/ Graduate Catalogue / Theatre / 2013-2014

Dramaturgy - Graduate

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Dramaturgy is the study of dramatic structure—how plays are built and how they work. Although every play worth its salt works according to its own idiosyncratic plan, still there are certain principles that allow us take it apart in order to better understand how it was put together. There are many ways to do this, and we will be trying a wide assortment of them. For example, we will study two plays that utilize the same dramaturgical devices but to very different ends. This might involve looking at, say, both Sophocles’ Electra and Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge in order to examine classical structure; or comparing Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy to Shakespeare’s Hamlet in order to see the guiding principles of Elizabethan drama; or reading Augier’s simple-minded Olympe’s Marriage side by side with Ibsen’s great Hedda Gabler; or tracing the development of expressionism over the course of the 20th century from O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones to Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro. We will also look at how two plays may tell the same story but with different plots and using different dramaturgical principles. For this we might examine Euripides’ Hippolytus, Racine’s Phaedre, and Sarah Kane’s Phaedre’s Love; or Shakespeare’s King Lear and Nahum Tate’s neoclassical version of it (in which the end of the play finds Lear presiding at the wedding of Cordelia and Edgar); or the Orestes story from Aeschylus’ The Oresteia and Euripides’ Orestes to Sartre’s The Flies. The examination of multiple drafts of plays is often the surest way to see inside the playwright’s mind; fortunately, we have complete early drafts of plays that, after revision, became masterpieces. We might study Chekhov’s early manuscript of The Wood Demon in order to compare it to the play it became in Uncle Vanya; or look at Tennessee Williams’ early flop, Battle of Angels (which closed in Boston after nearly burning down the theatre), and its later reworking as Orpheus Descending. There are many other possibilities as well: faux folk drama in the form of Ansky’s great horror-thriller, The Dybbuk, or Lorca’s Blood Wedding; ritualistic drama from Genet’s The Maids to Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; farce from Feydeau A Flea in Her Ear to Guare’s House of Blue Leaves. Because an understanding of genre is essential to the work we will do, a working knowledge of the principal genres (classicism, Elizabethan, neoclassicism, realism, naturalism, expressionism, etc.) and their historical context is required for the course. This class meets twice a week.