Theatre of Witness is a model of performance developed by Teya Sepinuck in 1986 that gives voice to those whose stories have not been heard in society. The true, life stories, of people from diverse backgrounds are performed by people themselves, so that audiences can collectively bear witness to issues of suffering, redemption and social justice. Theatre of Witness productions performed in spoken word, music, movement and cinematic imagery, put a face and heart to societal issues of suffering, and celebrate the power of the human spirit to grow and transform.
Teya Sepinuck has been creating Theatre of Witness productions in the United States and Poland. Performers have included: refugees, immigrants, survivors and perpetrators of domestic abuse, ex-combatants, members of the security forces, teenage runaways, prisoners and their families, people living in poverty or without homes, families of murder victims, women in transition, people in recovery and survivors of war.
Some recent Theatre of Witness programmes have brought survivors of violence together with perpetrators and witnesses to explore issues of accountability, healing, guilt, restorative justice, forgiveness and redemption. The finished productions performed by the people themselves in prisons, theatres, schools, community centres and at conferences, create safe public forums for audiences to move beyond entrenched positions and ideologies towards understanding and healing.
THEATRE OF WITNESS AT THE PLAYHOUSE THEATRE
From 2009- 2014, the Playhouse Theatre of Witness Programme has been an innovative and pioneering initiative developed in partnership with Holywell Trust. From 2009 – 2014 the programme created the following productions:
2014 MENTORING PROGRAMME
Teya Sepinuck mentored two Theatre of Witness practitioners in the spring of 2014. Alessia Cartoni created a production with surviving family members of the Ballymurphy Massacre, called ‘Our Lives Without You’. Thomas Spiers created a production with two mixed marriage couples called ‘Unspoken Love’. The productions toured to Enniskillen, Belfast and Derry and were received with standing ovations and critical acclaim.
Some feedback included:
‘You’ve given me great hope for humanity and human spirit, especially of the terrible issues that continue in NI in recent days’.
‘An extraordinary testament to the folly of man but also the amazing spirit within people to overcome adversity and tragedy. This was the most truthful and powerful theatre’.
If you would like to view full feedback from the performance, please visit our “Reflections” page.
‘Sanctuary’ illuminates the stories of those in exile, those seeking safe haven, and those who have created oases of peace and healing in Northern Ireland. The performers included refugee and asylum seekers and providers, as well as those who seek or offer refuge following violence, mental health issues, forced exile, poverty and/or sectarianism. ‘Sanctuary’ also highlights moments of ordinary and humble peace building. Our short dcumentary of ‘Sanctuary’ will be found here soon!
Built on the success of the first two productions, 2012’s Theatre of Witness Programme has resulted in the creation and tour of ‘Release’ with men who are coming to terms with the legacy of their past in Northern Ireland. Performed by a former prison governor, a former RUC detective, a former British soldier, two ex-prisoners and a man who had been blown up in a car bomb as a child, the production toured through November 2012. Copies of the Release Documentary are available from the Playhouse, if you or a group are interested in arranging a screening please contact The Playhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To watch the Release documentary, please click here.
To view reflections from “We Carried Your Secrets” please click here
I Once Knew a Girl (2010)
2010’s production “I Once Knew a Girl” brought the unheard stories of women affected by the Troubles to the public. Filmmaker Margo Harkin produced a documentary film “The Far Side of Revenge’ about the making of the production. The film premiered at the Dublin, Belfast and Foyle Film Festival and was broadcast on the BBC Northern Ireland in 2013.
To watch excerpts of this film please click here.
To view reflections from “I Once Knew a Girl” please click here
We Carried Your Secrets (2009)
In 2009 we produced “We Carried Your Secrets” with fathers who had been on the front lines during the Troubles, and those in the next generation living with its legacy. The production toured for 14 performances to great acclaim. To watch this documentary film please click here.