The notion of postdramatic theatre was established by German theatre researcher Hans-Thies Lehmann in his book Postdramatic Theatre, summarising a number of tendencies and stylistic traits occurring in avant-garde theatre since the end of the 1960s. The theatre which Lehmann calls postdramatic is not primarily focused on the drama in itself, but evolves a performative aesthetic in which the text of the performance is put in a special relation to the material situation of the performance and the stage. The post dramatic theatre attempts to mimic the unassembled and unorganized literature that a playwright sketches in the novel
Thus postdramatic theatre is more striving to produce an effect amongst the spectators than to remain true to the text. Lehmann locates what he calls 'the new theatre' as part of 'a simultaneous and multi-perspectival form of perceiving'; this, he argues is brought about, in large part, by a reaction to the dominance of the written text.
The new theatre, Lehmann asserts, is characterised by, amongst other things, the 'use and combination of heterogeneous styles', it situates itself as after or beyond dialogue and incorporates the notion of the 'performer as theme and protagonist'.
In its most radical varieties, postdramatic theatre knows no "plot" at all, but concentrates fully on the interaction between performer and audience.
Another way of using the notion is to describe plays with little or no drama, for instance the plays of Jon Fosse.
Some names associated with postdramatic theatre are Tadeusz Kantor (Krakow), Heiner Müller (Berlin), Robert Wilson (New York City), The Wooster Group (New York City), The Builders Association (New York City), Richard Foreman (New York City), Big Art Group (New York City), Jan Fabre, Jan Lauwers and Needcompany, Frank Castorf (Berlin), Josef Szeiler/TheaterAngelusNovus (Vienna), Elfriede Jelinek (Vienna), Heiner Goebbels (Frankfurt), Verdensteatret (Oslo), Alvis Hermanis (Riga), Forced Entertainment (Sheffield), Teater Moment (Stockholm), the Apocryphal Theatre (London), The Sydney Front (Australia) and Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio (Italy), Navid Memar Kermani (Amta Theater Group-Iran).
A new wave of post-dramatic performance companies are troubling the work of those past. These companies include the likes of Pan Pan (Ireland), POST (Australia), Action Hero (United Kingdom), Nature Theatre of Oklahoma (United States), and more.
A new generation of internationally working postdramatic directors is changing the big picture: Among them are Thomas Luz, Amir Reza Koohestani, Susanne Kennedy, Dusan David Parizek, Yael Ronen, Simon Stone, Kai Tuchmann, Anna Bergmann, Bastian Kraft, Ulrich Rasche, Nicolas Stemann, and Kay Voges.
- Marijke Hoogenboom, Alexander Karschnia: NA(AR) HET THEATER - after theatre?, Amsterdam 2007, ISBN 978-90-812455-1-7
- Sugiera, Malgorzata (2004). Beyond Drama: Writing for Postdramatic Theatre. Theatre Research International, 29 (1), pp. 6–28. doi:10.1017/S0307883303001226
- Lehmann, Hans-Thies (2006). Postdramatic Theatre. Translated and with an introduction by Karen Jürs-Munby. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-26813-4.
- Fischer-Lichte, Erika; Wihstutz, Benjamin (2018). Transformative Aesthetics. Oxon and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-05717-3.
- Jürs-Munby, Karen; Carroll, Jerome; Giles, Steve (2014). Postdramatic Theatre and the Political: International Perspectives on Contemporary Performance. Methuen Drama. ISBN 978-1408184868.