Theatre Courses

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914.395.2430

The Sarah Lawrence College Theatre MFA Program is focused on deep collaboration, community building, and interdisciplinarity. We support performance and theater artists through a curriculum crossing the boundaries of design, acting, directing, management, performance, technology, writing, producing, voice, movement, civic engagement and much more. Students have the advantage of taking classes within the music and dance programs as well to supplement their practice.

MFA Theatre 2022-2023 Courses

Performance Studio

Graduate Component—Year

Studio is a required first year graduate self-directed component with 2 hours in-studio and 1 hour in research/documentation. Students develop a schedule of in-studio experimentation and out-of-studio research that is reflected in a weekly process journal and discussed with the students' grad thesis advisors monthly. During this component, the student will develop a dynamic artistic practice of constructive experimentation, research, and discursive reflection. This class does not meet as a group. Your studio practice and documentation will be discussed in advising once a month.

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TBA

Embodied Thesis

Graduate Component—Year

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— a solo—over the course of the full year. During the class, students will show works in progress. During advising, student and faculty will meet to discuss these showings and any relevant artistic and practical problems that may arise. This class meets once a week and is required for all second-year Theatre graduate students.

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TBA

Written Thesis

Graduate Component—Year

This class meets once a week and is required for all second-year Theatre graduate students.

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TBA

Creative Practice, Organizing, and Producing

Graduate Component—Fall

This graduate level component is an intensive in artistic planning and production. From conceiving a project, planning, budgeting, and fundraising for its creation, promoting the premiere, taking a work on the road, and archiving it for the long term, this class will prepare students with a basic knowledge of what it takes to put your work into the world. In addition the class will look at the national and international contemporary performance field with a ground level introduction to working artists, residencies, presenting organizations, festivals, museums, and more. This class meets on zoom.

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Grad Lab

Graduate Component—Year

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. Required for all Theatre graduate students. This class meets twice a week.

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Acting and Performance

Actor’s/Director’s Lab

Component—Year

Class size not limited.

This is a class for actors and directors to work together on new or published work. Students can choose to work as a director, an actor, or both on all class projects and can change their choice on each of the next projects as the year progresses. The fall semester will focus on scene work; the spring semester will focus on short plays and one-acts. There will be inside-of-class and outside-of-class rehearsals. Some of the pieces will be assigned; most will be the student director's choice.

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Actor’s Workshop: Crafting a Character in Film and Theatre

Component—Year

This class is a laboratory for the actor; it is designed for performers who are ready to search for the steps to a fully-involved performance. In the first semester, we will explore characters and monologues that motivate each actor’s imagination. After analyzing the text, defining the imagery, and exploring the emotional choices of the actor, we will work on self-taping our work for auditions. The second semester will be devoted to scene work: the techniques used to develop a heightened connection with your scene partner, the importance of listening, and finding your impulses as you work on your feet in the rehearsal room. We will observe the work and read the theories of Declan Donnellan’s The Actor and the Target and Stephen Wangh’s An Acrobat of the Heart.

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Improvisation: Finding Spontaneity in Performance

Component—Year

Improvisation strengthens the spontaneous imagination; it is the athletics of the creative mind. Schiller wrote of a “watcher at the gates of the mind” who examines ideas too closely. He believed that, in the creative mind, “the intellect has withdrawn its watcher from the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell—and only then does it review and inspect the multitude.” Experiencing this creative mind is the focus of the majority of the first-semester exercises. These improvisations will develop the freedom and confidence of the artist and student. Schiller also said that “uncreative people are simply ashamed of the momentary passing madness which is found in all real creators.” It is the goal of the first semester to open those creative minds and train the artist to trust the spontaneous response and this passing madness. In this class, we will be developing scenarios and situations that heighten your ability to invent, give you physical freedom, and improve the emotional truth in your work. We will be creating monologues and characters at the moment; exploring exercises for creating a strong community in a classroom, youth center, town hall, or work environment; and collaborating on ideas for pitching projects. For actors and directors, we will practice techniques for film improvisations, TV commercials, and theatre auditions in order to develop the artist’s range. For non-theatre students, we will be focusing on confidence and trust in their original ideas. Any performance—whether experimental, classical, or in a business environment—begins with the artist’s own personal experience. Whether you are collaborating with a start-up team, giving a speech to a community, or acting on stage, the spontaneous moment is often the most compelling.

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Breaking the Code

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

A specific, text-driven approach to acting, Breaking the Code provides a context for the most vital performances based upon a way of dissecting a play and determining a character’s behavior. Students will act scenes from contemporary plays and adaptations. The class is open to both actors and directors.

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Actor’s Workshop: Acting the Kilroys

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

This script-based approach to acting and performance springs from the works and goals of the Kilroys, “a gang of playwrights…who came together to stop talking about gender parity in theatre and start taking action.” Students in Acting the Kilroys will perform given scenes written in a variety of styles by female, queer, and trans writers. Students will also study the greater context of plays, watch films and documentaries, and read and discuss essays and plays that deal with theatre’s response to the events that shape our world. Kilroys is about a way of looking at theatre: “We make trouble. And plays.” Acting the Kilroys is open to actors of any and all identities.

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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.

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Actor’s Workshop: Creative Practices

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

In this theory and praxis class, students will learn the sociohistorical context of major acting methods—such as Brecht, Meyerhold, Stanislavski, Stella Adler, and Hagen—and then participate in workshops in each of those methods. Through a series of exercises and a variety of acting techniques, students will explore the essential elements of acting, creative expression, and collaboration in the theatre. The exercises will include vocal and physical warmups, relaxation, concentration, sensory awareness, listening, communication, teamwork, and spontaneity. Participants will learn a variety of ways to create a character and to express one’s emotion through the voice, body, and imagination. Skills will be developed to create as an ensemble and to work in relationship to people, objects, and places. Ultimately, through in-class scene presentations, acting students will work to convey vital stories, ideas, emotions, and provocative questions that reflect or challenge humanity. Some playwrights from whose work we may work include: Sara Ruhl, Theresa Rebeck, Maria Irene Fornes, Suzan-Lori Parks, Jean-Paul Sartre, Eugene Ionesco, Young Jean Lee, Jocelyn Bioh, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Tori Sampson, Charlie Evon Simpson, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, Jean Genet, Lynn Nottage, Katori Hall, Athol Fugard, John Kani, Jocelyn Bioh, and Jackie Sibblies Drury.

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Collaborative

Music and Theatre Practice: Creating Community

Component—Year

Theatre and music nurture the souls of the artist, ensemble, production team, and audience far beyond the room where it happened. From mainstream Broadway megahits to intimate avant-garde experiments, creative performance has the power to unite us through shared experience and emotion. As theatre practitioners, we have a unique opportunity to inspire transformations and heal our communities. How do we use our creativity to confront issues like loneliness, justice, food scarcity, racism, isolation, balance, homesickness, and care? Through case studies, collaborations with other campus groups, and investigating our own ideas, this class will form initiatives to create community through music and theatre at Sarah Lawrence and beyond.

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Songwriting for a New Musical Theatre

Component—Year

This course suggests a unique approach to musical theatre making, forged during the making of the Tony/Obie award-winning musical, Passing Strange. The method treats song, not story, as the seed out of which a show grows. Students are taught to conjure stories out of their songs rather than tacking songs onto a preexisting narrative. The urgency of personal biography as the source material for theatrical myth making (vs. invented fictions) is also emphasized, along with the incorporation of solo performance and the use of video. Emphasis on in-the-moment creating via a demystification of the songwriting process seeks to keep students inspired and motivated, with more time spent creating than listening to a lecture. Students are regularly given songwriting prompts and invited to take time away from class to compose. Students will work toward building, by semester’s end, a final show drawn from the songs that they’ve written. Students will learn techniques that transform the “magic” of songwriting into a reflexive act of communication available to anyone, with or without songwriting experience. The fundamentals of songwriting are taught, along with an introduction to various music software apps.

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Shosholoza: Working to Make Way for Each Other

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

Shosholoza is a Southern African anthem of unity. Historically, migrant mineworkers in Johannesburg sang the song to keep their spirits up and to maintain a working rhythm to make progress in their work. Shosholoza as a cultural signifier points to the idea of a collaborative process. Shosholoza is sung in call and response and, any time it’s sung, involves and implicates whoever is in the room. This class is about learning to be caring collaborators who give and take space in creative processes. Students will be assigned tasks designed to foster generosity in the workspace while developing, performing, and designing projects in groups throughout the year.

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Design and Media

Lighting Design I

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

This course 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. Students 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.

This course will build on the basics introduced in Lighting Design I in order 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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Costume Design I

Component—Year

This class meets once a week. There is a $20 materials fee.

This course is an introduction to the basics of designing costumes and will cover various concepts and ideas: 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 sewing techniques, as well as the basics of wardrobe technician duties. Students will become familiar with all of the various tools and equipment in the costume shop and wardrobe areas. Students will also have the opportunity to assist a Costume Design ll student on a departmental production to further their understanding of the design process when creating costumes. No previous experience is necessary; actors, directors, choreographers, dancers, and theatre makers of all kinds are welcome.

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Costume Design II

Component—Year

This course expands upon the ideas and concepts set forth in Costume Design l in order to hone in on and advance the student’s existing skill sets. Students will further develop their design and construction abilities as they research and realize design concepts for a variety of theoretical design projects, as well as develop their communication skills through class discussions and presentations. Students will also have the likely opportunity, assisted by a Costume Design l student, to design costumes for a departmental production. This design opportunity allows a unique learning experience, as the student collaborates with a director and creative team to produce a fully realized theatrical production.

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Advanced Costume Conference

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

This course is designed for students who have completed Costume Design l and Costume Design ll and would like to further explore any aspect of designing costumes by researching and realizing a special costume design project of their own choosing.

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Scenography I

Component—Year

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

This course is an introduction to theatrical scenic design. Students will learn how to look at the world with fresh eyes and use imagination to create a theatrical world on stage. The course covers the fundamental ideas of scenic design and basic design technique, such as research, drawing, and scale-model making. We will start from small exercise projects and complete a final design project at the end. Students will present most of their projects to the class, followed by questions and comments from fellow students. Presentation and critique skills are important in this course. Students with no experience who are interested in other aspects of theatre making, as well as in visual arts or architecture, will be able to learn from the basics.

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Scenography II

Component—Year

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

This course is advanced training in scenic design. Students apply knowledge and skills from Scenography I to complete design projects through extensive and detailed processes. Students will also learn the production process, with the examples of department productions. Students are required to present most of the projects to the class, followed by questions and comments from fellow students.

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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 those forms through individual and group research projects. Students will then have the opportunity to develop their puppet manipulation skills, as well as to gain an understanding of how to prepare the puppeteer’s body for performance. We will further our exploration with hands-on learning in various techniques of construction. The class will culminate with the creation and presentation of puppetry pieces of their own making.

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Video and Media Design

Component—Year

This course, which serves as an introduction to theatrical video design, 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 video and sound in theatre, dance, and interdisciplinary forms. Exercises in sampling, nonlinear editing, and designing sequences in performance software will provide students with the basic tools needed to execute projection designs in performance.

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Sound Design

Component—Year

This course, which serves as an introduction to theatrical sound design, 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 video and sound in theatre, dance, and interdisciplinary forms. Exercises in sampling, nonlinear editing, and designing sequences in performance software will provide students with the basic tools needed to execute sound designs in performance.

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Directing

Directing in Context

Component—Year

This course meets twice a week.

This course is a hands-on directing class that offers a vital technique and way of working; it encompasses the full expression of a director’s job—from a first read, through casting practices and production meetings, to staging the play. Directing In Context starts with the text. The class offers directors an outline for dissecting plot and story; it provides a framework for figuring out how your point of view, interests, and influences shape your productions. Students will direct scenes from published plays, create original work from nontraditional sources, and make presentations on artists who particularly inspire their own ways of thinking about art. Students act in scenes directed by their classmates for in-class presentations and for a final public showing. Emphasis is placed upon the ideas and practices of artist/directors like Bertolt Brecht, who approached theatre as a means of activism, and contemporary theatre makers like Anna Deavere Smith, Anne Bogart, and Moises Kaufman, among others, who forge a personalized approach to directing built upon dynamic analysis and an expansive point of view. Directing in Context is open to directors, actors, designers, writers, etc., who are interested in theatre that encompasses a large perspective and point of view.

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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 in order 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. In the second semester, students will direct a short play of their choice. The workshop is open to beginning directors and any interested student.

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Movement and Voice

Singing Workshop

Component—Year

This class meets once a week. Audition required.

We will explore the actor’s performance with songs in various styles—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 in class each week and have outside class time scheduled with the musical director to arrange and rehearse their material. Students enrolled in the 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.

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Intimacy in Performance I

Component—Fall

This class will provide students with an introduction to the language, processes, and best practices of intimacy training for stage and screen. The class will meet once per week, during which time students will engage in discussions of terms and theory, learn fundamentals of approaching scene work or material that is intimate in nature, and work collaboratively to simulate artistic settings where best practices can be enacted and assessed. Toward the end of the term, students will work with text, scenes, or breakdowns to practice their approach to solving challenges around intimacy choreography.

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Intimacy in Performance II

Component—Fall

This class will provide students with an advanced study of the language, processes, and best practices of intimacy training for stage and screen. The class will meet once per week, during which time students will engage in discussions of terms and theory, learn fundamentals of approaching scene work or material that is intimate in nature, and work collaboratively to simulate artistic settings where best practices can be enacted and assessed. Toward the end of the term, students will work with text, scenes, or breakdowns to practice their approach to solving challenges around intimacy choreography.

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Introduction to Stage Combat

Component—Year

This class meets once a week. There will be three sections of this course.

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 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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Choreographic Strategies and Theatre

Component—Year

This class meets once a week for four hours.

Through the creative reuse of mass media, this course is designed to introduce students to a performance strategy that synthesizes an experimental performance practice from existing material. 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 these techniques into embodied practices, students will experiment with various methods of extracting movement, text, and intention from these 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. The course culminates in a rehearsal and performance period.

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Playwriting

Playwriting Techniques

Component—Fall

This course meets once a week. There will be two sections of this course.

In 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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Playwright’s Workshop

Component—Fall

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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Decolonizing the Narrative: Writing for a New Audience

Component—Year

This course meets once a week.

The stories we tell have the power to change our perceptions about the world around us and the people in it. Decolonizing narratives is the act of undoing colonialism or, in a broad sense, undoing the power structures that have historically defined mainstream narratives. In this course, we will explore how to redefine and subvert common archetypes and tropes found in mainstream theatre. Each week, we will choose a stock character or traditional narrative and write a 10-minute play that challenges or subverts it. In the spring, we will choose one of the short pieces written in the fall and draft a full-length play inspired by it. We will consider whom we want our audience to be; that is, for whose gaze are we writing? What do we assume the audience knows, and what do we explain? Who will identify with our characters? Do we need to provide dramaturgical justification when we write a character whom we don’t usually see on stage? Reading assignments will include plays and other artistic material that challenges traditional narratives by using new forms and structure or questions conventional portrayals of people of the global majority, queer characters, the working class, Muslims, characters with disabilities, and more. Examples might include work by Jackie Sibblies Drury, Larissa FastHorse, Michael R. Jackson, Hannah Gadsby, Qui Nguyen, Rehana Lew Mirza, Maria Irene Fornes, Cori Thomas, Martyna Majok, and more.

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The Physics of Playwriting: An Introduction to Craft and Voice

Component—Year

This course meets once a week.

Art exists within all of us. In this course, we will examine the fundamentals of dramatic writing and how to use those principles of craft to give shape to the stories that we need to tell. Weekly writing challenges will be given to illustrate concepts such as dramatic conflict and character objectives, as well as to activate your unique artistic voice. We will practice writing from the unconscious, focusing more on process than product, and writing from a place of emotional honesty and authenticity. In some cases, acting and improv exercises will be used in conjunction with writing prompts to help us access our creative imagination. We’ll also examine how to use the vocabulary of craft to give constructive feedback to our peers and to ask strategic questions that will allow us to receive helpful feedback, as well. Reading assignments will include plays and material in a variety of other forms that serve as examples of how craft is employed to actualize the artist’s vision. In all of our work, we will at once seek to follow our imaginations and creative impulses with a sense of passion and playfulness while also approaching our writing practice with rigorous intention and discipline.

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Experiments in Theatrical Writing

Component—Year

This class meets once a week for four hours (with a half-hour break).

In this course, we will explore, discuss, and write side-by-side with contemporary experimental theatrical texts. What pushes against theatrical traditions and orients outward toward the new and unfamiliar is what we will think of as experimental. Areas of experimentation that we’ll encounter on our yearlong journey will include: time, setting, structure, character, language, and genre. Experimentation finds purpose in the notion that departure from theatrical convention is a move toward altering how an audience responds and reflects upon a play—which, in turn, changes how an audience perceives and behaves in the world. We’ll explore the landscape of the plays that we read in terms of how each play looks, feels, and sounds. We’ll discuss the cultural, historical, and personal contexts of the plays. We’ll look for ways in which these contexts may inspire and inform our own writing. We’ll generate our own experimental work using the assigned texts as points of departure, with the intention of arriving at a different destination. We’ll write from different parts of the brain, from the deeply subconscious to the acutely analytical. We’ll consider how the unique structure of a play can derive organically from the story being told. And we’ll examine ways in which modern technology may assist—or hinder—our storytelling.

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Production

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-board 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.

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DownStage

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week. Also open to graduate students.

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. Student producers 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 producers are expected to hold regular office hours. Prior producing experience is not required.

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Stage Management

Component—Year

This class meets once a week during fall semester; spring semester 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 both actors and designers.

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Theatre and Civic Engagement

Curriculum Lab

Component—Year

This is a required weekly course for students who are sharing their theatre and creative skills in the Saturday Lunchbox Theatre Program. The Curriculum Lab will explore the creation and development of an interdisciplinary teaching curriculum for children ages six through 18. Through this weekly lab, directly connected to the Lunchbox Theatre, students will gain insight into child-development principles, lesson-planning skills, and classroom management strategies. Through inquiry and reflection, students will expand their critical thinking processes while also utilizing practical teaching methods and techniques suitable for multiple learning types and levels.

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Teaching Artist Pedagogy Conference Course

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it. —Marian Wright Edelman

Theatre and Civic Engagement teaching-artist students will develop valuable creative resources while investigating the intersection of theatre and community. This course is open to graduate and upper-level undergraduate students who are interested in sharing theatre skills in the community. We will explore interdisciplinary creative processes, social-justice issues, and curriculum development throughout this course and analyze the crossovers between various teaching theories, pedagogies, and philosophies. Students will explore how creating theatre in the community that prioritizes self-care and diversity leads to developing specific projects. Interdisciplinary theatre-generating techniques will support lesson planning and the blossoming of curriculum ideas. In addition, students will hold yearlong placements at schools, senior centers, area colleges, museums, LGBTQIA youth centers, and the long-running SLC Saturday Lunchbox Theatre Program. Budget depending, some placements may offer an hourly stipend; however, wages do not cover travel or prep time. The College sets the hourly rate.

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Methods of Civic Engagement

Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

Artists are the real architects of change, not the political legislators who implement change after the fact. —William Burroughs

This course is for undergraduate students interested in extending the creative theatre skills needed to facilitate and share meaningfully in the community. Course topics include social justice, community self-care, lesson planning, curriculum development, and various pedagogical and educational philosophies. Using the language of theatre, students will investigate methods and techniques, styles, and forms to develop a resourceful theatre vocabulary for specific community placements. In addition, students will have hands-on experience working in a team through a weekly community placement at area schools, community centers, and our long-running SLC Lunchbox Theatre Program. By taking this course and developing their community curriculum “toolbox,” students will better understand how civic engagement practices encourage community dialogue that leads to community-building projects and events. Throughout the course, students will explore the work of Paolo Freire, Augusto Boal, Viola Spolin, Pablo Helguera, and others. Budget depending, some placements may offer an hourly stipend; however, wages do not cover travel or prep time. The College sets the hourly rate.

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Theory, History, Survey

Contemporary Playwrights

Component—Year

This class meets once a week for two hours.

The art created during our own lifetimes hits us differently. In this course, we will examine plays written in the 21st century, covering work written from 2000 to 2010 in the fall semester and from 2011 to the present in the spring semester. We will read one play every week and examine it from a dramaturgical perspective—that is, how the play is constructed—as well as discuss the cultural, political, and artistic context in which it was written. Assignments will include short response papers, one creative project, and one research paper. There will be an emphasis on work by BIPOC and queer writers. Playwrights examined may include: David Henry Hwang, Lynn Nottage, Kristoffer Diaz, Qui Nguyen, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Paula Vogel, Martyna Majok, Michael R. Jackson, Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, and Jen Silverman.

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Crisis Mode: Theatre in Response

Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

This hybrid seminar/workshop examines the greater role of theatre as a means of social activism. Crisis Mode provides perspective, a way to see not only how theatre responds to events but also how theatre creates change. Students will read a variety of contemporary plays and screen-related films and documentaries. Students will create solo and group performance projects and read aloud scenes and portions of the plays that we study. Particular attention is paid to the works of form-bending playwrights—like Anna Deavere Smith, Young Jean Lee, Aleshea Harris, Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu, Hilary Bettis, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Tony Kushner, and Dominque Morriseau, among others—whose works illuminate and provoke. We will look, too, at how these contemporary playwrights have built upon the groundbreaking works of their predecessors—playwrights and theatre makers like Ntozake Shange, Samuel Beckett, and Bertolt Brecht, among others—who challenged established forms and entrenched ideologies. Crisis Mode is open to actors, directors, designers, playwrights, and those interested in theatre as discourse and a means of social activism.

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The Broadway Musical: Something Great Is Coming

Component—Fall

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, among others, Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece, Company.

Faculty

Historic Survey of Formal Aesthetics for Contemporary Performance Practice

Component—Year

Once upon a time in a rehearsal, a playwright said, “I just think that this is the most Cubist moment of this play.” Everyone in the room fell silent and grew uncomfortable, because...what in the heck did she mean by that? And aren’t we already supposed to know? This interactive lecture course surveys the aesthetic movements throughout history and teaches you to track their impact on your work. Ideas behind each movement are examined in relation to the historical moment of their occurrence and in their formal manifestations across visual art, music, architecture, and performance disciplines. Each student then places his/her own work within a wider context of formal aesthetic discourse—locating hidden influence and making conscious and purposeful the political resonance that is subsequently uncovered. Students are encouraged to find ways of acknowledging the responsibility that one carries for the impact of one’s work on the world and to start using terms like “Postmodernism” and “Futurist” with confidence.

Faculty

Far-Off, Off-Off, Off, and On Broadway: Experiencing the 2022-23 Theatre Season

Component—Year

This class meets once a week. There is a $350 fee for this course.

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 and student discounts in purchasing tickets.

Faculty

Home as a Metaphor for Survival: Theatre in the African Diaspora

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. Both traditional and 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, Lady Macbeth; spring semester, 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.

Faculty