Discussion. Beyond the Document: The Past in Theater Practice

Discussion. Beyond the Document: The Past in Theater PracticeDiscussion. Beyond the Document: The Past in Theater Practice



The discussion will look into the place that history and memory hold in (the Russian) theater, the specificity of working with the past in documentary theater, and how playwrights and directors work with historical documents.

In the 2010s, plays based on historical documents and witnesses’ recollections became very popular in big Russian theaters. Participants will discuss the past stages in the development of the past- and memory-focused theater and its possible futures. 

How did the language of theater for discussing the past develop? When did documentary choreography and documentary opera emerge? How do they relate to post-documentary theater? And, last but not least, when is searching for new means of expression necessary today, in the 2020s, and when is it better to use what already exists? 

Which themes and events have been in the focus of plays based on documents and recollections? Can we say that the category of “the post-Soviet” central for the theater of the 2010s has been replaced with the rethinking of particular periods in the history of the USSR, such as the Era of Stagnation or the early Soviet period of institutional construction? Why does the theater of the past focus on particular spaces as well as periods, whether those are the republics of Russia, neighboring states, or the base cities during WWII? And finally, which historical events have yet to be addressed by the Russian theater?


Valery Zolotukhin is a senior researcher at the RANEPA School for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. He writes on the history of theater and the history and theory of spoken word in art. He is the editor of the books Spoken Word in Arts: Texts by the Spoken Word Research Office (1923–1930) (with Vitaly Shmidt, 2018) and Theatrum Mundi: a Flexible Vocabulary (with Yulia Liderman, 2021).

Alyona Karas is a theater critic, lecturer at the Department of the History of Russian Theaters, Russian Institute of Theater Arts (GITIS), expert at Zolotaya Maska Theater Award and Festival and Chekhov International Theater Festival. She is the creator and host of the discussion projects Po tu storonu and GoGoL.live

Anastasia Patlay is a director. Her creative interests are focused on documentary theater. She is the curator of the documentary project Hunting for Reality at Theater.doc (2015–2020), the theater program Archaeology of the Memory at Sakharov Center (2016–2019) and a documentary choreography lab (2018–2019). As a director, she has created about 15 documentary theater performances, including Neformat at Meyerhold Center (Moscow), Tango morgen, tango pli at Globus Theater (Novosibirsk), Melnikov: A Documentary Opera at the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture (Moscow), Kantgrad, Leave the Closet and Hurt Feelings at Theater.doc (Moscow). She teaches documentary dramaturgy at a number of schools and labs, including seminars at National Research University—Higher School of Economics, Moscow School of New Literature, Ufa Drama and Directing Centre, and Ilkhom Theater in Tashkent.

Elina Petrova is a playwright, artist, and curator. Her interests include participatory theater, inclusive dramaturgy, documentary theater, performative and feminist writing. She is a participant of the project [MESTO] devoted to personal histories and the memory of a city.


Olga Tarakanova is an independent theater curator. In 2020 and 2021, she curated the lab Extended Day Group at Yermolova Theater. She is also an artist, critic, and the author of the telegram channel пост/постдрама [post/postdrama].


The Zoom discussion will be broadcast on YouTube.