Harsh truths come into sharp, unsettling focus as the Rwandan company Urwintore transforms Weiss's landmark script into an arresting 80-minute performance. In the hands of seven African actors, Holocaust war crime trial transcriptions strike hauntingly similar chords with the atrocities of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. This limited Chicago engagement follows acclaimed runs at Peter Brook’s Theatre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris and London's Young Vic.
Approximate Running Time: 80 minutes
The Investigation is is presented in The Carl and Marilynn Thoma Theater.
Seven actors from Rwanda and Congo perform Peter Weiss’s 1965 play The Investigation, based on war crime trial transcriptions—the verbatim testimonies of the witnesses, victims and defendants, who were mid- and low-level officials in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The presence of these African actors superimposes the Rwandan Genocide on the atrocities of the Holocaust and death camps of World War II.
The familiar images and language exposed by the Nazi war trials—the freight train cars, the inhumane break-up of families at the arrival platforms, the Zyklon B gas, the denials and the self-justification—resonate in new ways with the recent human savagery perpetuated in Rwanda. These two genocides are not the same, but performed by these actors, Weiss’s Investigation reflects a hauntingly similar effort in which Rwandans are currently engaged—the process of holding people accountable and the search for truth in the hopes of reconciliation.
A Brief History of the Play and Its Sources
The Investigation helped open a dialogue when it premiered in Germany in 1965, and influenced the development of Documentary Theater.
The Genocide in Rwanda
Only after the horrific events ended did the worldwide community call the slaughter of 800,000 people a genocide.
Perspectives on The Investigation
Learn more about the free panel discussion presented on January 25 with Lawrence Weschler, Elliot Lefkovitz and D. Soyini Madison on issues raised by Rwandan theater ensemble Urwintore's performance of Peter Weiss's play.
World War II and the Jewish Holocaust
In 1948, in response to the atrocities of World War II, the United Nations passed a resolution requiring military intervention in the case of genocide.
These selected internet sites lead further into the exploration of the Auschwitz, the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.
See who's who among the actors.
The Creative Team
See who’s who on the creative team—the director, designers and other artists who contribute to the creation of the world of the play.
From the Director
Rwandan director Dorcy Rugamba on his production of The Investigation.
The Investigation Photo Gallery
Based on transcriptions of Nazi trials, Peter Weiss’s play pits two versions of history against each other—the defendants’ and the victims’. After premiering in Rwanda in the fall of 2006, Urwintore’s production of The Investigation played in Liege and Ans, Belgium, Peter Brook’s Theatre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, and the Young Vic in London.
Two Conversations with Director Dorcy Rugamba
Read two articles from the BBC and The Guardian that profile the Rwandan director’s experience staging this production.