This book champions documentary theatre in the United States. It is an overview of American documentary theatre that provides a clear and simple definition of the genre within the broadest historic context. In so doing, it is demonstrated that a fourth period of expression in documentary theatre is currently underway in the United States. By surveying current, and distant, representative examples of American documentary theatre, the author determines that American documentary theatre is richly steeped in the oral history tradition. Therefore, American documentary theatre is an alternative to received journalism. American documentary theatre, not to be confused with television or film “docudrama,” significantly adds to the importance of theatre art in learning about life.
Therefore, the book serves both as a corrective and also as a stimulant. As a remedy, its purpose is to reduce confusion about this modern theatre genre. As an encouragement, it serves to increase interest about the form, while adding to its furtherance. The relief created is one engraved from the ideas of numerous American documentary theatre practitioners over the course of its history. It is time this be done for this new, yet-not-so-new, theatre art that, now into its fourth period of development, is still bathed in confusion as to what to call it, what purpose it serves, and what contributions it makes to American theatre. In spite of its persistent, enthusiastic presence, the form continues to escape, for the most part, the awareness of the theatre community, the interpretive community, and the theatergoing public. Even though from time to time documentary theatre reinvents itself, its constituent parts uniformly show through the muslin each time. Although a considerable amount has been written and studied about the form, there is no current resource that attempts to show how this theatre genre developed, or is developing, in the United States. Therefore, an aim of this book is to describe developments in content, form, and stagecraft of American documentary theatre beginning with John Reed's The Paterson Pageant (1913)