Theatre Courses

The Sarah Lawrence College Theatre program embraces the collaborative nature of theatre. Our objective is to create theatre artists who are skilled in many disciplines: actors who write; directors who act; theatre makers who create their own projects; and sound, set, and lighting designers who are well-versed in new media and puppetry.

Students have the advantage of choosing from a multidisciplinary curriculum taught by working theatre professionals that also draws on the resources of the College’s Theatre, Music, and Dance programs. At the heart of this curriculum are focused programs in acting, directing, playwriting, and design, with supplementary offerings in production and technical work. Theatre students are encouraged to cross disciplines as they investigate all areas of theatre. The faculty is committed to active theatre training—students learn by doing—and have put together a vocabulary that stresses relationships among classical, modern, and original texts. The program uses a variety of approaches to build technique, while nurturing individual artistic directions. The Theatre program examines not just contemporary American performance but also diverse cultural and historical influences that precede our own. Courses include Alexander Technique, acting, comedic and dramatic improvisation, creation of original work, design, directing, movement, musical theatre, playwriting, puppetry, speech, solo performance, voice, and the art of bringing theatre into the local community.

2018-2019 Courses

Theatre

The Broadway Musical: Something Great Is Coming

Component—Year

For some 60 years, roughly from 1920 to 1980, the Broadway musical was in its Golden Age. The subjects were for adults, the lyrics were for the literate, and the music had a richness and depth of expression never since equaled in American composition. That music evolved from three separate strands—Jewish, African, and European—and the libretti sprung from a great vibrant stew that included vaudeville, burlesque, operetta, minstrel shows, musical comedy-farce, and musical extravaganza. We’ll study how these widely disparate forms began to coalesce in the 1920s into the quintessentially brash, toe-tapping, effervescent Broadway form known as “musical comedy.” Then we’ll watch as Oscar Hammerstein II, paired with a new collaborator, Richard Rodgers, revolutionized the form with the so-called “integrated musical.” Beginning with Oklahoma!, R&H (as they were universally known) insisted on putting the story first and making the songs—along with everything else—serve that story. The inevitable apotheosis of their efforts is the musical play of the 1950s, and we’ll end this section by looking at several of them. Finally, the musical showed yet another face: the “concept musical”—Broadway’s answer to cubist painting. It took a subject and looked at it from every conceivable angle except one: a plot. We’ll end the year by looking at Stephen Sondheim’s two great concept musical masterpieces: Company, which deconstructs marriage, intimacy, and friendship; and Follies, a meditation on mortality and time itself.

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The Art of Improvising: Athletics of the Creative Mind

Component—Fall

We will explore techniques for spontaneous behavior, immediate creation, and developing your creativity and truth on stage. The goal of the class exercises will be to build community and collaboration, to deepen your communication skills, and to strengthen your natural sense of humor. We will study the works of Viola Spolin, Keith Johnstone, Upright Citizens Brigade, and Second City.

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The Actor's Laboratory

Component—Year

This class will meet twice a week.

This class is a laboratory for the actor; it is designed for actors with some experience and who are ready to search for the steps to a fully involved performance. We will explore the theories and techniques of Stanislavski and Grotowski. We will read Stanislavski in Rehearsal, by Vasili Torporkov, and At Work with Grotowski on Physical Action, by Thomas Richards. Throughout the semester, each student will work on one 10-minute scene from a major playwright.

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Sound Design I: Intro to Sound Design

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

This course serves as an introduction to theatrical sound design that explores the theory of sound, basic design principles, editing and playback software, content creation, and basic system design. The course examines the function and execution of sound in theatre, cinema, and interdisciplinary forms. Through field recording, sampling, nonlinear audio editing, and performance software, students will learn the basic tools needed to build and execute sound designs for theatre and audio installations. Students will be assigned to design a current theatrical production in the second semester of the course.

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NOW PLAYING: Theatre at This Moment

Component—Fall

This class meets twice a week.

This course looks at playwright theatre makers whose works are in direct response to the events and forces that play upon us now. Among the list of playwrights whose works may be read and discussed are Annie Baker, Paula Vogel, Branden Jacob-Jenkins, Ayad Akhtar, Lynn Nottage, Will Eno, Olivia Dufault, Rajiv Joseph, and David Henry Hwang, among others. NOW PLAYING addresses the relevance of theatre in the 21st century. Do plays matter? Has the form been exhausted? Or is there a need now, more than ever, for what theatre can distinctly provide? NOW PLAYING is a one-semester, discussion-based seminar. Portions of plays will be read aloud in class to facilitate discussions.

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Introduction to Projection Design

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

This course is an introduction to theatrical projection design that explores design principles, content creation, video editing, media server and playback software, basic projection system design, and digital show control. Through text analysis, visual research, and lab experiments, the course examines the role of video projection in theatre and interdisciplinary forms and prepares participants to create video designs for their own work and to integrate video with other media.

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History and Histrionics: A History of Western Theatre

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

You will explore 2,500 years of Western drama to discover how dramaturgical ideas can be traced from their origins in fifth-century Greece to 20th-century Nigeria, with many stops in between. We will try to understand how a play is constructed rather than simply written and how how each succeeding epoch has both embraced and rejected what has come before it in order to create its own unique identity. We will study the major genres of Western drama, including the idea of a classically structured play, Elizabethan drama, neoclassicism, realism, naturalism, expressionism, comedy, musical theatre, theatre of cruelty, and existentialism. And we will look at the social, cultural, architectural, and biographical context to better understand how and why they were written as they were. Classroom discussion will focus on a new play each week.

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DIRECTING/BRECHTING

Component—Fall

This class will meet twice a week.

An approach to directing that uses the works of Bertolt Brecht—and those he deeply influenced—as the foundation for a distinct production style fuses dynamic texts, metastaging techniques, and Brecht’s deep desire for theatre to be a tool for social change. Students will analyze plays by Brecht and playwrights that might include Thornton Wilder, Larry Kramer, Moises Kaufman, Anna Deavere Smith, and Paula Vogel, among others. We will also look at plays and playwrights who influenced Brecht’s own writing. Students in DIRECTING/BRECHTING will direct short scenes and moments from chosen plays, conduct mock production meetings, and present full production proposals.

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Directing, Devising, and Performance: Devising With Media

Component—Year

This class meets once a week for two hours.

Through the creative reuse of mass media, this course is designed to introduce students to a performance strategy based on sampling ​existing text, video, and sound. By stripping found media materials from their original context and arranging them in new ways, participants will explore the methods and politics of appropriation in performance work. By then extending those techniques into embodied practices, students will experiment with various methods of extracting movement, text, and intention from those source materials. Biweekly workshops on text, sound, and video manipulation in a collaborative format will alternate with experiments in performance composition and lectures on the historical use of appropriation in a variety of art forms. Participants should have an interest in both performance and performance technology, though experience in either is not a prerequisite. Each semester of the course culminates in a major performance project.

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Crisis Mode: Theatre at War

Component—Fall

This class meets twice a week

This class examines how theatre has responded to those moments of the past 50 years that define the struggles of a generation. Students will read and discuss a variety of plays from a list of playwrights that may include Brecht, Beckett, Fugard, Anna Deavere Smith, Wole Soyinka, Eve Ensler, Larry Kramer, Dael Orlandersmith, and August Wilson, among others. Documentary films that represent distinct points of view on the same struggles will be shown throughout the semester. Plays will be supplemented with nonfiction readings. Theatre at War is a discussion-based seminar. Portions of plays will be read aloud for discussion purposes.

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Comedy Workshop

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week. Spring instructor TBA

An exploration of the classic structures of comedy and the unique comic mind, this course begins with it a strong focus on improvisation and ensemble work. The athletics of the creative comedic mind is the primary objective of the first-semester exercises. Status play, narrative storytelling, and the Harold exercise are used to develop the artist’s freedom and confidence. The ensemble learns to trust the spontaneous response and their own comic madness. Second semester educates the theatre artist in the theories of comedy and is designed to introduce students to commedia dell’arte, vaudeville, parody, satire, and standup comedy. At the end of the second semester, each student will write five minutes of standup material that will be performed one night at a comedy club in New York City and then on the College campus on Comedy Night.

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BREAKING THE CODE: Defining Moment

Component—Fall

This class will meet twice a week.

This is an acting class that recognizes monologues as the ultimate revelation of a character’s Truth. Students will work on one-person and monologue plays and existent monologues from within full-length modern and contemporary works as a way of determining a character’s behavior and exposing those moments in a play when a character’s Truth is revealed. Actors will leave DEFINING MOMENTS, having worked on an assortment of monologues from a range of plays that specifically includes works of The Kilroys, “a gang of playwrights and producers who came together to stop talking about gender parity in theatre and start taking action,” among many others.

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Actor's Workshop: Acting Techniques

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

This class will explore various techniques designed to free the actor physically, vocally, and imaginatively. Students will be encouraged to give themselves permission to play, emphasizing process rather than results. Students will be assigned monologues and scenes that challenge them to expand their range of expression and build the confidence to make bold and imaginative acting choices. Particular attention will be paid to learning to analyze a text in ways that lead to defining clear, specific, and playable actions and objectives.

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Acting for Camera

Component—Year

Class size is limited. This class meets twice a week.

Great camera work demands intimacy, emotional adaptability, risk, and connection. Students will learn how to maintain an organic experience despite the rigid technical restrictions and requirements. During the fall semester, we will work on cold-reading techniques, emotional expansion exercises, and scenes from published works. In the second semester, we will put original monologues and scenes on camera. We will use a monitor playback system for reviewing work to help identify specific problems.

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Acting Shakespeare

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

Those actors rooted in the tradition of playing Shakespeare find themselves equipped with a skill set that enables them to successfully work on a wide range of texts and within an array of performance modalities. The objectives of this class are to learn to identify, personalize, and embody the structural elements of Shakespeare’s language as the primary means of bringing his characters to life. Students will study a representative arc of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as the sonnets, with the goal of bringing his characters to life. Class time will be divided among physical, vocal, and text work.

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Actor’s Workshop

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

This is an acting techniques class: foundational, process-based work to empower the actor in any theatrical environment. The first semester focuses on the voice and body and the development of a “toolbox” of acting techniques. The second semester focuses on applying those tools to language and text, while integrating the voice and body work through scene work. The goal is for students to leave the class with all of the basic tools that they need to act; to have a growing awareness of their body, voice, and physical habits in order that they may consciously use them in the development of character; and to begin to develop their own process of working, start to finish, with an arsenal of tools and techniques to use when needed. We explore the Alexander Technique, character work, sense memory work, viewpoints, animal work, voice and speech work, script analysis, text analysis, Lecoq exercises, and much more.

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Actor’s Workshop: Suit the Action to the Word, the Word to the Action—Hamlet, III. ii. 17-18

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

Students will work on voice work, script analysis, sensory exercises, a Shakespeare sonnet, cold readings, improvisation, auditioning, and extensive scene work from the following playwrights: Sara Ruhl, Theresa Rebeck, Susan Yankowitz, Maria Irene Fornes, Suzan-Lori Parks, Jean-Paul Sartre, Eugene Ionesco, Jean Anouilh, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, Lynn Nottage, Katoria Hall, Arthur Miller, and Edward Baker. Required text: The Art of Acting, by Stella Adler.

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Advanced Stage Combat

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

This course is a continuation of Introduction to Stage Combat and offers additional training in more complex weapon forms, such as rapier and dagger, single sword, and small sword. Students receive training as fight captains and have the opportunity to take additional skills proficiency tests that lead to actor/combatant status in the Society of American Fight Directors.

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Alexander Technique

Component—Year

This class meets once a week. Audition required. Four sections of this class.

The Alexander Technique is a neuromuscular system that enables the student to identify and change poor and inefficient habits that may be causing stress and fatigue. With gentle, hands-on guidance and verbal instruction, the student learns to replace faulty habits with improved coordination by locating and releasing undue muscular tensions. This includes easing of the breath and the effect of coordinated breathing on the voice. It is an invaluable technique that connects the actor to his or her resources for dramatic intent.

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Audition Technique

Component—Fall

This class meets once a week.

This class is for the serious-minded actor who, after graduation, anticipates pursuing a career as a performer. Predicated on the idea that auditioning is a learned skill at which one gets better with more experience and practical knowledge, the class will focus at its core on the only unalienable factor: the individuality of the actor him/herself. As much time will be spent on material selection as on execution; actors will be asked to make necessary friendships with the dreaded “monologues” and, hopefully, come to regard them as necessary filters through which they can express themselves as both people and artists. Cold-reading prep will also be covered. The hope is for the actor to leave class with not only one or two terrific audition pieces but also a better understanding of the casting process itself and what is in and out of his/her control.

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TBA

Breathing Coordination for the Performer

Component—Year

This class meets once a week. One section.

Students improve their vocal power and ease through an understanding of basic breathing mechanics and anatomy. Utilizing recent discoveries of breathing coordination, performers can achieve their true potential by freeing their voices, reducing tension, and increasing vocal stamina. In the second semester, principals of the Alexander Technique are introduced; students consolidate their progress by performing songs and monologues in a supportive atmosphere.

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Contemporary Collaborative Performance

Component—Year

Open only to first-year graduate students. This class meets once a week.

This course will provide a critical and supportive forum for the development of new works of original performance, focusing primarily on where current dance and theatre combinations find inspiration. In the first semester, students will explore contemporary theatre-building techniques and methodologies from Dada to Judson Church and beyond. The majority of time will be devoted to lab work, where students will create their own short performance pieces through a multidisciplinary approach. Students will be asked to devise original theatre pieces that utilize methods such as solo forms, viewpoints, chance operations, and creations from nontheatrical sources. In addition to the laboratory aspect of the class, a number of plays, essays, and artists’ manifestos will be discussed. In the second semester, students will collaborate on a single evening-length work, utilizing theatrical and nontheatrical sources in an attempt to speak to our cultural moment. Please note: The second semester will require additional developmental/rehearsal time outside of class. In addition to class work, there will be several opportunities to visit rehearsals and performances of professional theatre and dance in New York City.

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Costume Design I

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

This course is an introduction to the basics of designing costumes and covers ideas about the language of clothes, script analysis, the elements of design, color theory, fashion history, and figure drawing. We will work on various theoretical design projects while exploring how to develop a design concept. This course also covers various design-room techniques, including stitching by machine and by hand as well as working as a wardrobe technician. Students will have the opportunity to assist a costume designer on one of the departmental productions to further their understanding of the design process. No previous experience is necessary. Actors, directors, designers and theatre makers of all kinds are welcome.

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Costume Design II

Component—Year

Prerequisite: Costume I or permission of the instructor. This class meets once a week.

This course expands upon Costume Design l to hone and advance existing skill sets in both design and construction as we cover and review a range of topics. Students will explore theoretical design projects, as well as have the likely opportunity to design a departmental production, further developing the student’s abilities as they research and realize a design concept for the stage in collaboration with the director and design team.

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Creating a Role

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

It is a sanctum of discovery, enabling the actor to explore non-Western movement: centering energy, concentration, the voice, and the“mythos” of a character to discover one’s own truth in relation to the text, both contemporary and the classics. Traditional as well as alternative approaches to acting techniques are applied. Fall semester concentrates on roles: Hamlet, Leontes, Caliban, Othello, Lear, Macbeth, Richard III, Hecuba, Medea, Antigone, Lady Anne,Tamara, Portia, and Lady Macbeth; spring semester, applied to scene study from works by Chekhov, Ibsen, Arrabal, Beckett, Ionesco, Sarah Kane, Amira Baraka, Edward Albee, and Jean Genet. Required reading: The Art of Acting, by Stella Adler.

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Creative Impulse: The Process of Writing for the Stage

Component—Year

This class meets once a week for three hours. Two sections of this class.

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, disarming the rational, the judgmental thinking that is rooted in a concept of a final product, and empowering 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.

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Directing the 20th Century: From Chekhov to Churchill

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

This class will focus on directing plays in the 20th-century canon, covering a range of styles and content. It will cover the whole journey of directing a play, with a strong emphasis on practical work. Students will be required to bring in design research for plays and to direct scenes from the plays, both of which they will present to the class for critique. The class will focus on how to use the text to inform the choices made by the director.

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Directing Workshop

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

Directors will study the processes necessary to bring a written text to life, along with the methods and goals used in working with actors to focus and strengthen their performances. Scene work and short plays will be performed in class, and the student’s work will be analyzed and evaluated. Common directing problems will be addressed, and the directors will become familiar with the conceptual process that allows them to think creatively. The workshop is open to beginning directors and any interested student.

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DownStage

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

DownStage is an intensive, hands-on conference in theatrical production. DownStage student producers administrate and run their own theatre company. They are responsible for all aspects of production, including determining the budget and marketing an entire season of events and productions; they are expected to fill a variety of positions, both technical and artistic, and to sit as members of the board of directors of a functioning theatre organization. In addition to their obligations to class and designated productions, DownStage student producers are expected to hold regular office hours. Prior producing experience is not required.

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Experiments in Language and Form

Component—Year

This class meets once a week for four hours (with a lunch break).

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.” We will also style experimental texts to ascertain the types of environments—political, spiritual, mental, social—that influenced such texts to be generated; that is, created. 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 strive to examine the most effective manner of communicating our theatrical experiments to an audience. Our experimental writing may include multimedia presentations as part of the scripted onstage play or performance.

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Far-Off, Off-Off, Off, and On Broadway: Experiencing the 2018–2019 Theatre Season

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

Weekly class meetings in which productions are analyzed and discussed will be supplemented by regular visits to many of the theatrical productions of the current season. The class will travel within the tristate area, attending theatre in as many diverse venues, forms, and styles as possible. Published plays will be studied in advance of attending performances; new or unscripted works will be preceded by examinations of previous work by the author or company. Students will be given access to all available group discounts in purchasing tickets.

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Global Theatre: The Syncretic Journey

Seminar

This course is a theatre history component in the theatre program. This class meets once a week.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to La MaMa, dedicated to the playwright and to all aspects of the theatre. —Ellen Stewart

La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City has been the host of contemporary and international theatre artists since 1961. You will have the opportunity to attend performances, meet the artists, participate in workshops led by them, as well as have access to the La MaMa archives on the history of international theatre in New York. Your personal “syncretic theatre journey” is enhanced by the observance of fellow theatre makers and oneself that is informed concretely by the application of text, research, movement, music, design, puppetry, and multimedia, as well as social and political debate in class. Coordinators of the LaMaMa International Symposium for Directors, David Diamond and Mia Yoo, will host you in New York City, where you will exchange ideas with visiting and local artists from Yara Arts Group and the Great Jones Repertory Theatre. Historical/contemporary experimental texts will be discussed, such as: Psychosis by Sarah Kane, Death and the Kings Horseman by Wole Soyinka, Strange Interlude by Eugene O’Neill, The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht, A Dream Play by August Strindberg, Thunderstorm by Cao Yu, Goshram Kwotal by Vijay Tendulkar, Venus by Susan-Lori Parks, Ruined by Lynn Nottage, and Mistero Buffo by Dario Fo, as well as Fernando Arrabal, Antonin Artaud, and Martin Crimp. Required reading: TBA.

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Graduate Lab

Component—Year

Required for all 1st- and 2nd-year theatre graduate students. This class meets once a week.

Taught by a rotating series of Sarah Lawrence faculty and guest artists, this course focuses on developing the skills needed for a wide variety of techniques for the creation and development of new work in theatre. Ensemble acting, movement, design and fabrication, playwriting, devised work, and music performance are all explored. The class is a forum for workshops, master classes, and open rehearsals, with a focus on the development of critical skills. In addition, students in Grad Lab are expected to generate a new piece of theatre to be performed each month for the Sarah Lawrence community. These performances may include graduate and undergraduate students alike.

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Internship Conference

Component—Year

For students who wish to pursue a professional internship as part of their program, all areas of producing and administration are possible: production, marketing, advertising, casting, development, etc. Students must have at least one day each week to devote to the internship. Through individual meetings, we will best determine each student’s placement to meet individual academic and artistic goals.

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Introduction to Stage Combat

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

Students learn the basics of armed and unarmed stage fighting, with an emphasis on safety. Actors are taught to create effective stage violence, from hair pulling and choking to sword fighting, with a minimum of risk. Basic techniques are incorporated into short scenes to give students experience performing fights in both classic and modern contexts. Each semester culminates in a skills proficiency test aimed at certification in one of eight weapon forms.

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La MaMa E.T.C.

Intersession—Summer

La MaMa E.T.C. sponsors two summer events in Umbria, Italy, in conjunction with Sarah Lawrence College: International Symposium for Directors, a three-week training program for professional directors, choreographers, and actors in which internationally renowned theatre artists conduct workshops and lecture/demonstrations; and International Playwright Retreat, a one-week program where participants have ample time to work on new or existing material. Each day, an award-winning playwright will meet with the playwrights to facilitate discussions, workshops, and exercises designed to help the writers with whatever challenges they are facing. For more information: lamama.org/programs/la-mama-umbria

Lighting Design I

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

Lighting Design I will introduce the student to the basic elements of stage lighting, including tools and equipment, color theory, reading scripts for design elements, operation of lighting consoles and construction of lighting cues, and basic elements of lighting drawings and schedules. Students will be offered hands-on experience in hanging and focusing lighting instruments and will be invited to attend technical rehearsals. They will have opportunities to design productions and to assist other designers as a way of developing a greater understanding of the design process.

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Lighting Design II

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

Lighting Design II will build on the basics introduced in Lighting Design I to help develop the students’ abilities in designing complex productions. The course will focus primarily on CAD and other computer programs related to lighting design, script analysis, advanced console operation, and communication with directors and other designers. Students will be expected to design actual productions and in-class projects for evaluation and discussion and will be offered the opportunity to increase their experience in design by assisting Mr. MacPherson and others, when possible.

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LIVE MEDIA: Creating Hybrid Performance With Technology

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

This class will prepare students to solve problems in sound and multimedia production for live​ performance. We will look at the creative use of live video and audio playback and processing, multichannel sound, and interactive performance systems. The course is composed of technical demonstrations and short-form group performance assignments involving technology. The course is designed for theatre grads working with technology in Grad Solos but is suitable for any students working on independent performance work with technology. Participants interested in this course should be prepared to design and execute at least two short-form performance works or media installations over the course of the academic year. Participants interested in this course should be prepared to collaboratively design the projection elements for a performance or installation in the second semester.

 

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Medley Workshop: Developing the Dramatic Idea

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

The purpose of this workshop is to develop and complete a draft of a final project play of any length. Our focus is on originating character-driven stories that involve multiple events and/or multiple turning points and revelations, concluding with a major crisis and/or consequence for the characters. From the very beginning of the semester, writers create several short drafts of “mini-plays” as we practice the components that lead to effective playwriting. Writers allow various characters, topics, and concerns to be revealed to them as their in-process project(s)take shape. We will also study a selection of full-length plays and/or screenplays for inspiration, guidance, and analysis of various contemporary styles of drama. Styles may be varied; but as dramatists, we are all challenged by a form of storytelling that requires us to try and hold the attention of an audience for a condensed length of “real” time in a public space.

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Movement for Performance

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

This class will explore the full instrument of the performer, namely the human body. A daily warmup will open the body to larger movement ranges while introducing students to a better functioning alignment, efficient muscle and energy use, full breathing, clear weight transfer, and increased awareness while traveling through space. A combination of improvisation, contact improvisation, set phrases, and in-class assignments creating short movement-based pieces will be used to explore a larger range of articulation that the body reveals regardless of the words spoken on stage. In all aspects, the goals of this class are to enable students to be courageous with their physical selves, more articulate with their bodies, and more personally expressive in performance. No movement background is required, just a healthy mix of curiosity and courage. In addition to occasional reading handouts, there will be opportunities to attend rehearsals and performances of professional theatre and dance in New York City. Please wear loose, comfortable clothing to class.

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Music as Theatre Lab

Component—Year

This class meets once a week for four hours.

This lab is open to any artists committed to exploring a variety of music-driven, song-centric, spirit-derived approaches to music-theatre creation. Music as Theatre Lab invites students into an investigation of the work of prophets, faith healers, and wild politicians—as well as blues, gospel, and old-school rock-and-roll artists. Commitment to risk-as-truth, with an eye toward creating pieces and performances that conjure transcendence, is a founding principle of the Lab. Students will work in evershifting teams to create and perform short pieces; e.g., scenes, sermons, songs, or situations that include set and costume designs, choreography, and video. This lab will also feature an ongoing “compare and contrast” investigation of rock music and show tunes, with an emphasis on what we have to learn about acting and singing effectively from those differences.

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Playwright’s Workshop

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

Who are you as a writer? What do you write about, and why? Are you writing the play that you want to write or the play that you need to write? Where is the nexus between the amorphous, subconscious wellspring of the material and the rigorous demands of a form that will play in real time before a live audience? This course is designed for playwriting students who have a solid knowledge of dramatic structure and an understanding of their own creative process—and who are ready to create a complete dramatic work of any length. (As Edward Albee observed, “All plays are full-length plays.”) Students will be free to work on themes, subjects, and styles of their choice. Work will be read aloud and discussed in class each week. The course requires that students enter, at minimum, with an idea of the play that they plan to work on; ideally, they will bring in a partial draft or even a completed draft that they wish to revise. We will read some existent texts, time allowing.

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Playwriting Techniques

Component—Year

This course meets once a week. Two sections of this course.

You will investigate the mystery of how to release your creative process while also discovering the fundamentals of dramatic structure that will help you tell the story of your play. Each week in the first term, you will write a short scene taken from The Playwright’s Guidebook, which we will use as a basic text. At the end of the first term, you will write a short but complete play based on one of these short assignments. In the second term, you’ll go on to adapt a short story of your choice and then write a play based on a historical character, event, or period. The focus in all instances is on the writer’s deepest connection to the material—where the drama lies. Work will be read aloud in class and discussed in class each week. Students will also read and discuss plays that mirror the challenges presented by their own assignments.

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Production Workshop

Component—Fall and Spring

This course is required for directing, assistant directing, and playwriting students whose productions are included in the fall theatre season. This class meets once a week.

The creative director of the theatre program will lead a discussion group for all of the directors, assistant directors, and playwrights participating in the fall theatre season (including readings, workshops, and productions). This is an opportunity for students to discuss with their peers the process, problems, and pleasures of making theatre at Sarah Lawrence College (and beyond). This workshop is part problem-solving and part support group, with the emphasis on problem-solving.

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Puppet Theatre

Component—Year

This class meets once a week for two hours.

This course will explore a variety of puppetry techniques, including bunraku-style, marionette, shadow puppetry, and toy theatre. We will begin with a detailed look at these forms through individual and group research projects. We will further our exploration with hands-on learning in various techniques of construction. Students will then have the opportunity to develop their own manipulation skills, as well as to gain an understanding of how to prepare the puppeteer’s body for performance. The class will culminate with the creation and presentation of puppetry pieces of students' own making.

Faculty

Scenic Design I

Component—Year

This class meets once a week. There is a $50 course fee.

This course introduces basic elements of scenic design, including developing a design concept, drafting, and practical techniques for creating theatrical space. Students will develop tools to communicate their visual ideas through research, sketches, and models. The class will discuss examples of design from theatre, dance, and puppetry. Student projects will include both conceptual designs and production work in the department.

Faculty

Singing Workshop

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week. Audition required.

We will explore the actor’s performance with songs in various styles of popular music, music for theatre, cabaret, and original work—emphasizing communication with the audience and material selection. Dynamics of vocal interpretation and style will also be examined. Students perform new or returning material each week in class and have outside class time scheduled with the musical director to arrange and rehearse their material. Students enrolled in this course also have priority placement for voice lessons with faculty in the music program and enrollment in Alexander Technique classes or other movement courses of their choosing.

Faculty

SLC Lampoon

Component—Year

This class meets once a week a week for three hours. Audition required.

SLC Lampoon is a comedy ensemble of actors, directors, and writers. The techniques of Second City and TheatreSports will be used to create an improvisational troupe that will perform throughout the campus. The ensemble will craft comic characters and write sketches, parodies, and political satire. This work will culminate in a final SLC Lampoon Mainstage performance in the style of Second City or Saturday Night Live.

Faculty

Stage Management

Component—Fall and Spring

This class meets once a week during the fall semester and is taught by Ms. Minsky. Spring semester is taught by Ms. Vaswani and is devoted to mentored production practicums.

This course is a hands-on laboratory class in the skills, practices, and attitudes that help a stage manager organize an environment in which a theatrical team can work together productively and with minimum stress. Classroom exercises and discussion augment the mentored production work that is assigned to each student. Script analysis, blocking notation, prop management, and cue writing/calling are among the topics covered. Knowledge of—and practice in—stage management are essential tools for directors and useful supplements for actors and designers.

Faculty

London Theatre Program

Seminar

Audition required.

Sponsored by Sarah Lawrence College and the British American Drama Academy (BADA), the London Theatre Program offers undergraduates from Sarah Lawrence an opportunity to work and study with leading actors and directors from the world of British theatre. The program offers acting classes with leading artists from the British stage. These are complemented by individual tutorials, where students work one-on-one with their teachers. A faculty selected from Britain’s foremost drama schools teaches technical classes in voice, movement, and stage fighting. This intense conservatory training is accompanied by courses in theatre history and theatre criticism, tickets to productions, and the experience of performing in a professional theatre. In addition, master classes and workshops feature more of Britain’s fine actors and directors. Designed for dedicated students who wish to study acting in London, the program offers enrollment in either the fall or spring semester for single-semester study. Those wishing to pursue their training more intensely are strongly encouraged to begin their training in the fall and continue with the Advanced London Theatre Program in the spring semester.

Theatre Outreach Projects: Connections to Community

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

This course will provide a strong foundation from which to explore and extend teaching and theatre-making skills in the community. With an interest in exploring personally expressive material and in extending and developing skills, students will find a practical approach to experiential learning that grows teaching skills through a weekly community placement. Placements are usually yearlong and typically culminate in a process-over-product, informal presentation that is reflective of the interests, stories, and experiences of the individual participants. Students will explore collaborating with partnerships at schools, libraries, museums, community centers, prisons, and downtown Yonkers storefronts and other venues to develop original work that will result as a creative forum—with performances concluding in a talk-back environ of historical and contemporary social-political and artistic issues as applied to community work. Class readings and discussions will explore theoretical and practical discussions about theatre making and sharing theatre skills in the 21st century that will examine the role of creative artists working in the community to bring forth social change. Exploring gender and open to all races and ethnicity, students will work toward the development of a creative ensemble of Sarah Lawrence College theatre artists. Class readings and discussions will explore LGBTQ, African American, Latino/Hispanic, and Asian/Asian American artistic contributions, and that will provide a strong foundation from which to create new work. Focusing on local, national, and world issues as they pertain to our own experiences, first-semester work will culminate in an informal workshop presentation and discussion session at a Yonkers high school. Second-semester class work will culminate in a touring show for the HS Lunchbox Group and intergenerational work with the 50+ Lunchbox Group. First-semester course work will include a Yonkers tour that visits the Yonkers Downtown Waterfront, as well as important Yonkers cultural attractions. The class is open to all students who want to explore personal material through a sociopolitical lens. Open to dancers, poets, playwrights, actors, and visual artists. Educator John Paul Lederach asks the artist to connect with the “moral imagination”—the ability to “stay grounded in the here and now, with all its violence and injustice, while still imagining and working toward a more life-affirming world.”

Faculty

Thesis Project

Component—Year

This class is required for all second-year theatre graduate students.

This course will provide a critical and supportive forum for the development of new works of original theatre with a focus on conducting research in a variety of ways, including historical and artistic research, workshops, improvisations, experiments, and conversation. Each student will focus on creating one original project—typically, but not limited to, a solo—over the course of the full year. During the class, students will show works in progress. During conference, students and faculty will meet to discuss these showings and any relevant artistic and practical problems that may arise.

Faculty

Tools of the Trade

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

This is a stagehand course that focuses on the nuts and bolts of light and sound board operation and projection technology, as well as the use of basic stage carpentry. This is not a design class but, rather, a class about reading and drafting light plots, assembly and troubleshooting, and basic electrical repair. Students who take this course will be eligible for additional paid work as technical assistants in the theatre department.

Faculty

Voice and Speech I: Vocal Practice

Component—Year

This class meets once a week for two hours.

This course will focus on awakening the young artist to the expressive range of the human voice, as well as to the intricacies of developing greater clarity of speech and playing with sound. A thorough warmup will be developed to bring power, flexibility, and range to the actor’s voice and speech. Exercises and text work will be explored, with the goal of uniting body, breath, voice, and speech into an expressive whole when acting.

Faculty

Writer’s Gym

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

You can’t wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club. —Jack London

Writer’s Gym is a yearlong writing workshop designed for writers of any genre and any level of experience, from beginner to advanced. Our focus is on writing exercises that develop characters and stories—whether for the stage, screen, or prose narration. In addition, we study theories about the nature of creativity. Our goals are as follows: to study writing methods that help to inspire, nurture, encourage, and sustain our urge/need to write; to learn how to transform personal experiences and observations into imaginative dramatic and/or prose fiction or poetic metaphor and imagery; to concentrate on building the inner lives of our characters through in-depth character work in order to create stronger stories; to explore—that is to say, investigate—and gain access into our spontaneous ideas; to articulate and gain a more conscious relationship to the “inner territory” from which we draw ideas; to confront issues that block the writing process; and to gain greater confidence in relation to revision as we pursue clarification of the work.

Faculty