Table of contents
2.1 Courtroom Drama and Documentary Theatre
2.2 Historiographic Metafiction
3. Drama Analysis
There may be three things that shape the identity of the Armenian Diaspora and the Armenian people: the food, the music, and most importantly the remembrance of the Armenian Genocide in 1915. The genocide is present in music, literature, and movies. During the 20th century, Armenian playwrights have rediscovered the topic for the theatre and were thus able to bring the genocide back into the mind of both Americans and Armenians. This paper analyses William Rolleri’s and Anna Antaramian’s play The Armenian Question, published in 1977. The play embeds real interviews and experiences of genocide survivors in a fictitious hearing which takes place in the 1970s while the world is suffering a devastating famine. A Turkish general wants the board to raise the food ratio for the Turkish people and meanwhile the board interrogates genocide survivors who in compensation strife for justice. In the play the conflict between the Turkish General and the Armenian witnesses is representative for the conflict between Turkey and Armenia. The fictitious setting of the play functions as a background for the message, namely that Armenians strive for justice against the Turkish government and that they want Turkey to name it a genocide. The text is a hybrid genre between reality and fiction, but the key point is that the drama wants to inform people about the cruelties which have happened in 1915. Linda Hutcheon has coined the term of “historiographic metafiction” for novels which are situated in the past with fictitious elements. There can be different levels of reality and truth is continually negotiated. Although this term so far has only been applied to novels, I’d like to argue that there is an equivalent in The Armenian Question, which also plays with the perception of reality. Firstly, the genre of the documentary theatre is being outlined. Secondly, there will be an introduction to the concept of historiographic metafiction. Subsequently, a close reading of the play will be performed and lastly, the findings will be summed up in a conclusive statement.
2.1 Courtroom Drama and Documentary Theatre
Although at first sight one could be tempted to define a courtroom drama as a subcategory of documentary theatre, this definition is only partly applicable. The term documentary theatre has been coined in 1926 by Bertholt Brecht in order to explain the work of Erwin Piscator (Favorini 32). Piscator, working with dramatists such as Ralf Hochhuth or Heiner Kipphart, instituted the political theatre in Germany which fostered historical processing of Nazi-Germany (Favorini 33). Hochhuth for example wrote a Drama called Der Stellvertreter which criticised the inaction of the catholic church during the Nazi period. In contrast to Hochhuth, Heiner Kipphart used the scenery of the courtroom in order to bring Robert Oppenheimer (In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer) or Adolf Eichmann (Bruder Eichmann) to justice. In general, documentary theatre is characterised by “a central or exclusive reliance on actual rather than imaginary event … ‘found’ in the historical record or gathered by the playwright….” (Favorini 32). Documentary theatre relies almost exclusively on verbatim excerpts (Favorini 35) and in most “docudramas, projections are used to provide visual variety and graphically convey factual data” (Favorini 37). It’s a way of “re-enacting” the past (Flynn 308) and a process for uncovering the truth (Rogers 433). Nicole Rogers differentiates between two forms of legal theatrical performance, the first one is “partially reproduced and intermingled with fiction” and in the second one, the legal performance is edited but otherwise faithfully reproduced (Rogers 431). Although historical and factual accuracy should be more important than political impact, one has to keep in mind that a playwright’s aim is also to persuade and therefore s/he could, as Rogers states, tinker with recorded facts (Rogers 432). And this mixing of historical facts with fiction is, where the plot of The Armenian Question is set. This play is best described as a pseudo trial or a pseudo tribunal (Rogers 438), a play which lets the real and the fiction collide. While documentary theatre, as Rogers states, is intended to expose the truth and to change the course of history by “educating, inspiring and galvanising the populace…” (Rogers 438), the primary aim of the courtroom drama is to entertain the audience.
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- Giuseppe Dennis Messina (Autor), 2009, An Analysis of William Rolleri’s and Anna Antaramian’s play "The Armenian Question", München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/378787