Sentences from the Archive

Jen Webb


We don’t know what the next sentence should be. (Schwartz 2002: 260, on September 11 2001)

The creative field has long been considered a social space that is ideally placed to reflect and intervene in the social world. Creative practice is frequently used as a means to address the effects of trauma: psychologists and other therapists engage their patients in drawing, writing and performing trauma as a way to exorcise the demons of the past, and recast personal history as a more bearable narrative. On a macro scale, many creative practitioners see it as part of their role, as artists, to tackle trauma, disaster and human rights infringements, and present exhibitions, suites of poems, movies and theatre productions that deal with the sorrows and disasters of life. A vast body of such creative works exists; a considerable body of critical writings on and analyses of such works exist. This paper adds to the latter, by looking at theatre productions that explicitly tackle major social trauma: specifically, the trauma of the September 11 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, and the traumas that followed.

Full Text:



Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).

Agnew, Vanessa. ‘Introduction: What Is Reenactment?’, Criticism 46.3 (Summer 2004): 327-39.

Amis, Martin. The Second Plane: September 11: Terror and Boredom (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2008).

Anderson, Michael and Wilkinson, Linden. ‘A Resurgence of Verbatim Theatre: Authenticity, Empathy and Transformation’, Australasian Drama Studies 50 (April 2007): 153-69.

Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism (Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1951).

Bottoms, Stephen. ‘Putting the Document into Documentary: An Unwelcome Corrective?’, TDR: The Drama Review 50.3 (Fall 2006): 56-68.

Brittain, Victoria and Slovo, Gillian. Guantanamo: ‘Honor Bound to Defend Freedom’ (Abingdon: Oberon, 2004).

Butler, Judith. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (New York: Routledge, 1997).

--- Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990).

Carey, John. What Good Are the Arts? (London: Faber and Faber, 2005).

Dawson, Gary Fisher. Documentary Theatre in the United States: An Historical Survey and Analysis of Its Content, Form, and Stagecraft (Westport CT: Greenwood, 1999).

Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998; 1995).

Donadio, Rachel. ‘The Irascible Prophet: VS Naipaul at Home’, New York Times (7 August 2005): 8.

--- ‘Truth Is Stronger Than Fiction’, New York Times (7 August 2005): 27.

Freud, Sigmund. ‘Mourning and Melancholia’, in The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud Vol XIV (London: Hogarth Press, 1959): 237-60.

Goodman, Ellen. Guardian Weekly 20 September (2001): 31.

Hammond, Will and Dan Steward (eds). Verbatim Verbatim: Techniques in

Contemporary Documentary Theatre (London: Oberon Books, 2008). Hare, David. Stuff Happens (London: Faber, 2005).

Haydon, Andrew. ‘Talking to Terrorists’, Culture Wars (2005),

Houen, Alex. ‘Novel Spaces and Taking Place(s) in the Wake of September 11’, Studies in the Novel 36.3 (Fall 2004): 419-37.

Hytner, Nicholas. ‘The Philip Quast Guide’ 12 March (2008),

Kalb, Jonathan. ‘Documentary Solo Performance: The Politics of the Mirrored Self’, Theater 31.3 (Fall 2001): 13-29.

Kennedy, Wednesday. Last Night in New York performed at the Trilogy Theater, August-September 2002

Kubiak, Anthony. Stages of Terror: Terrorism, Ideology, and Coercion as Theatre History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991).

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud’s Papers on Technique, 1953-54, trans. John Forrester (New York: Norton, 1991; 1975).

Leavengood, Bill. Steve produced for ‘Brave New World: American Theater Responds to 9/11’ Town Hall, New York: September 2002.

Luckhurst, Mary. ‘Verbatim Theatre, Media Relations and Ethics’ in Nadine Holdsworth and Mary Luckhurst (eds), A Concise Companion to Contemporary British and Irish Drama, (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), 200-22.

Maclean, Alanna. ‘Verbatim Theatre Inquires’, Canberra Times: Times2 (21 October 2004): 9.

Martin, Carol. ‘Bodies of Evidence’, TDR: The Drama Review 50.3 (Fall 2006): 8- 15.

McCallum, John. ‘CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident): Introduction’, Australasian Drama Studies 48 (April 2006): 136-42.

McInerney, Jay. ‘The Uses of Invention’, Guardian (17 September 2005): 4.

Mirza, Rehana. Barriers produced for ‘Brave New World: American Theater Responds to 9/11’ Town Hall, New York: September 2002.

Morris, Peter. Guardians (New York: Dramatist's Play Service, 2007). Nelson, Anne. The Guys (New York: Random House, 2002).

Norton-Taylor, Richard. Called to Account (Abingdon: Oberon, 2007).

--- Justifying War: Scenes from the Hutton Inquiry (Abingdon: Oberon, 2003).

Parliament of Australia. ‘Executive Summary’, A Certain Maritime Incident (2002),

Schechner, Richard. ‘Believed-in Theatre’, Performance Research II.2 (1997): 76-91.

Schirato, Tony and Webb, Jen. Understanding Globalization (London: Sage, 2003).

Schwartz, Lynne Sharon. ‘Near November’, in Ulrich Baer (ed), 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11 (New York: New York University Press, 2002): 260-262.

Sierz, Aleks. ‘Beyond Timidity? The State of British New Writing’, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 81 (2005): 55-61.

Soans, Robin. ‘Interview with Philip Fisher’, theatreVOICE (19 September 2007),

Williams, David. ‘In the Theatre of War’, RealTime 77 (Feb-March 2007): 46.

--- ‘Performing Refugee Policy in Politics and Theatre’, Research in Drama Education 13.2 (June 2008): 199-204.

version 1.0. CMI: A Certain Maritime Incident (Hobart: Australian Script Centre, 2005).

Young, Stuart. ‘Playing with Documentary Theatre: Aalst and Taking Care of Baby’, New Theatre Quarterly 25.1 (February 2009): 72-87.


  • There are currently no refbacks.