Telling the Truth: Documentary Theater Theory and Practice

Subject code


Course Number



Course Long Title

Telling the Truth: Documentary Theater Theory and Practice


Documentary theater is a genre of theater making that gathers interviews from real people, assembles them into a piece of performance, and renders them, verbatim (word-for-word), for an audience. Typically developed in response to a recent event or contemporary issue, famous works of documentary theater in the past few decades have probed the murder of Matthew Shepherd (The Laramie Project), exonerated death row inmates (The Exonerated), and the 1992 LA Riots (Twilight Los Angeles, 1992). Using the work and methods of playwright, performer, and activist Anna Deveare Smith, students delve into her body of work, exploring the impact of both her process and her performed work. Students deploy key points of her process toward the development of their own documentary theater pieces, based on events and issues relevant to our community in a practical exploration of the intersection of art making and activism.

Modes of Inquiry

Creative Process and Production [CP], Historical and Social Inquiry [HS]

Writing Credit

No writing designation

Offering Frequency

One-time offering