Sibyl Kempson

Undergraduate Discipline


Current undergraduate courses

Creative Impulse: The Process of Writing for the Stage


In this course, the vectors of pure creative impulse hold sway over the process of writing for the stage, and we write ourselves into unknown territory. Students are encouraged to set aside received and preconceived notions of what it means to write plays or to be a writer—along with ideas of what a play is “supposed to” or “should” look like—in order to locate their own authentic ways of seeing and making. In other words, disarm the rational, judgmental thinking that is rooted in a concept of a final product and empower the chaotic, spatial, associative processes that put us in immediate formal contact with our direct experience, impressions, and perceptions of reality. Emphasis on detail, texture, and contiguity will be favored over the more widely accepted, reliable, yet sometimes limiting Aristotelian virtues of structure and continuity in the making of meaningful live performance. Readings will be tailored to fit the thinking of the class. We will likely look at theoretical and creative writings of Gertrude Stein, George Steiner, Mac Wellman, Maria Irene Fornes, Adrienne Kennedy, Mircea Eliade, Kristen Kosmas, RichardMaxwell, and Roland Barthes, as well as work that crosses into visual art realms and radical scientific thought from physicists David Bohm and F. David Peat. The course will be conducted in workshop fashion with strong emphasis on the tracking and documenting of process.


Previous courses

Experiments in Language and Form


In this class, we focus on writing “experimental theatre”; that is, we experiment with theatrical forms that extend beyond traditional portrayals of time, three-dimensional space, language, character, and dramatic structure to discover the impact that different types of onstage presentations might have on audiences. We are not interested in imitating the style of “experimental” playwrights but, rather, using their texts as influence, stimulus, and encouragement as we attempt our own “experiments.” As we investigate various experimental playwrights—Beckett, Ionesco, Arrabal, Adrienne Kennedy—we will seek to ascertain the political, spiritual, psychological, and social elements that influenced the creation of their works. Our aim, first and foremost, is to investigate and explore ways to genuinely investigate and give theatrical expression to our own personal, political, and spiritual interior lives, values, observations, and beliefs. We will then examine the most effective manner of communicating our theatrical experiments to an audience. Our experimental writing will include multimedia presentations as part of the scripted onstage play or performance.