This book examines the theater of narration, an Italian performance genre and aesthetic that revisits historical events of national importance from local perspectives, drawing on the rich relationship between personal experiences and historical accounts. Incorporating original research from the private archives of leading narrators—artists who write and perform their work—Juliet Guzzetta argues that the practice teaches audiences how ordinary people aren’t simply witnesses to history but participants in its creation.
The theater of narration emerged in Italy during the labor and student protests, domestic terrorism, and social progress of the 1970s. Developing Dario Fo and Franca Rame’s style of political theater, influenced by Jerzy Grotowski and Bertolt Brecht, and following in the freewheeling actor‑author traditions of the commedia dell’arte, narrators created a new form of popular theater that grew in prominence in the 1990s and continues to gain recognition. Guzzetta traces the history of the theater of narration, contextualizing its origins—both political and intellectual—and centers the contributions of Teatro Settimo, a performance group overlooked in previous studies. She also examines the genre’s experiments in television and media.
The first full-length book in English on the subject, The Theater of Narration leverages close readings and a wealth of primary sources to examine the techniques used by narrators to remake history—a process that reveals the ways in which history itself is a theater of narration.
Introduction: The Past and the Players
1. Origins of a Practice
2. The Cultural Laborer
3. A Language of One's Own
4. Locating Community
5. Experiments with Media
Conclusion: Politicizing History
"Guzzetta’s history is an important study, introducing English-language readers to a genre that changes the shape of our conversations around historiographic theater and theater of the real. Unpacking a form with the intimate storytelling of Spalding Gray and the fearless national soul-searching of the best documentary theater, The Theater of Narration shows us new ways of feeling the past through performance." —Ryan Claycomb, author of Lives in Play: Autobiography and Biography on the Feminist Stage
"Theater and history come together in this intriguing study of a unique Italian performance art in which a single storyteller recounts a moment of history from the perspective of ordinary people. Guzzetta traces the theater of narration from its origins to the first performances in the 1980s and across two generations of narrators. She explicates how its ethnographic and dialogic elements weave personal histories into a tapestry depicting a common, collective past." —Antonio Scuderi, author of Dario Fo: Framing, Festival, and the Folkloric Imagination
This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem)—a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries—and the generous support of Michigan State University. Learn more at the TOME website, available at openmonographs.org.
To visit the TOME edition of The Theater of Narration: From the Peripheries of History to the Main Stages of Italy, visit https://doi.org/10.21985/n2-bkzs-m764.