Teispool draamat: tekst nullindate teatris / Beyond Drama: Text in the Theatre of the 2000s


  • Luule Epner Tallinn University, Estonian Literary Museum, University of Tartu




The article examines the relations between Estonian dramaturgy and the rapidly renewing ‘post-dramatic’ theatre of the 2000s from two viewpoints: new text creation practices and how the poetics of texts have changed.

In the 2000s, the share of original dramaturgy increased sharply: in the 1990s, about 25% of new productions were based on Estonian material, whereas by 2010 the percentage was 45%. A quite popular form was ‘director-dramaturgy’ (i.e. the director writes or compiles the text for production), which had started as early as the 1970s (e.g. works by Merle Karusoo and Mati Unt). Theatre criticism took up the concept of author’s theatre (e.g. Ivar Põllu), also emphasising one person’s control over both the text and directing the production. In this case, text-creation is processual: a text takes shape according to the author’s directorial strategies and the interaction between the director and the actors. The collective creation of texts and productions should be examined separately; this emerged powerfully in the 2000s and was primarily connected with smaller theatres. Quite often, text and production are created through the method of devising; the article tackles this approach on the basis of productions by Theatre NO99. In the case of group work, the issue of the text’s authorship is rather complicated, as it is a cooperative practice, where the authors’ functions are not clearly differentiated.

The blending of text creation with theatre process influences the poetics of drama texts in various ways. The most important changes are as follows: a) a dominant or constituting role can be assumed by non-verbal means of theatre; the text written for them serves only as a general indication (e.g. the music in Uku Uusberg’s texts, and the methods of visual art in How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare of NO99); b) there is an instability in the text, which varies in different performances, resulting from improvisation as a strategy of text creation; c) a shift from the fictional to the factual, producing the impression of authenticity, e.g. by means of documentary material (e.g. Paavo Piik’s Panso); d) monologue storytelling, usually autobiographical and documentary stories (e.g. Roy Strider’s The Rebels); e) rewriting of classics continued (e.g. works by Mati Unt and Andrus Kivirähk).

During the 2000s, the changes in Estonian dramaturgy have been more cutting than in the 1990s, a result of the tight intertwining of dramaturgic and directorial practices and strategies. In a wider perspective, the spread of new practices constitutes one part of the synchronisation of Estonian theatre with Western theatre, where the paradigm of post-dramatic theatre emerges. Legitimising post-dramatic theatre texts in the field of literature occurs more on an institutional basis and is based on individual cases rather than according to literary criteria.


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Author Biography

Luule Epner, Tallinn University, Estonian Literary Museum, University of Tartu

PhD in Estonian literature. She is an associate professor at Tallinn University, and a senior researcher in the Cultural Theory Research Group at the Estonian Literary Museum. She also teaches theatre courses at the University of Tartu. Her main research fields are theatre and drama theory, and the history of Estonian theatre.