University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Expanded Theater — A Research Workshop

Fridays: 9/25, 10/9, 10/23, 11/6, 11/20, 12/4, 12/18 from 6pm to 8pm in Rapson 225

Expanded Theater does not exist yet. Thus, it is the assignment of this research workshop to find words for it, to delineate its scope and to identify its rhetorical and epistemological potential. Expanded Theater can tentatively be understood in at least four ways (the following list comes at the same time with redundancies and is open-ended):

1) Expanded Theater can be the re-production of the effects of theater outside of theater, for example certain forms of scenic writing.
2) Expanded Theater can be the employment of theater as theater within other media, for example documentary films that use re-enactment.
3) Expanded Theater can refer to an internal expansion of theater, one that pushes the limits of theater or the theatrical, e.g. certain forms of documentary theater.
4) Expanded Theater can be the staging of the technical and material prerequisites of any form of representation.

A tentative history of Expanded Theater would have to go back to the early 20th century Avant-garde movements and above all to Brechtian theater of the 1920s. The Brecht-collective — Bertolt Brecht, Elizabeth Hauptmann, Emil Hess-Burri, Magarete Steffin, Walter Benjamin and so on — de-familiarized among others also theater itself. By systematically exposing or foregrounding its material and procedural conditions: its spatial presentism, its bodily dimension, its unavoidable collectivity and so on, it became possible in the first place that theater could leave the confined space of the stage again — let us assume for methodological reasons that an unconfined existence is its natural way. Expanded Theater seems to draw on or employ precisely such defining moments or enabling conditions.

This research workshop is designed to continue over two semesters. The focus of its first semester (Fall 2015) is twofold: on the one hand, we want to take a closer look on the hybrid forms of theater/documentary, on the other, more conceptual than material side, we propose to work on profiling Expanded Theater by distinguishing it from theatricality and performativity.

Proposed Schedule

(all relevant readings will be provided as pdfs)

  • 9/25: Karaoké domestique, Inès Rabadán, B 2013, 35 min (Film)
  • 10/9: Milo Rau, International Institute of Political Murder and other projects
  • 10/23: Four selected articles from Get Real: Documentary Theatre Past and Present (2011) Alison Forsyth/Chris Megson (eds.) and Dramaturgy of the Real on the World Stage (2010) Carol Martin (ed.)
  • 11/6: Sam Webber, Theatricality as Medium (2004) (extracts)
  • 11/20: Stephen J. Bottoms, The Efficacy/Effeminacy Braid: Unpacking the Performance Studies/Theatre Studies Dichotomy, in Theater Topics, 13/2 2003.
  • 12/4: Anna Deveare Smith, theater/film work and related articles
  • 12/18: Peter Weiss, The Investigation (Documentary drama and video)

Possible background reading: “The Destiny of Words”: Documentary Theater, the Avant-garde, and the Politics of Form, Timothy Youker (Dissertation 2012, Columbia University).