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.

2019-2020 Courses

Theatre

Acting for Camera

Intermediate/Advanced , Component—Year

This class meets once a week for three hours.

This comprehensive, step-by-step course focuses on developing the skills and tools that the young actor needs in order to work in the fast-paced world of film and television. Through intense scene study and script analysis, we will expand each performer's range of emotional, intellectual, physical, and vocal expressiveness for the camera. Focus will also be put on the technical skills needed for the actor to give the strongest performance “within the frame,” while maintaining a high level of spontaneity and authenticity. Students will act in assigned and self-chosen scenes from film and television scripts. Students will also be taken through the process of auditioning on-camera for various film and television roles through cold reads, prepared reads, and mock auditions. Also, the course will include exposure to hands-on experience in the technical aspects of the behind-the-camera process.

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Acting Shakespeare

Intermediate , 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: Acting Techniques

Open , 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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Actor’s Workshop: Acting the Kilroys

Open , Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

An on-your-feet acting class, Acting the Kilroys is a script-based approach to acting and performance that uses the works of the Kilroys, “a gang of playwrights…who came together to stop talking about gender parity in theatre and start taking action.” Students will perform given scenes written in a variety of styles by female, queer, and trans writers. The course calls for full and unbridled expression as the foundation of a vital approach to performance and way of looking at theatre. “We make trouble. And plays.” The course is open to actors of any and all identities.

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

Open , 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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TBA

Advanced Media Design

Open , Component—Year

Prerequisites: Intro to Media Design, Sound 1, Intro to Projection, or instructor consent. This class will meet once a week.  Students will be required to attend additional technical meetings/rehearsals and design productions over the course of the year.

This course will prepare students to solve problems in video, sound, and multimedia design for live theatre and performance. We will look at the creative use of live video and audio playback and processing, multichannel sound, and interactive performance systems. By creating a cohort of designers committed to working on campus theatrical productions, the course will serve to mentor, troubleshoot, and critically analyze theatrical design. Students will be expected to be working on designs for theatre or dance productions or their own solo work.

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Advanced Stage Combat

Intermediate , 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 weapons 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, leading to actor/combatant status in the Society of American Fight Directors.

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Alexander Technique

Open , 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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Breaking the Code

Advanced , Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

This is an acting scene study class that uses a practical, on-your-feet, script-driven approach to performance. Students will tear open and dissect given plays to find the clues for their characters’ truths and behaviors, fears and vulnerabilities, and the tactics and strategies they use to to get what they need. Students will act scenes from contemporary plays and adaptations. The class is open to both actors and directors.

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Breathing Coordination for the Performer

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

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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Comedy Workshop

Intermediate , Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

An exploration of the classic structures of comedy and the unique comic mind, this course begins with 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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Contemporary Practice

Intermediate/Advanced , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

How do we, as artists, engage with an accelerating, fractured, technology-infused world? How do we, as creators, produce our work under current economic pressures? Contemporary Practice is a yearlong course that focuses on artists and thinkers dealing with those questions and looks at how we situate our practice in the field. During the first semester, students will investigate current and emerging practices in performing care, contemporary choreography, speculative theatre, immersive theatre, co-presence, performance cabaret, post-digital strategies, socially engaged art, and mixed reality performance. Classes will be structured around weekly readings/discussions and embodied exercises. During the second semester, students will attend and write about performances in New York City; interview artists; create individual artist statements, bios, resumes, and websites; develop pitches for new work; and learn how to engage with funders, artistic directors, and presenters. Through field research, embodied laboratories, and creative/professional development, we will build a skill set, network, and knowledge base for supporting our work and engaging with collaborators, organizations, and audiences.

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Contemporary Scene Study

Intermediate/Advanced , Component—Year

Open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students. This class meets twice a week.

In this course, students will explore scenes and monologues from contemporary playwrights, including Lynn Nottage, Lucas Hnath, Annie Baker, Theresa Rebeck, Dominique Morisseau, Kenneth Lonergan, Stephen Adley Guirgis, David Henry Hwang, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Sarah Ruhl, and many, many others. Along with an intense focus on script analysis, story structure, and character work, students will learn a set of acting tools that will assist them in making their work incredibly loose, spontaneous, and authentic. Scenes and monologues will be chosen by the instructor in collaboration with the students.

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Costume Design I

Open , 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

Intermediate , Component—Year

Prerequisite: Costume Design l or by 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

Open , 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, 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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TBA

Creative Impulse: The Process of Writing for the Stage

Advanced , 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, disarm the rational, the judgmental thinking that is rooted in a concept of a final product and empower the chaotic, spatial, associative processes that put us in immediate formal contact with our direct experience, impressions, and perceptions of reality. Emphasis on detail, texture, and contiguity will be favored over the more widely accepted, reliable, yet sometimes limiting Aristotelian virtues of structure and continuity in the making of meaningful live performance. Readings will be tailored to fit the thinking of the class. We will likely look at theoretical and creative writings of Gertrude Stein, George Steiner, Mac Wellman, Maria Irene Fornes, Adrienne Kennedy, Mircea Eliade, Kristen Kosmas, Richard Maxwell, 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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Developing the Dramatic Idea

Intermediate , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

It never ceases to amaze me: the awesome ritual of live actors bringing words to life, resulting in laughter, catharsis, and, at best, transformation. This magic begins with you, the playwright. Developing the dramatic Idea offers you the opportunity to explore what a play can be and what it can mean to write a play. You will investigate the potential and the challenges of playwriting through analysis of existing plays, writing and workshopping your own plays-in-progress, offering constructive feedback to your classmates, and effectively revising your own work. You will develop the skills and vocabulary to talk about plays and to recognize structure, story, and content challenges. By the end of the year, you will have seen plays and read a number of plays and essays on playwriting. You will have written several scenes, short plays, and a one-act play.

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Digital Devising: Creating Theatre in a Post-Digital World

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

This class explores the histories, methods, and futures of ensemble and co-authored performance creation with a focus on new skills and concepts of digital and post-Internet. After an overview of historical devising companies, artists, concepts, and strategies, we will develop skill sets and frameworks for creating work in a lab setting using the formal aspects of digital and post-Internet performance. Some of the frameworks included are digital time; avatars and the double event; embodied and representational strategies in the uncanny valley; staging digital tools, interfaces, and structures; aspects of connectivity, politics, and economics; post-Internet materiality; and using code to generate and control performances and creation of texts.

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Directing, Devising, and Performance

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week for four hours. Mr. Neumann will teach the fall semester; Mr. Blow will teach the spring semester. 

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 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. The course culminates in a rehearsal and performance period.

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Directing Workshop

Open , 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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Directing Brechting

Open , Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

This hands-on directing class offers directors a vital technique and way of working based upon Bertolt Brecht’s theories of dialectical theatre. Brecht was a social activist. He used theatre to affect change. Brecht’s plays and techniques changed the way we look at theatre and view the world. His approach continues to shape the way directors dissect text, incorporate production elements, and create dynamic theatre productions. Students in Directing Brechting will use Brecht’s plays and plays by contemporary theatre makers that he deeply influenced—like Larry Kramer, Moises Kaufman, Anna Deavere Smith, and Suzan Lori-Parks, among others—for a personalized directing technique built upon an expansive Brechtian model. Students will direct scenes from chosen plays and create and mount their own original work; they will act in scenes directed by their classmates for in-class presentations. The class is open to serious directors, actors, designers, writers, poets, etc. who are interested in developing an approach to work and to theatre that is rooted in activism and social change.

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DownStage

Sophomore and above , 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. 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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Dramaturgy

Open , Component—Fall

This class meets twice a week.

Dramaturgy is a term that refers both to the study of dramatic theory as well as to the practical job of working with the creative team of a production to provide background and information on the play in question. This class will address both of these aspects of dramaturgy. Students will spend roughly half the time studying dramaturgical theory while simultaneously learning how to do the necessary research, which they will then distill into a concise form that can be easily digested by the director, actors, and designers.

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Experiments in Theatrical Writing

Intermediate/Advanced , 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 those 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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Far-Off, Off-Off, Off, and On Broadway: Experiencing the 2019–2020 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

Open , Component—Year

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 for 55 years. 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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History and Histrionics: A History of Western Theatre

Open , 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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Internship Conference

Intermediate , 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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Intro to Media Design

Open , Component—Year

Two sections of this class. 

This course serves as an introduction to theatrical sound and video 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 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 and projection designs in performance.

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Introduction to Stage Combat

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week. Two 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 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 month-long training program for professional directors, choreographers, and actors in which internationally renowned theatre artists conduct workshops and lecture/demonstrations; and International Playwright Retreat, a 10-day program where participants have ample time to work on new or existing material. Each day, master playwright Lisa Kron will meet with the playwrights to facilitate discussions, workshops, and exercises designed to help the writers with whatever challenges they are facing. More information is available at: lamama.org/programs/la-mama-umbria.

Lighting Design I

Open , 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

Intermediate , 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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London Theatre Tour

Open , Intersession

These intersession credits are registered as academic, not arts, credits.

The purpose of this course is to experience and examine present-day British theatre: its practices, playwrights, traditions, theatres, and artists. This is a two-credit academic course, and any student enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College is eligible to take the class. During two weeks in London, students will attend a minimum of 12 productions, tour various London theatres, meet with British theatre artists, attend regularly scheduled morning seminars, and make an oral presentation on one of the plays that the group is attending. Plays will be assigned prior to the end of the fall semester, and preparation and research for the presentation should be complete before arriving in London. Productions attended will include as wide a variety of venues, styles, and periods of theatre as possible. Seminars will analyze and critique the work seen, as well as discover themes, trends, and movement in the contemporary theatre of the country. Free time is scheduled for students to explore London and surrounding areas at their leisure.

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Movement for Performance

Open , Component—Fall

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.

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Music as Theatre Lab

Open , 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. The 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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NOW PLAYING: Theatre in This Moment

Open , Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

This is a seminar class that looks at the plays and types of theatre happening right now. Students will read scripts from plays being performed across the country and attend theatre in New York City as a way of figuring out how theatre responds to the events that shape our lives even as they occur. A great variety of plays and playwrights will be discussed. 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? Scenes and portions of plays will be read aloud in class. Students will create solo or group performance pieces—of a type to be agreed upon in conference—to be presented in class at the end of each semester.

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Playwright’s Workshop

Advanced , 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

Open , 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 2019 and spring 2020 theatre program seasons. 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

Open , 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 the student’s own making.

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Scenic Design

Open , 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.

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Singing Workshop

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once 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.

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Stage Management

Open , 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 actors and designers.

Faculty

The Broadway Musical: Something Great Is Coming

Open , Component—Spring

This course meets twice a week.

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.

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The Writer’s Gym

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

This yearlong writing workshop is designed for writers of any genre and any level of experience from beginner to advanced. So, whether you’ve never written anything before or are an experienced poet or a playwright looking to perfect your craft, The Writer’s Gym offers exercises dedicated to inspiration, process, and craft. You will discover story structure and plot and how to introduce character and conflict. In class, you will write, share work, learn how to give feedback, and bravely discuss your work. Our goal is to build muscle for honest and fearless writing based on first instincts and to write from sources, dreams, and personal experiences. We will read and discuss short stories, essays, poems, and plays. Assignments will challenge you to observe what’s around you and the settings in which you live, writing from prompts, images, and sensory experiences. “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” —Pablo Picasso

Faculty

Theatre Outreach: Methods of Theatre Outreach

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

Developing original, issue-oriented dramatic material using music and theatre media, this course will present the structures needed for community extension of the theatre. Performance and teaching groups will work with small theatres, schools, senior-citizen groups, museums, centers, and shelters. Productions and class plans will be made in consultation with the organizations and our touring groups. We will work with children’s theatre, audience participation, and educational theatre. Teaching and performance techniques will focus on past and present uses of oral histories and cross-cultural material. Sociological and psychological dynamics will be studied as part of an exploration of the role of theatre and its connections to learning. Each student will have a service-learning team placement. Special projects and guest topics will include the use of theatre in developing new kinds of after-school programs, styles and forms of community on-site performances, media techniques for artists who teach, and work with the Sarah Lawrence College Human Genetics Program. This class is suited for students new to community work.

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Theatre Outreach: Teaching Artist Pedagogy Conference Course

Advanced , Component—Year

This class meets once a week; open to graduate students.

This weekly conference course explores the experiential perspectives of the practicing teaching artist, developing teaching skills and techniques through a yearlong community placement. The course explores making connections and crossovers between teaching theories and interdisciplinary theatre course work that leads toward transformative practices. Course readings will explore the writings of Paulo Freire, M. C. Richards, bell hooks, and others. “I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” —John Dewey

Faculty

Theatre Outreach: The Theatre and the Community

Sophomore and above , 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. An interest in exploring personally expressive material and in extending and developing skills is needed. Students will find a practical approach to experiential learning that builds teaching skills through a weekly Theatre Outreach placement. Such placements—at schools, libraries, museums, community centers, homeless shelters—are typically yearlong and usually culminate in a process-centered informal presentation that is reflective of the interests, stories, and experiences of the individual participants. We will explore the applications of contemporary sociopolitical and artistic issues of community work. Class readings and discussions will explore theoretical and practical applications about theatre making and the political role of teaching artists working in the community as agents for social change and social justice. The course is open to all students who want to explore personal material through a sociopolitical lens and to students interested in responding to the mad politics of our time by making a difference—however they can, large or small—through the sharing of theatre skills. The course is open to movers and shakers, playwrights, actors, designers, and visual artists. Extended class projects in urban areas may include performance in public spaces, creating site-specific videos, recording community oral histories, and touring. 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 imaging and working toward a more life-affirming world.”

Faculty

Tools of the Trade

Open , 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.

Faculty

Voice and Speech I: Vocal Practice

Open , 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