The Civilians

The Civilians

Investigative theater company

 The Civilians, a Brooklyn-based investigative theater company, begin the first installment of a unique three-part residency with performances of their latest piece of work, The Undertaking, on September 29, 30 and October 1.  The Undertaking, which uses transcripts of actual conversations with shamans, morticians, philosophers, and mystics as the script, just premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival and stops at Duke before traveling to Paris as part of the Brooklyn-Paris Exchange. The company's established modus operandi involves creating each original piece in a collaborative process based on personal interviews with "civilians" on topics that resonate with the group as deeply intriguing.  These topics have ranged from the porn industry (their 2015 musical Pretty Filthy) to a revolutionary historic event (2012's Paris Commune) to this year's offering of The Undertaking, “a playful and profound 21st-century take on the classic trip to the underworld,” according their website

Photo: Irene Lucio and Dan Domingues in “The Undertaking,” at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Fishman Space.CreditJoshua Bright for The New York Times

Engagement Information

Duke students have several first-hand opportunities to engage with Obie award-winning theater artists The Civilians in September.  As they load in and rehearse their show The Undertaking, troupe members will also visit undergraduate classes, including Jules Odendahl-James' The Artist As Social Critic, Jeff Storer's Advanced Acting, Jehanne Geith's Medical Ethics, Aging & End of Life Care, and Madeleine Lambert's The Theater Today.  The variety of courses speaks to the many threads that The Civilians pull together in their work. 

Students will do their own investigating into The Civilians’ process during an open forum with director Steve Cosson on Friday, September 30 at 1:30p in Sheafer Theater.  The conversation, moderated by director Jules Odendahl-James, will explore the evolution of The Civilians and the development of their research methodology as well as delving into the ethical questions presented in the creation of documentary theater.   This is in addition to the scheduled class visits.  This residency is made possible by Duke Performances, with support from the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts and the Council for the Arts Visiting Artists Program, as well as the Department of Theater Studies  (through funding provided by the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation), and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.