergency-time. Using examples from Nanay: A Testimonial Play (which I directed in Vancouver, Canada, and Berlin, Germany) I propose a theory of documentary theatre.

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