Courses

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

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 Beyonce. 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

This course is centered on the body and aims to activate all the senses, the energy within the body, emotions, voice and imagination. Students will explore how to enter a state of freedom and control, which is useful for any profession as it gets people to dive into their authenticity, and to gain ownership of their original qualities. The training of this class consists of physical and grounding techniques, physical and vocal training, exploration of impulses, ensemble work, improvisation, exploring words and ownership of text, building a character and elements of performance. [ more ]

Taught by: Georgios Karamalegkos

Catalog details

THEA 120(F)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 ]

Taught by: Allana Clarke

Catalog details

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: Staging and Design For The Theater

This course examines the designer's and director's creative processes as they work together to imagine the fictional worlds of theatrical productions. Over a series of practical projects in staging, mise-en-scene, and various design disciplines, we will develop techniques for eliciting an initial creative response to a text, developing that response into a point-of-view, and solving the practical needs of the production. Particular emphasis is placed on how design elements synthesize with one another and the work of the actors and director, to form the larger intellectual, emotional, and physical context of the work as a whole. Students will adopt various creative roles throughout a series of assigned projects, giving a broad exposure to the work of designers and directors. Basic presentation skills and technique, as well as methodologies for critical feedback, will be taught as crucial elements of staging and design development. [ more ]

THEA 202(F)Ways of Knowing: Music, Movement, Memory

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 ]

Taught by: Shayok Misha Chowdhury

Catalog details

THEA 204(S)Acting: Scene Work

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 ]

Taught by: Jackson Gay

Catalog details

THEA 205The Actor's Instrument

Not offered this year

Building on the Stanislavski-based imagination and characterization skills cultivated in Acting I, this course will focus on developing the actor's physical instrument, ensemble awareness and composition skills to stage scenes from plays that use highly poetic language. The physical regimen will combine the six core disciplines of the Suzuki Method of Actor Training with elements of Hatha Yoga, Barba's "Danza del Viento", rudimentary Viewpoints, vocal exercises based on the resonator work of Meredith Monk and Roy Hart, Alexander Technique and Skinner-based speech drills. As the poetic body and awareness of each other expands, students will work individually and in groups to apply their newfound physicality and perceptions to Shakespearean texts with progressively more time dedicated to composition work, monologues and scenes as the course progresses. [ more ]

THEA 207(S)Acting: Physical Theatre

This course, available to all students interested in theatre, will focus on particular aspects of performance as determined by the instructor in each semester in which the course is taught. Topics may include acting in verse drama, movement for the actor, voice, performing Shakespeare, aspects of physical theatre, non-realist acting, etc. The course will be taught by members of the Theatre faculty and/or Guest Artists, and may be repeated by students as instructors and topics change. Texts and reading assignments will vary depending on each semester's focus. This semester this course will focus on processes of Physical Theatre. The class is open to students interested in developing their ability in communication through the art of physical story telling and mime. 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 ]

Taught by: Bill Bowers

Catalog details

THEA 208(F)Voice, Speech & Song for the Actor

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 209Public Speaking: Traditions and Practice

Not offered this year

Effective oral communication skills are necessary for any student, regardless of major or area of concentration. This course is designed to give students an introduction into the fundamentals of oral communication. We will discuss the critical role of both speakers and listeners within the transactional process of communication. Together we will explore African American oratorical traditions through viewing, listening to, and reading speeches from notable figures such as Frederick Douglass, Fannie Lou Hamer, Barak Obama, and many others. With an emphasis placed on Aristotelian and African American rhetorical methods of persuasion, evidence-based research, and organization, students will gain a better understanding of what it means to be an ethical and responsible communicator. Students will give three formal speech presentations with a focus on informative and persuasive elements. Through discussions, lectures, activities, readings, and speech presentations, students will develop meaningful skills to effectively communicate in the public setting. [ more ]

THEA 212 TFrom Stage to Page: Writing about Dance

Not offered this year

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 214Playwriting

Not offered this year

A studio course designed for those interested in writing and creating works for the theatre. The course will include a study of playwriting in various styles and genres, a series of set exercises involving structure and the use of dialogue, as well as individual projects. We will read and we will write, beginning with small exercises and working toward a longer final project. Students will be expected to share in and respond to each other's work on a weekly basis, and to present their own work regularly. At the end of the term, we will share our collaborative work with the community as part of an open studio experience. [ more ]

Taught by: Basil Kreimendahl

Catalog details

THEA 215(S)Global Approaches to Dance: 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 215(F)Performance Ethnography: Global Approaches to Dance

The course aims to explore the theory, practice, and ethics of ethnographic research with a focus on dance and performance ethnography. 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) will read ethnographic studies of dance and performance practices from different parts of the world, and (iii) will do field research in the local community for their own ethnographic projects. This is primarily a discussion-based seminar course and will include fieldwork, attendance at live performances, film screenings, workshop with guest artists etc. No previous dance experience required. [ more ]

THEA 225(F)Gender and Sexuality in Asian American Theater

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 ]

Taught by: Vivian Huang

Catalog details

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

Not offered this year

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 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 241(F)Performing Masculinity in Global Popular Culture

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 243Opera Since Einstein

Not offered this year

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)Introduction to Theatre Technology

As an overview of performance spaces, theatrical design technologies, technical production methods and management practices, this course will give students a practical working knowledge of theatre technology and organization. The course will cover standard industry tools and working methods for design disciplines including: scenery, lighting, costumes, sound, multimedia. Students will attend lectures, participate in labs in design and technical production, and will be required to participate on the production crew of one or more departmental productions. [ more ]

Taught by: Emily Rea

Catalog details

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

Not offered this year

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 247 TMusic for Theater Production

Not offered this year

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 248The Modern Theatre: Plays and Performance

Not offered this year

This seminar will examine major trends in global theatre and performance from the turn of the nineteenth century through the postwar period. We will explore a variety of national traditions, comparing and positioning works in the context of revolutionary transformations of theatre practice. Artists to be considered may include: Strindberg, Ibsen, Wilde, Chekhov, Shaw, Pirandello, Treadwell, Artaud, O'Neill, Hughes, Stein, Williams, Hansberry, Al-Hakim, Brecht, Beckett, Abe, Genet, Soyinka, Pinter, Albee, Wilson, Gambaro, and Fornes. Although emphasis will be given to textual analysis and close reading, we will also consider trends in acting, directing, design, theatre architecture and the actor/audience relationship whenever possible. [ more ]

THEA 250 TGender, Sexuality and Modern Performance

Not offered this year

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, Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, Eve K. Sedgwick, Jill Dolan, Jose Esteban Mu?oz, David Roman, and Donna Haraway. This course meets the criteria of the Exploring Diversity Initiative as it draws focus towards the diversity of race, class and ethnicity represented by the subjects of our study as well as towards the political power of theatre and performance. [ more ]

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

Not offered this year

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 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 (spectacular and quotidian) while reading theoretical texts to grapple with concepts including ritual, restored behavior, performativity, mimicry, liveness, the body, objecthood, archive, and movement. [ more ]

Taught by: Vivian Huang

Catalog details

THEA 275 T(S)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 282(S)Writing for Performance

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, Maria Irene Fornes, 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 ]

Taught by: Shayok Misha Chowdhury

Catalog details

THEA 285(S)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 ]

Taught by: Jason Simms

Catalog details

THEA 302 TScenic Design and Experimental Performance

Not offered this year

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

Not offered this year

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)Costume Design

This course is both an introductory and an intensive study of the art of costume design. The course focuses on the designer's process: script analysis, collaboration, research, color theory, basic design principles, rendering techniques, fabric research, organizational skills and presentation of designs. [ more ]

THEA 307(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 ]

Taught by: Jackson Gay

Catalog details

THEA 311(S)Theorizing Shakespeare

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 312(F)Applying the Actor's Instrument

Based on the technique and scene work completed in THEA 205, this course continues to develop the actor's personal and group practice, incorporating more advanced exercises in the Suzuki Method of Actor Training, Hatha yoga, Odin Teatret's "danza de viento", and introducing use of object, improvisation and emotional states work. Building on the Shakespearean soliloquy, dialogue and scene work of THEA 205, this course concentrates on acting ancient Greek tragedy and comedy, with increased focus on extended monologue, divine address, "theatre of witness" and choral work while building an awareness of theatre as a public forum. The course culminates in a final public performance. [ more ]

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

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 322Race, Gender, and Performance from Literature to Social Media

Not offered this year

How can contemporary performance expand ideas and practices of belonging in the United States, as figured through race, gender, and sexuality? This spring course will begin with readings of dramatic literature including Suzan-Lori Parks's Venus, David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, and Young Jean Lee's The Shipment to analyze literary and staged performance, then continue to discussions and readings on the performance of everyday life via the work of performance artists including Adrian Piper, Nao Bustamante, and Yoko Ono. We will develop shared vocabulary and methodologies of performance studies, including readings by scholars including J.L. Austin, Judith Butler, and Jose Esteban Mu?oz. This course will engage foundational texts to performance studies and offer an interdisciplinary approach to scholarship in gender and sexuality studies, critical ethnic studies, and performance studies from the 1970s to the present. This course recognizes a suspicion for diversity discourses that universalize human experience and asks: how do we resist normativizing forces without reinforcing the regulating logics of those forces? This EDI course will critically engage with diversity from the heterogeneous and multiple perspectives of racial, sexual, and gender minorities, asking students not only to examine the diversity of human experience but to explore the political stakes of creative expression through interdisciplinary methods and forms. [ more ]

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

Not offered this year

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

Not offered this year

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 335The Culture of Carnival

Not offered this year

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 340(S)Theatre in an Age of Apartheid

"Separate Development;" "Good Neighborliness"; "Separate But Equal." Such terminology has been used to rationalize apartheid, a policy by which segregation and discrimination are enacted on the grounds of race. While it is tempting to view apartheid as a historical condition, popularly equated with South Africa, the policy continues to be applied, albeit sometimes more covertly, throughout the world today. How has the art form of theatre both arisen under and been used to challenge apartheid, as well as other race-based discriminatory systems? In this course, we will consider plays and productions from the apartheid era in South Africa, as well as in other countries where theatre has addressed this notion of "separateness". We will look back at them from the vantage point of where we find ourselves in 2018, as a way to understand what part apartheid still plays in our societies, wherever they may be. Works to be considered include: Sarafina! by Mbongeni Ngema and Hugh Masekela; Woza Albert! by John Kani and Winston Ntshona; You Strike the Woman You Strike the Rock by Phyllis Klotz, Thobeka Maqhutyama, Nomvula Qosha, and Poppy Tsira; "Master Harold"...and the boys by Athol Fugard; Born in the RSA by Barney Simon and the Company; The Peacock Of Silwan by Chen Alon and Company; A Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry; Dutchman by Amiiri Baraka; Funny House of a Negro by Adrienne Kennedy; Showboat (The musical) by Rodgers & Hammerstein; The Admission by Motti Lerner; Ani Ha-shoah by Natali Cohen Vaxberg. (One of the plays that we will study, "Master Harold"...and the boys by Athol Fugard, will be produced by the Theatre Department in the spring of 2018). [ more ]

THEA 342Acting: Solo Performance

Not offered this year

This is an acting course in which students will study the art and skill of monologue. We will look at the concepts of soliloquy and monologue and "one-person performance", both from the points of view of content, and context--that is the relationship between the performer and the work, and between the performer and the audience. The course will culminate in a performance during the Theatre Department's annual Dialogue One Festival. [ more ]

THEA 345Contemporary Theatre and Performance

Not offered this year

As Gertrude Stein once remarked, "The hardest thing is to know one's present moment." What is going on in theatre and performance today? What are the hot topics? Who are the writers, performers, and directors of our recent past and present moment? This seminar course will consider both experimental and mainstream drama and performance mainly in the U.S. from the past twenty years, focusing on topics such as: postmodern performance, theatre of images, auteur-directors, new realism, identity theatre, eco-theatre, performance art, postdramatic theatre, devised performance, virtuosic theatre, immersive theatre, social practice, neo-collectivism, and more. As part of the seminar, students will conduct individual research on selected topics and present their findings through oral reports. Students will be required to attend theatre, dance and other performances at the '62 Center. Artists and groups considered may include: The Wooster Group, Richard Foreman, Robert Wilson, Meredith Monk, Edward Albee, Maria Irene Fornes, Sam Shepard, Caryl Churchill, Tony Kushner, Suzan-Lori Parks, Sarah Kane, Will Eno, Richard Maxwell, Young Jean Lee, Annie Baker, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Quiara Alegria Hudes, Anne Washburn, Elevator Repair Service, Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, The Civilians, and many others. 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 right now?" [ more ]

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

Not offered this year

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 350(S)Devised Performance: The Art of Embodied Inquiry

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 361 T(F)Writing about Bodies

The goal is to think about describing bodies from a variety of disciplinary approaches and genres of writing. Its focus is on living bodies, or bodies that were once alive, with an emphasis on bodies that move i.e., performing bodies--actors, dancers, singers--and what makes them unique. We will also consider objects associated with bodies, and the ways they are animated, including how they are animated when the person who had them dies. The course is meant for juniors, seniors, and graduate students who wish to analyze bodies from different disciplinary formations--art, theatre, literature, anthropology, philosophy--and who have a particular interest in writing. We will read scholarly writing, fiction, New Yorker profiles, as well as memoir/autobiography, and take each as a model through which to write about a person or an object redolent of a person. Among possible readings: Roland Barthes on cultural theory and representation; Claudia Rankine and Robin Coste Lewis on black bodies; Tamar Garb on portraiture; Elaine Scarry on the body in pain; Joan Acocella, Hilton Als, Judith Thurman and other writers on the arts; Judith Butler and Peggy Phelan on the performative body; Marvin Carlson and Terry Castle on haunting; and Bill Brown and Mark Doty on things. In addition to readings, assignments include performances at the '62 Center and works on view at WCMA, as well as selected tapes of live performances as well as films and selected tapes of live performances. [ more ]

THEA 365(F)Beckett, Pinter and Stoppard

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

Not offered this year

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 402(F)Senior Seminar: The Antigone Project

What is the role of the individual in the making and sustaining of democracy? Conversely, what is the state's role in upholding democratic rule? Such questions-while pressing in our contemporary social and political climate-reside at the core of one of the most foundational works of the ancient Athenian context: Sophocles' Antigone. For the Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature, students will spend the semester exploring in depth the single work of Antigone, approaching it through various lenses: theoretical, historical, social, philosophical, political, literary, performative, and creative. Over the term, we will explore the richness and meaning of Antigone by understanding it as performance, social practice, text, translation, and adaptation (in works by artists such as Jean Anouilh, Bertolt Brecht, Seamus Heaney, Griselda Gambaro, Karen Hartman, and Lynn Nottage, and in theory by Aristotle, Hegel, Lacan, Butler, and Zizek). Assignments will include: four 1- to 2-page writing reflections, a 6- to 8-page midterm paper, an oral presentation, and group collaboration. As a major final assignment, students will work individually to complete a 15- to 20-page translation or adaptation that envisions their own creative, curatorial, and critical approach to Antigone. This course is a requirement for senior Comparative Literature majors and is also open, with permission of the instructor, to advanced students undertaking the major in units such as Theatre, English, Classics, and Art. [ more ]

THEA 406(S)Senior Seminar: Putting Theory into Practice

Designer Richard Hudson defined scenography as, "Choosing what the audience will see." However, this task can't be limited to the scenery or lighting or costumes, but must be the responsibility of everyone involved: director and designer, performer and playwright, stagehand and board operator. It is the Wagnerian gesamtkunstwerk: the totality of everything that is experienced by the audience. How have designers, directors, and performers of the last century approached the creation and articulation of these onstage worlds? How successfully did they align their theories with their practice, and how are their ideas being re-imagined, reused, and abused on today's stages? As a culmination of performance studies for the Theatre major, this senior seminar will take a hybrid approach to the study of scenography by blending theoretical, historical, and critical readings with a studio component that produces artistic responses to those ideas. [ more ]

THEA 439Introduction to Dramaturgy: The Art of Adaptation

Not offered this year

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 455(F)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 ]