THEA 101(F)The Art of Playing: An Introduction to Theatre and Performance

An introduction to the global art and practice of making theatre. Students will learn basic principles of different approaches to the actor¿s labor, alongside the history, aesthetics, and literature associated with select performance forms from around the world. Emphasis will be on the analysis of embodied practices and the relationship between the stage and everyday life. Through readings, audiovisual materials, discussions, attendance at live performances, and workshops with guest artists and faculty, we will engage with theatre as a constantly evolving art form, sharpening our analytical skills through theoretical approaches from the fields of theatre and performance studies. As a capstone project, students will stage and perform selected scenes before an audience, using practical and interpretive skills gained from the course. This course is open to all students, is a gateway to the major in Theatre, and is a prerequisite for THEA 201, THEA 204, THEA 301, and THEA 401. Class will meet on Fridays when time is needed for studio exercises, rehearsals, mentoring student projects, or guest artist workshops. [ more ]

THEA 102In the Room Together: An Introduction to Dance, Theatre, and Live Performance

Last offered Fall 2017

This course offers an introduction to the time-based art of performance, focusing on the embodied and social act of collaboration. Students will explore through a rotating studio and seminar-based format methods for creating and approaching art across a range of time-based media (dance, theatre, performance art, social media, spoken-word poetry), providing a foundation for the expression of ideas through performance. Over the term, students will develop, workshop and perform site-specific pieces, culminating in a final public presentation to the community. Through independent research projects, writing and class discussion, students will study makers whose work unsettles the boundaries of dance, theatre, and performance, such as: Anne Bogart, Bill T. Jones, Pina Bausch, Meredith Monk, Lin Manuel-Miranda, E. Patrick Johnson, Young Jean Lee, and Beyoncé. Evaluation will be based on an assessment of the student's work, participation, commitment, practice, curiosity, creativity, and collaboration with peers. Students will be required to attend '62 Center Series programming as may be required to attend other performance events as well. This course is open to students at all levels of experience and is a gateway and requirement to the major in Theatre. [ more ]

THEA 103(F)Acting: Fundamentals

In this course students will examine the power of public presence through theory and practice while expanding their talents, sensitivity, and imagination, and will increase their self-awareness, confidence, creativity, and other skills that are useful in social situations, public speaking, and theatre performances. [ more ]

THEA 120(S)Introduction to Performance Art

Historically, artists have turned to performance art during times of collective trauma to observe, analyze, and deconstruct established systems of power. This course will explore the legacy, theory, and practice of this radical and subversive genre. Equal parts studio and seminar students will engage in open dialogue based on assigned readings, screenings, and museum/gallery visits. Starting with the emergence of Dadaism during World War I, and exploration of works by artists that will include: Adrian Piper, David Hammons, Lynda Montano, Chris Burden, Clifford Owens, and Anna Mendieta, students will gain an understanding of the mechanisms of performance: The body as object, The Gaze (the dynamics of viewing/being viewed), active and inactive participants, and breaking the fourth wall. This class is open to all students that are willing to embrace the awkwardness of their humanity and the vulnerabilities of our collective bodies. [ more ]

THEA 125(F)Theater and Politics

When Plato designed his ideal republic, he excluded theater from it, arguing that indulging in the charms of theatrical representation would make men poor governors of themselves and thus threaten the integrity of fledgling Greek democracies. In the twentieth-century, however, the work of younger artists and playwrights as diverse as Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud provocatively suggested that theater itself could remedy the ills that Plato thought it aggravated by restoring to the people the productive power that the passively on-looking masses had ceded to the charisma of dictators. Today, as rapid changes in media daily transform the way in which we experience the world and understand our place within it, artists, critics, and philosophers continue to draw on the terms of historical debates about theater in attempts to understand the political significance of technologically enhanced forms of global spectatorship, asking what becomes of the traditional roles of viewers and directors on the new world-stage, in an age when revolutions are triggered by cell phone images, but advertising campaigns are also customized to consumers based on automated scans of private information like email. In this seminar, students take a historical approach to these urgent contemporary questions, analyzing the politics of theater in literature, criticism, film, and philosophy from antiquity to the present. [ more ]

THEA 129Institutional Critique

Last offered Spring 2019

This introductory course will investigate the performance potential of the radical art making methodology known as Institutional Critique. Influenced by Situationalism, and the Fluxus movement, Institutional Critique emerged as a way for artists to respond to the art worlds elitism, monopoly on culture, and dependency on Capitalism. Through collaborative performance based projects and readings students will explore the possibility of art to critically intervene in the hegemonic order and insight change within power relationships. We will also explore related movements such as Socially Engaged Practice, a term that describes art that is participatory and focuses as people as the medium. Artists covered will include: Thomas Hirshhorn, Tim Rollins, and Andrea Fraser. You do not need any prior experience just a willingness to use the power of voice and body. [ more ]

THEA 141Opera

Last offered Fall 2018

An introduction to the history of opera, from the genre's birth c. 1600 to the present. At various points in its 400-year development, opera has been considered the highest synthesis of the arts, a vehicle for the social elite, or a form of popular entertainment. Opera's position in European cultural history will be a primary focus of our inquiry. We will also study the intriguing relationship between text and music, aspects of performance and production, and the artistic and social conventions of the operatic world. The multidimensional nature of opera invites a variety of analytical and critical perspectives, including those of music analysis, literary studies, feminist interpretations, and political and sociological approaches. Works to be considered include operas by Monteverdi, Lully, Charpentier, Handel, Gluck, Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Wagner, Bizet, Puccini, Strauss, Berg, Britten, Glass and Adams. This course may involve a trip to the Metropolitan Opera. [ more ]

THEA 150(S)The Broadway Musical

Named for a specific road but enjoying a global impact, the Broadway musical has intersected with multiple styles and societal concerns over the past century. In this course, we explore the American musical theater's roots and relationship to opera, operetta, vaudeville, minstrelsy, and Tin Pan Alley. Traveling through the genre's history, we will encounter a wide range of musical styles, including ragtime, jazz, rock, and hip hop, and will explore several genre transformations, such as movies made into musicals and musicals into movies. We will develop a range of analytical skills as we investigate connections between choreography, lyrics, music, staging, and production. Throughout the semester, we will consider the genre's representations and reflections of ethnicity, race, sexuality, and class. The syllabus includes representative works by Gilbert and Sullivan, Cohan, Gershwin, Kern, Weill, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Bernstein, Sondheim, Lloyd Webber, and Miranda, with particular focus on such works as Showboat, Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Hair, Rent, and Hamilton. [ more ]

THEA 201(S)Worldbuilding: Design for the Theater

This course examines designers' creative processes as they work to imagine the fictional worlds of theatrical productions. Over a series of practical projects in multiple design disciplines, we will develop techniques for eliciting an initial creative response to a text; developing that response into a point-of-view; communicating that point-of-view with collaborators; and solving the practical needs of the production. Particular emphasis is placed on how design elements synthesize with each other (and with the imagined work of the actors and director) to form the larger intellectual, emotional, and physical context of the production as a whole. Students will adopt various creative roles over a series of projects, giving exposure to the working processes of designers specifically, and that of all collaborators in a theatrical production more generally. Methodologies for critical feedback, as well as presentation skills and techniques, will be taught as crucial elements of the artistic and collaborative process. [ more ]

THEA 202Ways of Knowing: Music, Movement, Memory

Last offered Fall 2017

This interdisciplinary seminar proceeds from the premise that the body knows. Ongoing colonial modernity is rooted in a racialized hierarchy: the "civilized" life of the mind vs. the "primitive" instincts of the flesh. According to this binary, the body is marked as irrational, sinful, outside of the archive. The body cannot know because the happenings of the body are ephemeral: unlike documents, they don't last. In this course, we will subject this logic to close scrutiny. As performance scholar Diana Taylor asks, "Whose memories, traditions, and claims to history disappear if performance practices lack the staying power to transmit vital knowledge?" In this course, we look to music, movement, and other repertoires as ways of knowing, remembering, and world-making. How does embodied knowledge travel across time and space? How have performance practices served as modes of what Ashinaabe cultural theorist Gerald Vizenor calls "survivance" (survival + resistance) for indigenous, nomadic, queer, and colored communities. Case studies include: the Middle Passage and the syncretic birth of the Blues in the Americas; nomadism, the nation-state, and the migration of Romani music; and the evolution of queer ball culture. Students will engage with a variety of texts (verbal, sonic, visual, kinesthetic) and respond to them critically not only through writing and discussion, but also through their own performance practices. [ more ]

THEA 204Acting: Scene Work

Last offered Spring 2019

Students will continue to develop technical skills, and the emotional and intellectual resources, required for the actor. The focus will be on the issues of characterization, textual understanding and emotional depth. The means of study and experimentation will be intense scene work requiring thorough preparation and creative collaboration. Improvisation and other exercises will be used to complement the textual work. The dramatic texts providing scenes for class will be from the early realist works onward. Students will be expected to have had previous acting or performance experience, either through completion of Theatre 101, 102, or 103 or through other relevant production experience. [ more ]

THEA 206(S)Directing for the Stage

An introduction to the resources available to the Stage Director for translating interpretive concepts into stageworthy physical realization. Kinetic and visual directorial controls, as well as textual implications and elements of dramatic structure, and strategies of working with actors and other collaborators will be studied in detail. Most assignments will involve hands-on directing projects presented in class for collective critique. [ more ]

THEA 207Acting: Physical Theatre and Body Language

Last offered Spring 2019

This semester Theatre 207 will focus on processes of Physical Theatre. The class is open to students interested in developing their ability in communication through the art of body language. Assigned research, analysis, discussions, and improvised exercises on stage will give us the opportunity to expand our understanding of physical vocabulary and will help us to express our intentions by evocative behavior. Based on various theatre techniques, this course will hone artistic skills for performance and improve students' confidence in their interactions with other people. [ more ]

THEA 208Voice, Speech & Song for the Actor

Last offered Fall 2017

Continuing the vocal technique work in THEA 205, this course provides an intense practice that further deepens the body-voice connection, builds and troubleshoots speech technique, and expands vocal strength, range and endurance through song. Through incorporating the resonator techniques of Roy Hart and Meredith Monk, the speech drills of Edith Skinner and the fundamentals of musical training for the voice, students finish the course able to complete an hour long full voice/speech/song work out. In addition to building a repertoire of voice, speech and singing drills; students will explore how to "act" a song, combining speaking and singing, using songs from the plays of Bertolt Brecht. [ more ]

THEA 211Performing Greece

Last offered Fall 2018

Modern readers often encounter Homer, Sappho, Sophocles, and the Greek orators as written texts, yet their first ancient audiences experienced the words of these authors not in silence and solitude, but in live performance contexts. This course, therefore, will take up performance as a critical lens for interpreting ancient Greek literature, situating these works within a rich culture of song, dance, speech, and debate. From the Homeric epics and the masterpieces of Greek tragedy and comedy to the speeches and dialogues of Demosthenes, Thucydides, and Plato, we will survey the evidence for the musical, visual, and embodied aspects of Greek literature. At the same time, we will reflect on the rewards and limits of enlivening the ancient world through the reconstruction and re-imagination of its performative dimensions. Our attention to performance will give us a distinct perspective on many important topics within the study of Greek civilization, including the construction of personal and collective identity, the workings of Athenian democracy, and the development of literary genres. In addition to a wide selection from Greek poetry, drama, and prose, our readings will include works by ancient and modern theorists of performance and culture. All readings are in translation. [ more ]

THEA 212 TFrom Stage to Page: Writing about Dance

Last offered Fall 2016

We commonly understand the word "choreography" to mean the creation of dance movement. The Greek roots of choreography, however, are choreia (the synthesis of dance, music and singing) and graphein (to write). For centuries, people have attempted to pin dance down on the page, translating an ephemeral, embodied performance art into written form. In this writing-intensive tutorial, students will investigate four major modes of dance writing: dance notation or scoring, dance criticism, dance ethnography, and dance history, with a shorter fifth unit on a new avant-garde form, "performative writing." Students will study important examples of each form, such as Rudolf Laban's famed system of dance notation and Katherine Dunham's ethnographic account of dance in Jamaica, Journey to Accompong. Students will then delve into each form of writing themselves. For example, they will work with Mellon Artist-in-Residence Emily Johnson as "scribes" for her creative process, attend live dance concerts at the '62 Center and Mass MoCA as the basis for writing pieces of dance criticism, conduct participation-observation research by attending social dance events to write mini-ethnographies of their experiences, and work with librarians to learn about resources at Sawyer for researching dance history. [ more ]

THEA 214(S)Writing for Stage and Screen

This studio/workshop course is designed for students interested in a semester-long immersion in the practice of dramatic writing for theater, film, television and audio. Students should expect to write most days. Our focus will be on the fundamentals of story, and the cultivation of each writer's individual voice. In addition to reading existing dramatic texts of various genres and forms, and completing weekly prompts and exercises exploring character, dialogue, structure, theme, conflict and world building, students will work toward a longer final project. Students will present their own work regularly, and respond to each other's work. The course will culminate in a staged reading of excerpts for the campus community. [ more ]

THEA 215(F)Performance Ethnography

The course aims to explore the theory, practice, and ethics of ethnographic research with a focus on dance, movement, and performance. Traditionally considered to be a method of research in anthropology, ethnography is the descriptive and analytical study of a particular community through fieldwork, where the researcher immerses herself in the culture of the people that she researches. In this course students will be introduced to (i) critical theory that grounds ethnography as a research methodology, (ii) readings in ethnographic studies of dance and performance practices from different parts of the world, and (iii) field research in the local community for their own ethnographic projects. This is primarily a discussion-based seminar course and may include fieldwork, attendance at live performances, film screenings, workshop with guest artists etc. No previous dance or performance experience is assumed or required. [ more ]

THEA 216(S)Asian-American Identities in Motion

The course aims to explore dance and movement-based performances as mediums through which identities in Asian-American (including South Asian) diasporas are cultivated, expressed, and contested. We will examine theories related to nationalism, post-colonialism and diasporic identity-formation, and learn about the socio-historical contexts in which performances are used to maintain cultural continuity. We will explore how diasporic artists use performances to enforce or resist traditional practices and ideologies. Throughout the course, we will investigate issues of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, tradition/innovation, agency/resistance, and borrowing/appropriation among other topics. This is primarily a discussion-based seminar course but will also include attendance at live performances in the area, film screenings, and discussion and workshops with guest artists. No previous dance experience required. [ more ]

THEA 220(F)Greek Tragedy

Ancient Greek tragedy was a cultural phenomenon deeply embedded in its 5th-century Athenian context, yet it is also a dramatic form that resonates powerfully with 21st-century artists and audiences. This course examines tragedy on both levels. We will read such plays as Aeschylus' [Agamemnon], Sophocles' [Electra], and Euripides' [Medea] in English translation, considering their literary and dramatic features as well as their relationship to civic, social, and ritual contexts. We will discuss such topics as the construction of gender and identity on the dramatic stage, the engagement between tragedy and other literary genres, and the distinctive styles of the three major Athenian playwrights. We will also survey a set of recent productions and adaptations of these plays, with a particular focus on versions by women, people of color, and non-Western playwrights and producers. We will reflect on how a dramatic form largely produced by and for Athenian citizen men became a creative resource for a remarkably diverse range of 21st-century artists, and explore how modern productions offer fresh perspectives on ancient material. [ more ]

THEA 222 T(S)Solo Performance

In this tutorial, students will study the process of the creation of one-person performance pieces and will work individually or in collaboration to create original solo works. Each student will perform their own piece at the end of the semester in a final public performance. Students will learn about developing a general production concept and scenic vision, choosing or writing a script, building a character, designing (set, lighting, costume, and sound), publicity, and combining all aspects of theatrical craft to create a successful solo piece. Course time will be divided between class discussion and individual rehearsals with the instructor. Students interested in acting, directing, writing, producing, dramaturgy, design, stage management, and criticism are all welcome. [ more ]

THEA 224(F)Interdisciplinary Approaches

In this studio course students will acquire the ability to think conceptually across artistic mediums by working in an interdisciplinary manner. Projects will investigate ideas of the artists body in contemporary art, memory, socio-political specificities, time, and abstraction. Students will be introduced to and create work with the 35mm film camera, the black & white darkroom, digital video, performance methods, and interactive installation. Students will gain additional hands on experience by engaging with invited artists, visiting museum exhibitions, and meeting with curators. Artists covered will include: David Hammons, Bruce Nauman, William Cordova, Taryn Simmon, Singa Ningudi, and Jennie C. Jones. No prior experience necessary. [ more ]

THEA 225Gender and Sexuality in Asian American Theater

Last offered Fall 2017

This class begins with the premise that intersectional and interdisciplinary studies of gender and sexuality need to be, and in significant ways already are, in conversation with Asian American studies and theater. How might contemporary Western discourses of masculinity and heterosexuality, for example, depend upon theatrical constructions of Eastern sexual alterity? How have Asian American artists managed and critiqued historically gendered and sexualized stereotypes (e.g., hypersexual Dragon Lady, virginal Lotus Blossom, asexual Charlie Chan) through theatrical intervention? This seminar will closely read dramatic literature written by Asian American artists, as well as engage scholarship in Asian American gender and sexuality studies and performance studies. We will read the work of playwrights including Ayad Akhtar, Ping Chong, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Velina Hasu Houston, David Henry Hwang, Young Jean Lee, Diana Son, Lauren Yee, and Chay Yew. [ more ]

THEA 226(S)Gender and the Dancing Body

This course posits that the dancing body is a particularly rich site for examining the history of gender and sexuality in America and beyond. The aim of the course is to explore ideas related to gender and sexuality as prescribed by dominant cultural, social, and religious institutions, and how dance has been used to challenge those normative values. We will examine a wide range of dance genres, from stage performance to popular forms to dance on television, with particular attention to the intersections of race and class with gender. This is primarily a discussion-based seminar course but will also include attendance at live performances, film screenings, and discussions with guest artists. No previous dance experience required. [ more ]

THEA 227Made in China or Making "China"?: Twentieth-Century Chinese Performative Culture

Last offered Spring 2017

This course explores the ways in which twentieth-century Chinese performative culture fashioned our contemporary understanding of "China." Starting with Chinese hybrid theatres staged in the US, Japan, and semicolonial Shanghai in the early 1900s and ending with the 2008 Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremonies, this course examines performative works drawn from the breadth of an expanded 20th century; including film, spoken drama, intercultural reproductions of Peking and Kun Operas, revolutionary and avant-garde theatre, Chinese Rock concerts, and global mass mediated performances. Emphasis will be placed on how performances (encompassing the performance onstage and the performance-making backstage) placed "China" on the global stage; and shaped racial, gender, and national identities among play-makers and audiences. We will also explore how Chinese operas were reinvented as "traditional culture" and a "national essence" in the early 20th century; and how agents of Chinese performance, as makers of imaginary worlds, serve as both assets and threats to real-life arbiters of power. The class will be structured around the themes of "Inventing Tradition on the World Stage," "Acting the Right Part," and "Performing the Nation." Students will learn to engage performances as cultural texts embedded in national and global histories. By gaining knowledge about major playwrights, directors, artists, networks, and ideas, students will also become fluent in the landscape of performance culture in China. All class materials and discussions are in English. [ more ]

THEA 228(S)Performance Practices of Global Youth Cultures

This course investigates how young people engage in a variety of performance practices to define social identities and reflect on critical issues. We begin by examining how scholars and media have defined "youth" by way of questioning assumptions about the inherent universality of this social category. We will then explore how young people have thought about and represented themselves. Taking seriously music, dance, fashion, and ritualized uses of public space (including in the virtual realm), we will explore examples of how youth have used performance practices to engage in political activism, subvert hegemonic norms, reconfigure urban geographies, and engage in critical identity politics. Our inquiry will include attention to how youth practices travel globally and adopt new localized political meanings, as well as the ways in which the subversive potential of performances can be subsumed by the normalizing mandates of global capital. Our work in class will be based upon readings, discussions, and audiovisual materials from various parts of the world. Throughout the semester students will turn an analytical eye towards their own practices and modes of consumption. For final projects students will engage in ethnographic research about specific youth cultures in the region and on the Williams campus. [ more ]

THEA 229(S)Modern Drama

An introduction to major plays and key movements in European and American theatre since the late nineteenth century. Our focus will be on close reading, with attention also to questions of performance and production. Plays to be discussed will likely include: Ibsen, Hedda Gabler; Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest; Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard; Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author; Brecht, Mother Courage; Miller, Death of a Salesman; Beckett, Waiting for Godot; Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun; Pinter, Betrayal; Churchill, Cloud Nine; Stoppard, Arcadia. [ more ]

THEA 240Queer Drama

Last offered Spring 2019

This seminar course is a deep dive into the richly dissonant dialogue between queer lives and live performance. How have queer artists shaped and reshaped the field of theatre and performance over time? How has drama, in turn, shaped the landscape of queer life? What inventions and innovations might we attribute to the evolution of "queer"? We will look to the work of artists such as Tennessee Williams, Tarell McCraney, Taylor Mac, Reza Abdoh, Sharon Bridgforth, Virginia Grise, and many others as we seek to map the messy topography of queer performance. [ more ]

THEA 241Performing Masculinity in Global Popular Culture

Last offered Fall 2017

This course examines popular cultural contexts, asking what it means to be a man in contemporary societies. We focus on the manufacture and marketing of masculinity in advertising, fashion, TV/film, theater, popular music, and the shifting contours of masculinity in everyday life, asking: how does political economy change the ideal shape, appearance, and performance of men? How have products - ranging from beer to deodorant to cigarettes -- had their use value articulated in gendered ways? Why must masculinity be the purview of "males" at all; how can we change discourses to better include performances of female masculinities, butch-identified women, and trans* men? We will pay particular attention to racialized, queer, and subaltern masculinities. Some of our case studies include: the short half-life of the boy band in the US and in Asia (e.g., J/K-Pop), hip hop masculinities at home and abroad, and the curious blend of chastity and homoeroticism that constitutes masculinity in the contemporary vampire genre. Through these and other examples, we learn to recognize masculinity as a performance shaped by the political economy of a given culture. The course includes a field trip to a drag performance in Northampton. [ more ]

THEA 242Body of Knowledge

Last offered NA

This is a movement course designed for creative thinkers, such as dancers, actors, musicians, and visual artists. The body is the sole mediator of human experience and the site where all creative work resides, so we must integrate movement as a source and resource in our work. We will engage the body as an expressive tool in support of artistic craft and technique and build confidence in our ability to translate creative impulses through physical action. We will focus on the kinetic application of movement in the art-making process, using core energy, dynamics, breath connection, strength, flexibility, stamina, and relaxation techniques in order to integrate our creative output. We will also examine how movement informs creative work across disciplines through readings, films, and museum visits. [ more ]

THEA 243Opera Since Einstein

Last offered Spring 2016

After 400 years, we might assume we know what "opera" is. However, in recent decades the genre has moved far beyond our preconceptions. This course asks us to examine opera of the last forty years with fresh eyes and ears, expanding our understanding of the term to include the interdisciplinary, multimedia, cross-cultural work that has been created by composers, directors (Peter Greenaway, Peter Sellars, Robert Wilson), filmmakers, choreographers, and visual artists in that period. Using the 1976 premiere of Philip Glass's seminal Einstein on the Beach as a starting point, we will examine such diverse works as Adams's Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer, Glass's Satyagraha, Tan Dun's Marco Polo, Neuwirth's Lost Highway, Unsuk Chin's Alice in Wonderland, Andriessen's Writing to Vermeer, Ades's Powder Her Face, Muhly's Two Boys, Monk's Atlas, and Ashley's television opera, Perfect Lives. [ more ]

THEA 244(F)Tools for Theatre-Making: Introduction To Theatre Technology

This course will cover the fundamental technology employed in theatrical design disciplines including scenery, lighting, costumes, sound, and video/projection. Students will gain a practical working knowledge of theatre technology and organization, including overviews of performance spaces, design practices, technical production methods, management, and collaborative structures in performance-making. Students will participate in design and technical production labs, attend lectures, and may be required to participate as production crew on one or more departmental productions. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

THEA 245(Re)presenting Sex: Shakespeare on Page and Stage

Last offered Spring 2009

This experimental course approaches the question of how sex and sexual identity are portrayed in Shakespeare from two different directions-close reading focused on the page and acting centered on the stage. These two critical modes-reading the text versus performing the script-are often treated in compartmentalized fashion as separate, even incompatible activities. Our goal is to take up the challenge of bringing the two perspectives together within the framework of a single, integrated course. The teaching method is to bridge the gap between the two modes not by magically dissolving, but by actively engaging, the tensions between them. For example, no performance can include all the possible interpretations; performance decisions raise questions about what alternatives have been left out. Similarly, when all interpretive possibilities are held in imaginative suspension, the specifics of bodily movement and face-to-face interaction whose meanings emerge when enacted are lost. We propose to put the two orientations in a productive and innovative dialogue that enables students to experience the tension from both sides, to articulate the opportunities and limits of each side, and to combine their respective strengths. The mix of assignments (papers and scene work) will vary depending on whether students designate themselves as primarily scholars or actors, but some overlap will be built in to ensure that scholars gain understanding of acting and actors gain access to scholarship. All students will be expected to demonstrate versatility in traversing the full spectrum from interpretation through reading to interpretation through performance.The specific topic that will bring these theoretical issues into focus is the matter of sex and sexual identity, as illuminated through the analysis of language, psychology, and theatrical embodiment. Six plays will be studied in depth: The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Othello, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, and The Winter's Tale. [ more ]

THEA 246(F)Asian American Performance: Activism and Aesthetics

This seminar will explore contemporary Asian American plays, stand-up comedy, performance art, and spoken word with an eye to how artists ¿do¿ politics through their cultural labor. We will begin with a brief survey of images from popular media to identify legacies of Orientalism. From here we will move towards examining the ways in which Asian American artists from various eras subvert stereotypes and pursue projects of social justice. In watching performances and reading scripts, essays, and interviews, we will attend to narratives, acting methods, theatrical design, spectatorship, and the political economy of cultural production that shapes how Asian American artists make and show work. In addition, we will explore how artists stake political claims in the public sphere through teaching and community organizing. [ more ]

THEA 247 TMusic for Theater Production

Last offered Spring 2017

Music written to accompany or to "point up" the action or mood of a dramatic performance on stage can be traced to Ancient Theater. Are the labels of incidental and background music appropriate or patronizing for this genre? What is the difference between the composition of "incidental music" and sound designing? How does creating music to accompany a play differ from writing concert music or music for film, ballet, opera, or musical theater? What makes for effective incidental music? How does the music interact with the spoken drama? Students will discuss music composed for selected plays and will compose music for a scene of a play drawing upon pre-existing works, or creating their own. Format: tutorial. During the first and last weeks of the semester, students will attend two group classes. In the other weeks, students will meet with the instructor in pairs for a one-hour session. Students will write and present a 5- to 6-page paper every other week and a 1- to 2-page response to their partner's paper in the alternate weeks. [ more ]

THEA 249Staging Race and Gender

Last offered Fall 2018

This course will examine the role of theatre in staging understandings of race in the United States, particularly where ideologies of race converge with ideologies of gender. We will begin with the minstrel show, the most popular form of live entertainment in the 19th century, and end with Marcus Gardley's Black Odyssey, a 21st century production of a black man's coming into consciousness amid violence and war as well as divine protection. We will consider the role of live visual media in producing, reifying, and challenging discourses of race and gender across various historical periods. Through our pairing of drama in text and film, we will interrogate how meaning around racialized bodies has been made through performance practices on the stage that inform everyday life. Dramatists will include Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson, Langston Hughes, Ntozake Shange, Amiri Baraka, and Suzan-Lori Parks. In our attempt to locate and extend our notions of theatre in the contemporary era, we will explore episodes from such popular television series as Queen Sugar, This Is Us, Atlanta, and The Chi. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

THEA 250 TGender, Sexuality and Modern Performance

Last offered Fall 2016

This interdisciplinary tutorial explores aspects of gender, sexuality, performativity, race, class, and representations of the body in modern theatre and performance in America. While attention will be given to the still understudied role of women in the arts, we will focus primarily on the transsecionalities of social identities under interrelated systems of oppression. Close analysis of works by dramatists--such as Adrienne Kennedy, Caryl Churchill, Wendy Wasserstein, Ntozake Shange, Tony Kushner, Naomi Iizuka, Paula Vogel, Suzan-Lori Parks, David Henry Hwang, Tarell McCraney, Gina Gionfriddo, and Taylor Mac--will occur alongside consideration of works by artists such as Karen Finley, Ron Athey, Tim Miller, E. Patrick Johnson, and Young Jean Lee. Our approach to this varied material will be comparative and will be enriched by readings of critical works by writers such as: Judith Butler, bell hooks, Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa, Eve K. Sedgwick, Jill Dolan, José Esteban Muñoz, David Román, and Donna Haraway. [ more ]

THEA 251(S)Offensive Art

Twenty-four centuries ago Plato argued for censorship of art. In the last century New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani attempted to shut down the Brooklyn Museum "Sensations" exhibit because he claimed it offended Christians, and the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center was prosecuted for exhibiting allegedly obscene photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe. Just recently, the magazine The Nation apologized for publishing Anders Carlson-Wee's poem adopting the voice of a homeless person, writing "We are sorry for the pain we have caused to the many communities affected by this poem." At Williams College a mural in The Log was temporarily boarded over, Herman Rosse's painting "Carnival of Life" was removed from the '62 Center, and the Theater department cancelled the production of Aleshea Harris' Beast Thing. What should be done about offensive art? What is offensive art? Does it matter who is offended? Does offensive art harm? Is there a difference between being offended and being harmed? Is there a difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation? What are the responsibilities of museum curators and theater producers when presenting art that might offend? Who gets to decide the answer to these questions; indeed, who gets to decide what questions to ask? We will attempt answers by studying classical works (such as Plato's Republic and John Stuart Mill's On Liberty), contemporary articles, and works of art in various media. Trigger Warning: all the works of art studied in this class will be chosen partly because they have offended a significant number of people. You are very likely to be offended by some of the art we discuss. This will be the only trigger warning for the class; if you don't want to be offended then this course is not for you. This course is part of the John Hyde Teaching Fellowship. [ more ]

THEA 255 T(S)Performing Shakespeare

This tutorial course will challenge students to interpret and perform characters and scenes from a considerable variety of Shakespeare's work for the stage. Working in pairs, students will function as both directors and actors, bringing scene-work-in-progress first to the instructor for critique/revision, and subsequently to other members of the class for more general discussion. Written assignments, explicating and contextualizing artistic choices, will accompany presentations. Over the course of the semester, assignments will ask students to grapple with particular challenges of Shakespeare's drama (including, for instance, the technical aspects of speaking the verse, and the accompanying challenge of performing in the Elizabethan tradition of "open space"). Other assignments will ask students to consider specific interpretive traditions (feminist, phenomenological, queer studies, post-modern) in preparing their work for presentation. Plays studied will include tragedies (Macbeth, Anthony and Cleopatra, Othello), comedies (The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night), and histories (Richard II, Richard III); theorists assigned for additional readings may include Shirley Nelson Garner, Alan Sinfield, Harry Berger Jr., Arthur Little, Jr., Janet Adelman, William Worthen, Laurence Senelick, Bert States, and Stephen Greenblatt. [ more ]

THEA 256(S)The Expressive Body

This course aims to allow students to develop the body's capacities for expression and reflect on the experience of movement. On one hand, we will enhance our potential as performers -- both in the rehearsal process and on stage. On the other, we will explore how training our corporeal intelligence can enrich our everyday lives. Studio sessions will seek to cultivate strength, endurance, flexibility, alignment, and balance so that we can gradually expand the body's range of safe possibilities as we begin to work with images, gesture, and emotions. Exercises will be drawn from a range of movement and theatrical techniques including yoga, Bharatanatyam, contemporary dance, Grotowski, butoh, and Schechner's Rasaboxes. Integral to our work will be consideration of the relationship between words, objects, and moving. Concurrently, we will read, write, and discuss some significant ideas about the consciousness of the body to expand our understandings of ourselves from various perspectives. The spirit of the class is one of bold investigation and refined observation in the context of supportive camaraderie as we all grapple with encountering the new, the surprising, and the wonderfully unexpected. [ more ]

THEA 260Shakespeare on Page, Stage and Screen: Text to Performance

Last offered Fall 2016

Four centuries on, Shakespeare still challenges us. How should we weigh the respective claims of our own era's concerns--with matters of gender, sexuality, race, class, or materiality, for instance-against historicist attention to the cultural, political and theatrical circumstances in which his plays were actually written? And when it comes to realizing the text in dramatic performance, such challenges--and opportunities--multiply further. Critical fidelity to Shakespeare's times, language and theatrical milieu prioritizes a historical authenticity that can be constraining or even sterilizing, while, at the other extreme, staging the plays with the primary aim of making them "speak to our times" risks revisionary absorption in our own interests. We will focus on six Shakespeare plays, from different genres and periods of his career: Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Proceeding with each from close reading of the text, we will attend to the demands and opportunities of performance, and assess a range of recent film and stage productions. [ more ]

THEA 262Japanese Theatre and its Contemporary Context

Last offered Fall 2018

Japan's rich and varied performance traditions, old and new, born of different historical settings, coexist to this day and compete for the attention of audiences, domestically and abroad. The forms to be considered (nohgaku, kabuki, bunraku, shingeki, butoh, and Takarazuka all female revue among others) are all dynamic. Each has transformed itself in response to evolving social conditions. This course examines these performance traditions, considers how each reflects the social, cultural, and political context of its birth, and poses the question, "of what relevance is each to a contemporary audience?" Some of the other questions we will explore are: How have these performing traditions transformed themselves throughout history, including after 3.11? What do we mean by traditional? contemporary? How are traditional and contemporary performance genres interacting with each other? How have the central themes of these works evolved? All readings and discussion will be in English. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

THEA 265Digital Performance Lab

Last offered Fall 2018

A collaborative laboratory investigating the intersection of live art and new media, this studio course explores the opportunities for (and problems of) performing through various media. Using audio, video, web-based, interactive, algorithmic, and analog platforms, students will perform research and create performances that examine liveness, broadcasting, digital stages, networking, and what it means to be both a spectator and a maker in the digital age. Students will develop technical and collaborative skills in artistic and new media production, gain fluency in contemporary theories of liveness, performance, and visual culture, and will research historical and current trends in mediatized performance practices. Platforms/technologies/media forms that may be considered include Twitter, live radio, in-ear monitors, algorithmic composition, bots, video games, live streaming, VJ software, interactive audio, sensors, soundwalks, Snapchat, VR, and surveillance. [ more ]

THEA 267(S)Performance Studies: An Introduction

Since the 1980s, performance studies has emerged as an interdisciplinary field of inquiry, with origin tales in theater and anthropology, in communications and philosophy. What might theorizing "performance" as mode, analytic, and object of study have to offer scholarship in the interdisciplinary humanities? In this seminar, we will read texts formative of performance studies, paired with multimedia performance examples, where performance speaks to staged theatrics as well as the presentation of everyday life. We will ask, how are race, gender, sexuality, and nation produced as the effects of legal, political, historical, social, and cultural scripts? And--an important partner question--how do discourses and practices of race, gender, sexuality, and nation in fact produce legal, political, historical, social, and cultural effects? This seminar is an introduction to performance studies, an interdisciplinary field in conversation with theater studies, gender studies, anthropology, philosophy, literary theory, visual studies, dance studies, ethnic studies, queer theory, and postcolonial studies. Students will study and experiment with performance while reading theoretical texts to grapple with concepts including ritual, restored behavior, performativity, mimicry, liveness, the body, objecthood, archive, movement, matter, and affect. [ more ]

THEA 275 T(F)American Drama: Hidden Knowledge

The Buddha is said to have identified three things that cannot stay hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. What's the secret? Who is lying? Who is breaking the rules? American drama abounds with hidden knowledge and false representations. (This is not surprising: theatre is always on some level a deceptive practice, a place where one person pretends to be another, and where what is spoken is always open to skeptical scrutiny. We might say theatre is always lying as much as lying is always theatre.) This tutorial course will examine what lies hidden in American plays from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first. Beginning with excerpted critical and historical writings on secrecy and lying (The Adventures of Pinocchio, Machiavelli's The Prince, Thomas Carlson's Lying and Deception: Theory and Practice, among others), we will proceed to a set of American plays from across a wide spectrum of playwrights, including Eugene O'Neill, Edward Albee, Sarah Ruhl, Arthur Miller, Amy Herzog, Susan Glaspell, Sophie Treadwell, Annie Baker, and others. Student papers will explore how hidden knowledge structures dramatic action, how different characters create and respond to untruths, and what can we learn in particular from American drama about a national relationship to honesty and its opposites. [ more ]

THEA 280Art of the Commons: Social Practice, Participatory Art and Performing Publics

Last offered NA

What responsibility does art have to its public? How is art a "social practice"? What is the model of the "cultural commons" and how might it be reshaping the way we make art today? This combined seminar and studio course will begin by exploring the concept of the "commons" as a cultural resource belonging to all members of a community. Drawing from recent scholarship, theory and debates across disparate fields (law, economics, history, theatre and performance studies, and art), we will first define the "cultural commons" of Williams College and Williamstown. We will then design and implement a series of art and performance projects involving participation, collective labor and ownership, community building, utopianism, active spectatorship, and public space. Students will also conduct and present to the class independent research on contemporary artists (Theaster Gates, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Santiago Sierra, Francis Alÿs, Tino Sehgal, Paul Chan), collectives (The TEAM, The Civilians, Gorilla Girls, Sojourn Theatre, The Neofuturists, Ghana Think Tank), and community-based initiatives in our local art institutions (WCMA, Mass MoCA, The Clark). Readings on participatory art, happenings, relational aesthetics, social works, and utopia may be drawn from such authors as: Allan Kaprow, Theodor Adorno, Augusto Boal, Nicolas Bourriaud, Jacques Rancière, Peggy Phelan, Shannon Jackson, Claire Bishop, Grant Kester, Nicholas Ridout, Jill Dolan, José E. Muñoz, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, and Rebecca Schneider. [ more ]

THEA 282Writing for Performance

Last offered Spring 2018

This studio/seminar course is designed for students with some experience in creative writing and/or performance interested in a deep dive into the art of playwriting. What is a play? What distinguishes writing for performance from writing that is meant to be read? How do we craft a blueprint for a live event? In our rapidly evolving digital world, what sorts of stories and phenomena still ask to be experienced live? How are contemporary theater and performance makers pushing the boundaries of what "writing" means and what constitutes "liveness"? We will read works by Sharon Bridgforth, Sarah Ruhl, Tarrell Alvin McCraney, Tony Kushner, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Sarah DeLappe, Suzan-Lori Parks, Edward Albee, August Wilson, Chuck Mee, María Irene Fornés, Young Jean Lee, Stew, and Lightning Rod Special, who have deepened and widened the possibilities of the form. We will also write, beginning with exercises in character, dialogue, action, and world-building, and working toward a longer final project. Students will be expected to present their own work and respond to each other's work regularly. At the end of the term, we will present excerpts of our one-act length works as part of an open studio experience. [ more ]

THEA 285(F)Scenic and Lighting Design for Performance

The artistic, intellectual, and practical roles of a designer vary widely, from the spectacle of Broadway to the do-it-yourself ingenuity of downtown theater to the conceptual frame of the art gallery space. This course explores the art and techniques of lighting and scenic design for performance. While grounded in a conceptual methodology for development of a design based in textual analysis and research, this course is equally concerned with providing instruction in the techniques and craft necessary for bringing a design to fruition, including: sketching, technical drafting, and model-making; basic physics and theories of color in both surfaces and light; the use of volume, movement, color, intensity, and texture as compositional and storytelling tools; the variety of stage lighting instruments and theatrical soft goods available, and their uses; writing cues; and the translation of concept into light plots, channel hookups, plans and elevations. We will use a variety of performance texts (plays, musicals, opera, and dance) to discover and explore the creative process from the perspective of scenic and lighting designers. The class format will be a combination of lectures, discussions and studio work. [ more ]

THEA 286Sound Design

Last offered Spring 2019

What is "sound" and how does it work within a design for live performance? Starting from that fundamental question, this course will examine creative, practical, and technical aspects of sound design within a theatrical setting, from the physics of sound and the mechanics of human hearing and perception to sound aesthetics, style, and function. We will learn to effectively analyze a range of scripts and source material, apply research, and make specific choices about world building that serve both the needs of the script and the artist's imaginative impulse. We will experiment with original sound design in a theater space, compare approaches, and learn to listen critically. We will consider how to integrate sound with the other design disciplines, and collaborate effectively to help to create a robust but coherent production. [ more ]

THEA 290(F, S)Theatre Department Production

Participation in the production program is offered as a partial credit fifth course, is open to all students, and can only be taken on a Pass/Fail basis. Theatre Majors are required to participate in four department productions, and must serve as stage manager for one of them. Depending on their role in the production process, students will be admitted to Theatre Production courses by permission of the department Chair, following casting and the assembly of the artistic and production team. Students may participate in a production in one of three major roles: stage management, performing (actor or actress, musician, dancer, etc.), or non-performing (director, designer, dramaturge, choreographer, music director, production manager, etc.). Stage managers or performers should expect to be in rehearsals, generally scheduled during the evening hours from 6-10PM, for up to twenty hours per week during a five to ten-week long production process, as well as up to ten hours per day during tech weekend and up to six hours per day during the performance run of the show. Non-performing roles may be expected to be involved in the production process before the start of rehearsals, participating in meetings, auditions, as well as a post-mortem process for each show. Entrance into a production for actors and major artistic roles are based on competitive auditions or prior experience. There is no online registration. Repeatable course numbers are designated as follows: 291 (Stage Management Production I); 292 (Stage Management Production II); 293 (Stage Management Production III); 294 (Performing Role Production I); 295 (Performing Role Production II); 296 (Performing Role Production III); 297 (Non-Performing Role Production I); 298 (Non-Performing Role Production II); 299 (Non-Performing Role Production III). Evening courses and exams will take precedence over half credit courses. Students may still participate in department productions even if they choose not to enroll for credit. [ more ]

THEA 301Embodied Archives: Global Theatre and Performance Histories

Last offered Spring 2019

History shapes bodies and is, in turn, shaped by bodies. Whose story is included in the archive? Whose story is left out? What remains over time? What disappears? Why? As theatre and performance historians, our task will be twofold: to study the past but also to question how its been constructed over time. Our obligations will include: handling, analyzing, and contextualizing primary sources; giving equal value to textual and embodied forms of knowledge preservation; taking into account the gender, race, class, status, and ethnicity of the historical participants who occupy the archive; and asking who benefitted from the ideological systems of a given age and who did not. Performance histories to be considered include: West-African Yoruba ritual; pre-Columbian performance in Mesoamerica; ancient Greek civic festivals; labor and guild theatres of Medieval England; print and Kabuki cultures of the Japanese Edo period; eighteenth-century celebrity portraiture across the circum-Atlantic; U.S. Civil War photography and reenactment; and performance histories drawn from (or unseen by) the archives of Williams College. Our readings and approaches will be informed by leading performance and cultural studies critics, such as: Diana Taylor, Joseph Roach, Saidiya Hartman, Rebecca Schneider, Harvey Young, and Tavia Nyong'o. This course is required for Theatre majors and is a prerequisite for THEA 401. [ more ]

THEA 302 TScenic Design and Experimental Performance

Last offered Spring 2015

The artistic, intellectual, and practical roles of a set designer vary widely, from the spectacle of Broadway to the do-it-yourself ingenuity of downtown theater. In contemporary experimental theater designers are essential parts of the ensemble, contributing equally to devised work alongside directors, writers, performers and dramaturgs. Design is not viewed as a response to the script, but rather an initial condition: a world whose creation describes the limits of the play while also providing the necessary components for that play to exist. In this way the act of designing and the act of devising can be seen as inextricably entwined--even interchangeable. This course explores a range of techniques and methodologies utilized to create stage environments in traditional and experimental modes. Grounded in textual analysis and research, and emphasizing process, critique, and revision, we will create theoretical stage designs in response to a variety of performance texts. These may include plays, musicals, operas, physical- and dance-theater, and other work that is deeply grounded in the physicality of performer, spectator and performance environment. Emphasis will be on sketching and model-making as the primary means for developing and communicating design ideas Drafting and digital tools will also be factors in course work, which will include training and mentorship in all materials and craft. [ more ]

THEA 303Lighting Design

Last offered Spring 2016

A study of the art and techniques of stage lighting. This class will provide instruction in the basic physics of light and color; the use of angle, intensity, color, texture and movement of light as compositional tools; various kinds of stage lighting instruments and their uses; conceptual development of a lighting design; translation of concept into light plot and channel hookup; focusing the plot in the theater; and writing cues.The course will use texts and scores of plays, musicals, opera and dance to discover and evaluate the lighting design process. There will be primary source and supplemental technical readings for each class meeting. The class format will be a combination of lectures, discussions and practical labs. [ more ]

THEA 305(F)Project: Costume-Design, Performance, and Beyond

This course is an intensive study of costume design. Costume designers are always aware of the world around them. They look, listen, reflect, and record. They use inspiration, research, imagination, and innovation for their creations. They simultaneously observe the smallest detail while also picturing the larger world surrounding the pieces they develop. The course focuses on the designer's process, which entails in part: script analysis, collaboration, research, color theory, basic design principles, rendering techniques, fabric research, organizational skills, and presentation of designs. [ more ]

THEA 308Directing: Bodies in Space and Time

Last offered Fall 2018

This is a laboratory in which we will investigate the holistic art of directing live performance. The director is both a creator and interpreter. Students will sharpen their visual, spatial, sonic, and kinesthetic sensibilities while developing a clear, cogent directorial voice. We will learn by doing. Assignments will involve hands-on directing projects presented in class for collective critique. Through these weekly assignments, directors will devise and discover strategies for collaboration and vocabularies of action and intention. [ more ]

THEA 311Theorizing Shakespeare

Last offered Spring 2018

For complex reasons, Shakespeare has always revealed as much about those who speculate on him as the speculators have revealed about him. In this course, we will engage a few plays in considerable depth: The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet and Antony and Cleopatra. But we will also use these works as a means to engage some of the most compelling trends in recent critical thought, including cultural theory and post-Marxist analysis, political theology, deconstruction and rhetorical theory, psychoanalytic thought and theories of gender and sexuality. In some instances, we will look at applied criticism, in others we will simply place a theoretical work alongside a play and see what they have to say to each other, for instance, what would a Shakespearean reading of Jacques Lacan look like? [ more ]

THEA 317Black Migrations: African American Performance at Home and Abroad

Last offered Fall 2017

In this course, students will investigate, critique and define the concepts migration and diaspora with primary attention to the experiences of African Americans in the United States and Europe. Drawing on a broad definition of performance, students will explore everything from writing and painting to sports and dance to inquire how performance reflects, critiques and negotiates migratory experiences in the African diaspora. For example, how did musician Sidney Bechet's migration from New Orleans to Chicago to London influence the early jazz era? How did Katherine Dunham's dance performances in Germany help her shape a new black dance aesthetic? Why did writer James Baldwin go all the way to Switzerland to write his first novel on black, religious culture in Harlem? What drew actor/singer Paul Robeson to Russia, and why did the U.S. revoke his passport in response to his speeches abroad? These questions will lead students to investigate multiple migrations in the African diasporic experience and aid our exploration of the reasons for migration throughout history and geography. In addition to critical discussions and written analysis, students will explore these topics through their own individual and group performances in class. No prior performance experience is necessary. [ more ]

THEA 320(S)Marlowe and Shakespeare

In 1586, at the age of twenty-three, Christopher Marlowe wrote Tamburlaine the Great . Over the next six years-probably while moonlighting as a government spy-he went on to produce some of the strangest and also most influential works of English drama. Then in 1593, Marlowe was murdered, stabbed through the eye in a tavern brawl. It is often said that Marlowe's early death, no less than his early success, made the work of Shakespeare possible. In this class we will read Marlowe's Edward II , the first popular history play in English, and Shakespeare's Richard II ; The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice ; Doctor Faustus and Macbeth . We will look at ways in which Marlovian preoccupations-with lurid violence, with debasement, with self-invention-resurface in Shakespeare, in new forms. In the process we will also take up more general questions of literary influence: What do writers borrow from each other? And how does the knowledge of indebtedness-shared to varying degrees with an audience-affect the meaning and impact of their work? Critical readings will include essays by Harry Levin, Julia Lupton and Stephen Greenblatt. [ more ]

THEA 325 TA Room that Pretends to be Another Room: Scenography in Theory and Practice

Last offered Spring 2014

How have designers and directors thought about theatrical space? How successfully have their theories aligned with their practice? How are the ideas of the great European and American scenographers being re-imagined, reused, or abused on today's stages? In this tutorial we will take a hybrid approach to the study of scenography, blending theoretical, historical, and critical readings about stage design with a studio component that focuses on formulating an artistic response to those ideas. Our study of scenography will span a hundred years from Robert Edmund Jones to Nature Theater of Oklahoma, examining the ideas of Josef Svoboda, Bertolt Brecht and Caspar Neher, Mielziner, Lee, and Conklin; Wilson, Foreman, and The Wooster Group; and contemporary New York experimental theater. Assignments will alternate between writing short papers and creating preliminary scenic designs; both done in response to the designers or periods being examined in the readings. Introductory drawing and/or some scale model-making experience would be useful, but is not absolutely required. [ more ]

THEA 328American Social Dramas

Last offered Fall 2016

As Shakespeare wrote memorably in As You Like It, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." Sociologists have heeded Shakespeare's wisdom, arguing that social and political events are "performances" that take shape in accordance with familiar cultural scripts, and indeed that social actors implicitly interpret real-world events using plot structures from literary and dramatic genres such as romance, irony, comedy, and tragedy. We will explore this thesis through the lens of contemporary American political events, including the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, September 11, Hurricane Katrina, the 2012 presidential election, and current debates over Confederate symbolism. We will also pay careful attention to the unfolding drama associated with the 2016 presidential election. How do social performances and struggles to "control the narrative" shape the meanings and outcomes of political events? Are they merely "spectacles," or wellsprings for genuine civic participation? What role do political comedy, satire, and social media play in shaping the trajectory of contemporary events? Major authors will include Victor Turner, Clifford Geertz, J.L. Austin, Erving Goffman, and Jeffrey Alexander. Throughout the semester, each student will develop a significant project on a political event of their choosing. [ more ]

THEA 330(S)New Orleans as Muse: Literature, Music, Art, Film and Theatre in the City

This course will look at the representation of a city and how it has influenced artists. Students will read, listen to, and view a selection of the literature, music, film and art that represent the city from both pre-flooding and current re-building. Reading selections will include examples such as Harper's Weekly (Lafrcadio Hearn), The Awakening (Kate Chopin), A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams), The Moviegoer (Walker Percy), Why New Orleans Matters (Tom Piazza), A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy O'Toole), New Orleans Sketches (William Faulkner), One Dead in the Attic (Chris Rose). Film examples such as A Streetcar Named Desire, An Interview with a Vampire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, When the Levees Broke, Treme, Waiting for Godot (in the 9th Ward). Music selections from examples such as Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, The Meters, Kermit Ruffins and the Rebirth Brass Band. Art selections will come from a variety of sources such as THE OGDEN Museum of Southern Art and Prospect 1, 2, & 3. [ more ]

THEA 332Writing in the Margins: Race, Performance, Playgiarism

Last offered Fall 2018

There is no such thing as an original play. So says playwright Chuck Mee. Someone else, certainly, said it before him. What does it mean to own a story? This seminar/studio course proceeds from a historical understanding that writing and performance are, and have always been, practices of plagiarism. We begin by looking at how bodies, thoughts, and words come to be understood as ownable property in the modern era, and how that process of commodification is inextricably tied to colonialism and the production of race. How do performance and bodily practices trouble our ideas about individual ownership? We look to writers and other artists of color who have plundered "classic" texts and radically reclaimed the colonial canon. We will read intertextual works by Suzan-Lori Parks, Young Jean Lee, Salman Rushdie, Cherrie Moraga, and others. Taking these artists as inspiration, students will choose a text as source material and write in the margins of that text to create new, re-visioned work. [ more ]

THEA 335The Culture of Carnival

Last offered Fall 2018

Carnival is a regenerative festival as well as a transgressive one. It is a time for upheavals and recreating for one day, a new world order. Men dress as women, women dress as men, the poor become kings; drink and sex and outrageous behavior is sanctioned. We will look at festivals in such places as New Orleans, Venice, and Rio. Central to this course are the cultural and religious lives of these societies, and how these festivals exist politically in a modern world as theatre and adult play. A variety of sources will be used, such as newspaper accounts, films, photography, personal memoirs and essays on the subject. [ more ]

THEA 336Boucicault to McDonagh: Irish Theatre, 1870 to the present

Last offered Fall 2018

A survey of Irish drama since 1870, to include plays by Dion Boucicault, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, J.M. Synge, Lady Gregory, George Bernard Shaw, Douglas Hyde, Sean O'Casey, Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan, Brian Friel, Marina Carr, Frank McGuinness, Conor McPherson, and Martin McDonagh. [ more ]

THEA 338(S)Persona

Like novelists, visual artists create fictional characters to tell stories. Conceptual artist Adrian Piper, sculptor Joseph Beuys, and collective The Yes Men have crafted personas to confront systems of power and societally constructed notions of normalcy. Students will explore the work of such artists through readings, class lecture and assignments. The reading list includes excerpts from Maggie Nelson's The art of Cruelty and Cherise Smith's Enacting Others.The first half of the course will focus on guided assignments developed by the instructor, the second half will be an independent study culminating in the construction of your own fictional persona. Students will use a variety of methods in the development of a persona including writing and photography, and may employ other methods including painting, sculpture, and digital media. [ more ]

THEA 339Introduction to Dramaturgy: The Art of Adaptation

Last offered Fall 2016

The dramaturge is an important collaborator in the theatrical production process, playing the multi-faceted role of historian, cultural critic, audience educator, and supporter of the production team. Working closely with the director and design team, the dramaturge helps to shape a production and facilitate the demanding process of creating a world on stage. This advanced seminar course will introduce students to the fundamentals of production dramaturgy, applying our study of the practice to the more focused topic of the dramaturge's role as an adaptor and translator in the creative process of theatre making. As a major creative dramaturgical project for the course, students will choose a mythical or classical inspirational source (textual, visual, musical, or otherwise) and adapt it into a written performance piece. Along with creating our own projects, we will explore how contemporary writers, such as Tarell McCraney, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Amy Herzog, Elfriede Jelinek, and Anne Washburn, have adapted source material by engaging with ethnography, dramaturgical research, and archival digging. [ more ]

THEA 341Performing Utopia: Dreaming Cultures Forward in the U.S. Imaginary

Last offered NA

A seminar examining the performative dimensions of utopia and the utopian aspirations of performance. Using a case-study model, we will consider how different modes of performance---in theatre, film, art, and social media---have helped to produce and sustain utopian and new socialities in and across shifting temporalities in the U.S. cultural imaginary. This course will take deep dives into the archives and embodied repertoires of exemplary utopian movements drawn artistic and social spheres. What can be learned by setting the eighteenth-century spiritual collective of The Shakers beside the egalitarian performance collective of The Wooster Group? What are some key differences between the urban vision of the inclusive, African-American-built enclave of Soul City, established in North Carolina in 1973, and the Afro-futurist conception of Wakanda depicted in the film Black Panther? In what ways might Silicon Valley's use of performance to promote the utopian promises of social media compare with the performative manipulations of ego-driven utopian cults, like Jim Jones' The People's Temple? On the flip side, we will examine how performance has been theorized as a productively utopian realm by critics like Jill Dolan and Jose E. Muñoz, and artists like Miguel Gutierrez, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Faye Driscoll, Theaster Gates, Nick Cave, and Taylor Mac. What possibilities open up when we approach performance as utopian by design, based on its ability to gather people into a common space and time? Students will be required to attend a day field trip and performances. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

THEA 345Contemporary Theatre and Performance

Last offered Spring 2019

As Gertrude Stein once remarked, "The hardest thing is to know one's present moment." What is going on in the world of theatre and performance today? What are the hot topics in our current artistic landscape? Who are the writers, performers, and directors of the past two decades? This seminar will consider both experimental and mainstream drama and performance from the twenty-first century, focusing on topics such as: post-dramatic theatre, devised performance, social practice, participatory and immersive theatre, hyper-naturalism, post-identity performance, and weird theatre. Artists and collectives to be considered may include: Suzan-Lori Parks, Will Eno, Richard Maxwell and the NYC Players, Young Jean Lee, Annie Baker, Lucas Hnath, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Anne Washburn, Taylor Mac, Lynn Nottage, Stephen Adly Guirgus, Miguel Gutierrez, Elevator Repair Service, The Wooster Group, and Nature Theatre of Oklahoma. As a final project, students will work individually or in small groups to create a script or short performance that addresses the question: "What is the most important story to be telling through performance right now?" Students may be required to attend theatre, dance, and other performances at the '62 Center and beyond. [ more ]

THEA 346To Be Or Not To Be: Theatrical Decision-Making

Last offered Spring 2011

In this advanced acting course, students will examine a wide range of motivations, decisions, mistakes, and consequences that dramatic characters encounter. Through discussions and analysis of selected play, students will find key moments that define tragedy, and will explore the ways in which characters change their behavior to resolve conflict. How do characters respond to problems? Could they make better choices? What can we change about our own decision-making? How do we protect ourselves from mistakes? Fundamental dilemmas will be examined through theory and improvisation. The results of our exploration will be presented in a final performance. This theatrical experience will prepare students for future challenges on the stage of life. [ more ]

THEA 350Devised Performance: The Art of Embodied Inquiry

Last offered Spring 2018

This studio course offers students hands-on experience in devising new performance work as an ensemble. Looking to the work of practitioners and collectives like Jerzy Grotowski, El Teatro Campesino, Tectonic Theater Project, Pina Bausch, Belarus Free Theatre, Nrityagram, and SITI Company, we will challenge ourselves to really probe what live performance is capable of. How might we think of performance as a research methodology? As a lifestyle? As a form of political action? This class will function as a laboratory, forming its own unique structure for developing and realizing a live performance. The course provides an opportunity to navigate the complex dynamics present in collaborative creation. Guest classes with practitioners will offer a fuller range of skills for the student ensemble to utilize during the devising process. Work-in-progress presentations spaced regularly throughout the semester will allow the ensemble to receive feedback from small, invited audiences, as well as the opportunity to apply that critique to an ongoing creative process. At the end of the semester the accumulated work will have a public presentation in a workshop format. [ more ]

Taught by: Shayok Misha Chowdhury

Catalog details

THEA 365Beckett, Pinter and Stoppard

Last offered Fall 2017

Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard have been amongst the most influential playwrights of the anglophone theatre over much of the last six decades. This course will explore their mutual concern with the capacities and dysfunctions of language, their questioning of Art's value and the scope for originality in the post-nuclear and postmodern era, and, above all, their collective focus on the extent to which selfhood may be realized in and through performance. Besides reading major plays, we will also give some consideration to the dramatic work crafted by these writers for radio, television and film, and to the political and social commitments animating and counterpointing their literary careers. Readings may include: Endgame, The Caretaker, Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Krapp's Last Tape, The Homecoming, No Man's Land, Betrayal, Waiting for Godot, Dogg's Hamlet, The Invention of Love, Arcadia, Rock 'n' Roll, Not I, Rockaby, A Kind of Alaska, Catastrophe, The Real Thing, Indian Ink, Artist Descending a Staircase and One for the Road. Throughout, we will give consideration to these works as both literary and theatrical texts. [ more ]

THEA 385The Sculptural Costume and It's Performance Potential

Last offered Spring 2019

A team-taught studio art / theatre course designed to explore the rich territory of the wearable sculpture and its generative role in art and performance. From ritual costumes, to Carnival, to Dada performance, to Bauhaus dance, to Helio Oiticica's Parangole, and Nick Cave's sound-suits, there has been a rich tradition where sculpture and costumes merge. Students will study artists who have bridged distinctions between the theatrical costume and the sculptural object as well as produce hybrid objects that explore the range of possibilities within this collaborative practice. The students will produce object-costumes involving a wide variety of media, from recycled materials to new technologies, while striving to develop their individual artistic voices. [ more ]

THEA 401(F)Senior Seminar: Practicing Theory

Humans seek out patterns and weave them into stories. In a collaborative art like theater those pattern pieces can come from anyone: writer or director, designer or performer; the stagehand placing furniture, the stage manager calling cues. The story is made from the totality of everything experienced by the audience. A relationship between storytelling and audience experience is hardly unique to the theatre. Chefs and game designers and performance artists and architects have all thought deeply about how what they make is experienced by their audience; how it is interacted with, used, and recalled after the experience has ended. How do artists and makers from a broad range of ephemeral disciplines approach the creation of an experience? How do they tell stories within and about the work that is created? How successfully do their theories align with their practice, and how might we re-imagine, reuse, or abuse their ideas in our own work for the live theater? As a culmination of performance studies for the Theatre major, this senior seminar will take a hybrid approach to the study of artist-audience interactivity and storytelling by blending theoretical, historical, and critical readings with a studio component that produces artistic responses to the ideas being studied. [ more ]

THEA 416(S)Senior Seminar: The Art of Minor Resistance: Advanced Readings in Race, Gender, Performance

This seminar will study stagings and aesthetic theories of dissent in feminist, queer, anti-colonial, and anti-racist performance. An attunement to performance and to the minor is also a turn toward minoritarian knowledges and lifeworlds. Of interest will be modes of sensing and relating that are not often legible as political--including aesthetics of opacity, quiet, disaffection, aloofness, and inscrutability--but could be understood as critiques of political recognition. Performance is a capacious rubric in this class that will include performance art, social media, photography, music videos, poetry, street protest, and everyday life. Students will learn to describe, interpret, and theorize performance through discussion, writing, and creative form. [ more ]

THEA 455(F, S)Advanced Practicum

This independently designed practicum offers an opportunity for students to gain practical, hands-on experience in theatre at an advanced level by receiving course credit for serving as an assistant to a faculty member on a Theatre Department production. Students interested in assisting a faculty member or guest artist on a production in any non-acting capacity--directing, design (costume, lighting, multimedia, scenic, sound), dramaturgy, or technical management--may enroll in the Advanced Practicum, pending the approval of a designated faculty advisor as well as the Department Chair. Working closely with the faculty advisor, the student will both serve as an assistant on the production and design a curriculum of readings and assignments intended to complement the experience of the assistantship. If funding allows, practitioners in the professional theatre will be invited as guest evaluators. Though the nature of each assistantship will vary according to the demands of each production, the experience of the assistantship will ideally simulate that which a student might undertake within the professional theatre. [ more ]

THEA 493(F)Senior Honors Thesis: Theatre

Theatre senior honors thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). [ more ]

THEA 494(S)Senior Honors Thesis: Theatre

Theatre senior honors thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). [ more ]