Theatre

What Will Studying Theatre Look Like in Fall 2020?

Theatre and performance centers around the gathering of people, sharing of space, and the creating/critiquing/disrupting of culture. All of these actions remain vital to our society even if we cannot be physically together during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many in our field are struggling with this new possible extended paradigm shift of social distancing. The Theatre Program at Sarah Lawrence is known for its experimentation and innovation and we have already created new ways of being together online, even in the short reactive period at the end of the Spring semester. From adapting our foundational components in Acting, Directing, Design, Playwriting, Tech, and Management to creating and retrofitting digital spaces and platforms for our students to rehearse and present their productions to fellow students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents. We are creating rehearsals, developmental workshops, readings, performances, and robust discussions that hold at their core dialectics of presence, liveness, and critical proximity.

Many people are asking about how theatre and performance as a field will deal with social distancing, but in contemporary theatre, we have been living and working in the contentious space of presence and non-presence and structural issues of liveness for the past 50 or so years. We work in the mysteries of the double event or triple event. An actor with their lived experience and biography doubles into a representation of a character, which then, more often these days (even on Broadway), doubles again into a live mediated image. It's this problematic liveness that is at the core of our contemporary work. This fall semester we will continue to teach our foundations of theatre and performance making with a new emphasis on exploring and innovating online frameworks that embrace critical proximity and synchronicity of togetherness.

We are planning to hold hybrid FYS classes and our graduate students will be hybrid with access to our studios and workshops. Our undergrad students who will be on campus or have access to campus will also have the ability to schedule time in our workshops and studios for solo work or working with approved social distancing practices. We are currently assessing which of our components can have hybrid possibilities. The majority of components will be taught online and any hybrid components will follow the requirements of social distancing and wearing a mask at all times.

We have a full fall season planned and will be innovating ways to present the work LIVE online. Last semester we presented work via Zoom and this fall semester we will work with (and teach) techniques, programs, and approaches that can help our students’ work thrive during this time. At the moment the risk is too high to have a live audience so there will be no in-person audiences. Our online live presentations will be dynamic and innovative incorporating new formats and frameworks.


The Sarah Lawrence College theatre program is a community of generous and engaged artists who value diverse, intentional, and rigorous research, process, and creation. We hold each other and ourselves accountable to responsibly challenge ourselves and each other to foster our growth as individuals and collaborative artists. We support innovation, not only in the art that we produce but also in the systems that we make to learn, share, and create. Through an interdisciplinary curriculum that prioritizes equality, care, and experimentation, we aim to create an artistic environment steeped in joy in order to envision and build a better future. This is an open and inclusive community where everyone is welcome.

The theatre program is focused on deep collaboration, community building, and interdisciplinarity. We support performance and theatre artists through a curriculum crossing the boundaries of design, acting, directing, management, performing, writing, technology,  producing, voice, movement, and much more. Classes are taught by working professionals, with the advantage of additional classes in the music and dance programs. 

We encourage students to bring their own histories, experiences, and stories into the ecosystem of the program to share in the development of new questions, political urgencies, and social engagement. Together, we will research and practice theatre and performance to expand the possibilities of critical togetherness through body, story, and experience. 

 

Curriculum

Students create an individualized Theatre Third with the guidance of their don and the theatre faculty. Components are chosen to extend skills and interests, to explore new areas of the art, and to develop performing and/or practical experience. Students are encouraged to find the links between their academic and arts courses, creating a holistic educational process.  

There are many opportunities for students to synthesize their learning by taking part in the Theatre Program Season. Student written and/or created work is a primary focus, and productions of published plays and classical texts are also encouraged. A proposal system for student-directed, -written, and -devised work within the Theatre Program Season’s production schedule emphasizes the development of student artists. There are also opportunities in the seasons and projects organized by DownStage (a theatre program component) and by independent, student-run companies. Auditions for faculty-, student-, and guest-directed productions are open to the entire SLC community.

 

Practicum

Classes provide a rigorous intellectual and practical framework, and students are continually engaged in the process of examining and creating theatre. The theatre program helps students build a solid technique based on established methodologies while also being encouraged to discover and develop their individual artistic selves. Students can earn credits from internships or fieldwork in many New York City theatres and theatre organizations. The Theatre and Civic Engagement program is a training program that uses writing, theatre techniques, music, and the visual arts to embody social and community issues. Civic Engagement courses have been a vibrant component in the curriculum for more than three decades, encouraging the development of original material created inclusively with local partner institutions, community, and neighbors. Several theatre components include an open, class showing or performance in addition to the multiple performance, design, and production opportunities that are available to students throughout the academic year. The College’s performance venues include productions in the Suzanne Werner Wright Theatre and the Frances Ann Cannon Workshop Theatre, as well as work in the student-run DownStage Theatre. Workshops, readings, and productions are also mounted in the PAC OpenSpace Theatre, the Film Viewing Room, the Remy Theatre outdoor stage, and various other performance spaces throughout the campus.​

 

2020-2021 Courses

Theatre

First-Year Studies: Theatre in Action, The ’60s Thru Tomorrow

Open , FYS—Year

This course examines the greater role of theatre in our culture, particularly as to how theatre responds to the events and movements that shape our lives—even as they occur. We will look at how theatre frames political discourse, as well as its distinct role as a means of social activism in this country over the past 50 years. Students will read and discuss a variety of plays, with an emphasis on looking at the context in which those plays were written and why they still resonate today. Discussions will range from influential works and innovations of mid-20th-century theatre artists (like Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett, political theatre groups like The Living Theatre and El Teatro Campo of the 1960s, agitprop theatre events of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights eras, ACT Up in the 1980s AIDS Crisis) to the form-bending techniques of contemporary theatre makers and artists (like Anna Deavere Smith, Young Jean Lee, Jackie Sibbles Drury, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Annie Baker, Tony Kushner, Dominque Morriseau, Quiara Alegria Hudes) and queer, female, and trans playwrights in the collection of plays, The Kilroys List, among many others. Students will read aloud from plays in class, study documentaries, and see productions and showings in New York City over the course of the year. Guest artists will join designated classes. Students will meet with the teacher to devise conference projects to serve their distinct interests. Projects might range from original plays written in the style of the events of the period and plays that we study or rehearsed or staged scenes from published plays to designing dramaturgical presentations, among other options. In addition to conference projects each semester, students are regularly required to submit critical essays and participate fully in the discussion. Theatre in Action will alternate individual conferences with small-group meetings/conferences to include screenings, field trips, performances, and workshops. Students enrolled in the FYS in Theatre have the option, but are not required, to take one extra component in the theatre, dance, or music programs as part of their Theatre Third. All students enrolled in the FYS in Theatre join the theatre program community, attend theatre meetings, and complete technical-support hours (tech credits).

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Historic Survey of Formal Aesthetics for Contemporary Performance Practice

Open , Lecture—Year

Once upon a time, a playwright said, in a rehearsal, “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, musical, architectural, 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 one’s work’s impact on the world and to start using terms like “Post-Modernism” and “Futurist” with confidence.

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History and Histrionics: A History of Western Theatre

Open , Lecture—Year

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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The Broadway Musical: Something Great Is Coming

Open , Lecture—Year

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

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

Open , Lecture—Year

All those forgotten in the construction of, say, national groups return to disturb and haunt such holistic ways of thinking...[when] these figures return as disruptive, “unhomely” presences....It is this uncanny presence which...[has] the power to disrupt the exclusive binary logic upon which a range of discourses—nationalist, colonialist, patriarchal—depend. —Homi K. Bhabha, Location of Culture

This lecture course will focus on performance in African diaspora communities. We will take a historical look at black bodies in performance in the diaspora. The class will involve reading plays, critical theory, and articles related to critical theory that pertain to notions of hybridity, mimicry, neo-colonialism, gaze, and the politics of representation/viewership as they relate to creative theatrical spaces. Some areas of study that we will cover will include: protest theatre in South Africa (Gcina Mhlophe, Athol Fugard, Zakes Mda, John Kani, Mbongeni Ngema); oral traditions; tokenizing (Death and the King’s Horseman is not the only African play); the nexus of religion and performance in African diaspora performance; the legacy of minstrelsy; “The Black Acting Method” (hybridity vs. mimicry); representation of black bodies in American theatre; the ethics and moral responsibilities in touring work pertaining to blackness in the diaspora; blackness on stage—Tyler Perry vs. Jeremy O. Harris and Branden Jacob-Jenkins.

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Contemporary Scene Study

Advanced , Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

In this course, designed for advanced theatre students, we will explore scenes and monologues from contemporary playwrights (e.g., 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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Breaking the Code

Advanced , 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. Open to both actors and directors.

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Acting Shakespeare

Intermediate , Component—Year

This class meets once a week for three hours.

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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TBA

Creating Your Own Comedy

Intermediate , Component—Year

This class will begin with an exploration of the classic structures of stand-up comedy.  The concepts of set-up and punch, acting out, and heightened word play will be employed. Techniques for creating and becoming comic characters using your own past, the news, and the current social environment will be used to craft a comic routine. Discovering what is recognizably funny to an audience is the labor of the comic artist. The athletics of the creative comedic mind and your own individual perspective on the world that surrounds you is the primary objective of the first semester. We will also study theories of comedy through the writings of Henri Bergson (philosopher), John Wright (director), and Christopher Fry (playwright). Second semester will be designed for collaboration through improvisational techniques; long-form improvisational games (Harold), and performance techniques for comic sketch writing and group work; and exercises to develop the artist’s freedom and confidence in a collaborative group setting. The ensemble will learn to trust the spontaneous response and their own comic madness as they write, perform, and create scenarios together. At the end of the second semester, there will be a formal presentation of the comedy devised during the year.

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Dramatic Improvisation: Finding Spontaneity in Performance

Intermediate , Component—Year

In this class, we will be developing scenarios and situations that heighten your ability to invent, give you a physical freedom, and improve the emotional truth in your work. We will be creating monologues and characters in the moment. Techniques for film improvisations, TV commercials, and theatre auditions will be used to develop the artist’s creativity. Acting—whether experimental, classical, or modern—begins with the actor’s own personal experience. At the end of the semester, we will work on self-taping for auditions and crafting material for an actor’s reel and website.

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Actor’s Workshop: The Actor’s Process—Introduction to Craft

Open , 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 analysis of the text, defining the imagery, and exploring the emotional choices of the actor, we will work on self-taping our work for auditions. Second semester will be devoted to scene work, the techniques used to develop heightened connection with your scene partner, and 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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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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Actor’s Workshop

Open , Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

Through group exercise (viewpoints), improvisations, monologues, and scene studies, this class, eclectic in style, will help you trust your instincts, expand your expressive capabilities, hone your imagination, and ultimately develop your acting potential. You will acquire the tools necessary for developing a character, as well as to show confidence in an audition. Previous theatre study is not required, but attendance and active participation is paramount! Show up eager and ready to work, as well as willing to put in time outside of class to work on material.  

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Actor’s Workshop

Open , 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. These 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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Directing, Devising, and Performance

Intermediate , Component—Fall

This class meets once a week for two hours.

Through the creative reuse of mass media, this course is designed to introduce students to a performance strategy 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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Songwriting for A New Musical Theatre

Open , Component—Year

This course grew out of the final months of last semester’s New Musical Theatre Lab during its transition to remote learning and has been designed to work as well in person as it has remotely. The course teaches a unique approach to musical theatre-making forged during the making of the Obie- and Tony-award winning musical, Passing Strange. Stew’s method treats the song, not the story, as the seed for all that follows in a show. Students are taught to conjure stories that will emerge out of their songs rather than tacking songs onto a pre-existing story. The significance of personal biography as source material 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 keeps students inspired and motivated, with more time spent creating than staring at a screen. Students are regularly given songwriting prompts and invited to take time away from the screen to compose anything from one verse to a full-blown song, along with solo-performance fragments or video. Students will work toward building, at semester’s end, a final show from all of 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, video editing, and DIY methods of turning bedrooms and basements into performance spaces. 

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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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Contemporary New Works: An Exploration of the American Playwright

Intermediate , Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

This will be a workshop for theatre artists. The class will explore the works of contemporary playwrights. Three playwrights will be chosen for the group, and we will read, research, and dramaturge their work. As we immerse ourselves in their worlds, the class will direct each other in scenes from the plays. We will choose from writers Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, Annie Baker, Lynn Nottage, David Adjmi, Anne Washburn, Sarah Ruhl, Samuel Hunter, and Katori Hall. These writers have all created “bold works that have set the scene for 21st-century actors, giving voice to the modern experience.” They are a vital part of the American theatre today and are influential in shaping and developing the work of the actor and director. Second semester, we will weave a project or presentation of one or all of their works or choose three new contemporary playwrights to investigate.

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Directing, Devising, and Performance

Intermediate , Component—Spring

This class meets once a week for two hours.

Through the creative reuse of mass media, this course is designed to introduce students to a performance strategy 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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Acting for Camera

Intermediate , 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 while also learning how to write, direct, edit ,and produce his/her own work for the screen. The first semester will focus on screen acting. 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. During the second semester, students will learn the basics of screenwriting, cinematography, creating a floorplan and shot lists, sound, lighting, directing, and editing. The goal of that semester is for students to learn the basics of filmmaking, allowing them to create their own work without the restraints of a large budget and crew. For this course, students must have their own/access to: a camera (iPhone, iPad, or other camera); a computer with editing software (e.g., iMovie, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere).

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Puppet, Spectacle, and Parade

Intermediate , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

Drawing from various puppetry techniques alongside the practices of Jacques Lecoq, we will explore and experiment with puppetry and performance. Throughout the course, we will work in collaborative groups to create puppetry performance, including building the puppets and devising works that utilize puppets and objects. We will explore large-scale, processional-style puppets, puppet as objects and materials, puppeteering the performance space, and the role/relationship of the puppeteer/performer to puppet.

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Shosholoza: Working to Make Way for Each Other

Open , 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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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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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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Intro to Media Design

Open , Component—Year

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

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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Puppet Theatre

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

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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Advanced Costume Conference

Advanced , Component—Year

Prerequisites: Costume Design l, Costume Design ll, and permission of the instructor. 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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Costume Design I

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

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. There is a $20 materials fee.

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Costume Design II

Intermediate , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

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 to design costumes for a departmental production, assisted by a Costume Design l student. This design opportunity allows for 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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Scenography I

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

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 contemporary performance. Student projects will include both conceptual designs and production work in the department. There is a $50 course fee. 

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TBA

Scenography II

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

This course will build upon the basics introduced in Scenography I to help develop the students' abilities in designing full productions. Students will further develop tools to communicate their visual ideas with directors, artistic leaders, and fellow designers through research, sketches, CAD, and other computer programs related to scenic design. Students will design or assistant design actual productions and in-class projects for evaluation and discussion. There is a $50 course fee.

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TBA

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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Directing Workshop

Open , Component—Spring

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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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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Alexander Technique

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week. Interviews 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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Movement for Performance

Open , Component—Spring

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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Voice and Speech I: Vocal Practice

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

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.

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Creative Impulse: The Process of Writing for the Stage

Advanced , Component—Year

This class meets once a week for three hours.

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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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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Experiments in Theatrical Writing

Intermediate , Component—Year

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

In this course, we will explore, discuss, and create experimental theatrical texts using technologies such as the cell phone, the computer, the pencil, and others. 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, place, staging, structure, character, characterization, language, and genre. Experimentation finds purpose in the notion that departure from theatrical convention is a move toward changing 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 contemporary experimental theatrical texts and performances and discuss how each work of theatre looks, feels, and sounds. We’ll discuss the cultural, historical, and personal contexts of the works. We’ll look for ways in which those contexts may inspire and inform our own writing. We’ll generate our own experimental pieces using those works 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. And we’ll examine ways in which modern technology may assist—or hinder—our storytelling.

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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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Writing for Diversity

Open , Component—Year

Each week, students will be asked to research and write a 10-minute play given "diverse" characters and various other prompts. In class, we will read and discuss the work. What did we find? How were we challenged? Do the scenarios feel “real” and “authentic”? Is there offense? What scared you? We will also read and discuss great  plays/articles/events that grapple with race/gender/sexuality/culture. Students should have some experience in playwriting.

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DownStage

Intermediate , Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

DownStage is an intensive, hands-on conference in creative theatrical production. As part of the DownStage component, student producers administrate and run an autonomous theatre company, based on the nonprofit theatre model, within the SLC theatre curriculum. Together, students craft a mission statement, then curate and produce a season in support of that mission. Students are responsible for all aspects of production, determining the budget and marketing a full season of events and productions, both in-person and online. Students fill technical and artistic positions and sit as 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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Production Workshop

Intermediate , Component—Fall and Spring

This course is required for directing, assistant directing, and playwriting students whose productions are included in the fall 2020 and spring 2021 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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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.

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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.

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Theatre and Civic Engagement: Methods of Civic Engagement

Open , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

Developing original, issue-oriented dramatic material using music and theatre media, this course for students new to community work 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 course continues the successful process-centered goals and the proven community building techniques and principles of the long-established SLC Theatre Outreach Program.

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Theatre and Civic Engagement: Teaching Artist Pedagogy Conference Course

Advanced , Component—Year

This class meets once a week.

I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. —John Dewey

This weekly conference course, for graduate and undergraduate students with extensive community experience, explores the experiential perspectives of the practicing teaching artist, developing teaching skills and techniques through a weekly, yearlong community placement. The course explores making connections and crossovers between teaching theories and interdisciplinary theatre coursework that leads toward transformative practices. Course readings will explore the writings of Paulo Freire, MC Richards, bell hooks, and others. This course continues the successful process-centered goals and the proven community building techniques and principles of the long-established SLC Theatre Outreach Program.

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Theatre and Civic Engagement: The Theatre and the Community

Intermediate , 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.” This course continues the successful process-centered goals and the proven community building techniques and principles of the long-established SLC Theatre Outreach Program.

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Theatre and Civic Engagement: Curriculum Lab

Open , Component—Year

This class meets one a week.

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 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. This course continues the successful process-centered goals and the proven community building techniques and principles of the long-established SLC Theatre Outreach Program.

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Dramaturgy

Open , Component—Year

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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Performance Research

Advanced , Component—Year

This class meets once a week. Open only to seniors.

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 these questions and looks at how we situate our practice in the field. Students will investigate current and emerging practices in performing care, contemporary choreography, speculative theatre, immersive theatre, co-presence, performance cabaret, postdigital strategies, socially-engaged art, mixed-reality performance, and more. Classes will be structured around weekly field research, readings, discussions, presentations, embodied laboratories, and creative/professional development. We will build a skill set, network, and knowledge base for articulating and supporting our work and for engaging with collaborators, organizations, and audiences. 

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West African Dance

Component—Year

Students may enter this yearlong course in the second semester with permission of the instructor.

This yearlong course will use physical embodiment as a mode of learning about and understanding African diasporic cultures. In addition to physical practice, master classes led by artists and teachers regarded as masters in the field of African diasporic dance and music, along with supplementary study materials, will be used to explore the breadth, diversity, history, and technique of dances derivative of the Africa diaspora. Afro Haitian, West African, Orisha dances (Lucumi, Afro Cuban), and social dance are some genres that will be explored. Participation in year-end showings will provide students with the opportunity to apply studies in a performative context.

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TBA

Anatomy

Component—Year

Prior experience in dance and/or athletics is necessary. Students who wish to join this yearlong class in the second semester may do so with permission of the instructor.

How is it possible for us to move in the countless ways that we do? Learn to develop your X-ray vision of human beings in motion through functional anatomical study that combines movement practice, drawing, lecture, and problem solving. In this course, movement is a powerful vehicle for experiencing, in detail, our profoundly adaptable musculoskeletal anatomy. We will learn Irene Dowd’s Spirals©—a comprehensive warm-up/cool-down for dancing that coordinates all joints and muscles through their fullest range of motion, facilitating study of the entire musculoskeletal system. In addition to movement practice, drawings are made as part of each week’s lecture (drawing materials provided), and three short assignments are submitted each semester. Insights and skills developed in this course can provide tremendous inspiration in the process of movement invention and composition.

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Anatomy Research Seminar

Component—Year

This is an opportunity for students who have completed a full year of anatomy study in the SLC dance program to pursue functional anatomy studies in greater depth. In open consultation with the instructor during class meetings, each student engages in independent research, developing one or more lines of inquiry that utilize functional anatomy perspectives and texts as an organizing framework. Research topics in recent years have included investigation of motor and experiential learning, development of a unique warm-up sequence to address specific individual technical issues, inquiry into kinetic experience and its linguistic expression, detailed study of knee-joint anatomy, and study of the kinematics and rehabilitation in knee injury. The class meets biweekly to discuss progress, questions, and methods for reporting, writing, and presenting research, alternating with weekly studio/practice sessions for individual and/or group research consultations.

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Ballet

Component—Year

Students may enter this yearlong course in the second semester with permission of the instructor.

Ballet students at all levels will be guided toward creative and expressive freedom in their dancing, enhancing the qualities of ease, grace, musicality, and symmetry that define this form. We will explore alignment, with an emphasis on anatomical principles; we will cultivate awareness of how to enlist the appropriate neuromuscular effort for efficient movement; and we will coordinate all aspects of body, mind, and spirit, integrating them harmoniously.

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TBA

Beginning Improvisation

Component—Fall

Improvisation is a potentially limitless resource. Whether arising from movement itself or from conceptual/imaginative sources, improvisation can yield raw materials for making dances and other performance works. It can form a basis for community-building activities. It can also support the advancement of our technical skills in all dance forms, from conceptual and choreographic to performative, by giving us greater access to our personal connections to movement. In this course, we will engage in a variety of approaches to improvisation. We will investigate the properties of movement in the context of experience and performance, using activities that range from highly structured to virtually unstructured. The aim of our work is to delve deeply into the creative process in a variety of environmental settings, from the dance studio to outdoor sites around the campus. Throughout the year, goals will include building capabilities for sustained exploration of movement instincts and appetites, honing perceptive and communicative skills, and learning to use improvisation to advance movement technique. All of these goals will support the development of a durable foundation from which to work creatively.

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Butoh

Component—Spring

This class is open to dance, theatre, and any other students who are curious and interested in discovering alternative approaches to body and movement practices.

In this class, students will engage in a series of somatic, improvisational movement and vocalization practices that reflect principles of butoh, Zen, and Noguchi Taiso (Water Body Movement). Through engaging in those practices, we will explore a way to liberate our body from a sense of self and from existing concepts of a body in order to realize unprecedented transformation and evolution of the body. Students will be descending a ladder into a well that is hidden deep inside the body and will keep digging the well until the water splashes out.

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TBA

Choreographic Thinking: Sensing, Rupture, and Change

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course is open to students with a broad range of interests and can function either as a component of a performing arts Third (in dance, music or theatre), as a two-credit stand-alone course, or as a five-credit seminar with an accompanying conference project in the form of a research paper or an artistic project.

A broad definition of choreography might be the organization of beings (animate and inanimate) in time and space. But what exactly is choreographic thinking? With what aptitudes does it engage? Choreographer Susan Rethorst has described the mind of a choreographer as having “a kind of spatial emotional map of a situation, the emotional psychological reading of place and of people in relation to that place and each other…in which sensitivity to phenomena leads to an engagement with the affect of movement, shape, relation, and space.” So choreographic thinking is a practice of heightened perception that, in turn, informs a practice of organization. Nevertheless, all perceptual senses are not commonly deemed of equal importance. While vision and hearing are typically held in high regard, proprioception (the sense of where one is in space) and kinesthesia (the sense of motion) are often misunderstood or disregarded altogether. At the same time, everyday metaphors across a range of fields evoke the choreographic. We speak of political movements, economic precarity, climate change, population migrations and displacements, crop rotations, life journeys, cultural exchanges, etc., etc. Through a selection of readings by theorists and artists, both in and outside of dance, we will examine the concept of choreographic thinking, how the sensorial and affective self is engaged in this embodied practice, and how we might apply these types of aptitudes to a myriad of endeavors and areas of study.

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Composition

Component—Year

Composition literally means placing materials (i.e., beings, both animate and inanimate), movements, actions, sounds, words, light, etc. with one another. Composition is the process of creating relationships, both between materials and within time and space. Various faculty members bring distinct approaches to the contemporary practice of artistic creation and composition. This course is taught in and through an embodied practice of dance, but the principles are universally applicable to any art form. Students will be asked to create and perform studies, direct one another, and share and discuss ideas and solutions with peers. Students are not required to make finished products but, rather, to involve themselves in the challenges and joys of rigorous play. This course is most appropriate for students who have already completed Beginning Improvisation.

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TBA

Conditioning for Dancers

Component—Spring

Open to all students taking a Dance Third.

This course provides students with a weekly opportunity to explore and practice supplemental training strategies to support the development of specialized skills required in dancing. Building on work done once or twice per semester in the Dance Practice Conferences, training issues such as strength, endurance, flexibility, kinesthetic awareness, and coordination will be addressed from a neuromuscular training approach based on the teachings and selected choreographies of Irene Dowd. In addition, students will be introduced to the Alexander Technique, which aims to refine and optimize function by eliminating excessive tension. This is accomplished through specific exercises and practices designed to increase awareness, implement conscious direction, and achieve gentle repatterning of postural and movement habits.

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TBA

Guest Artist Lab

Component—Year

This course is an experimental laboratory that aims to expose students to a diverse set of current voices and approaches to contemporary dance making. Each guest artist will lead a module of three-to-seven class sessions. These mini-workshops will introduce students to that artist and his/her creative process. Guests will present emergent, as well as established, voices and a wide-range of approaches to contemporary artistic practice.

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TBA

Hip-Hop

Component—Year

An open-level course teaching and facilitating the practice of hip-hop/urban dance technique and performance, the class will examine the theory, technique, and vocabulary of hip-hop dance. The course will facilitate the student’s development and ability to execute and perform hip-hop/urban dance steps.

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TBA

How Art Works

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course is open to students with a broad range of interests and can function either as a component of a performing arts Third (in dance, music or theatre), as a two-credit stand-alone course, or as a five-credit seminar with an accompanying conference project in the form of a research paper or an artistic project.

What is art? Since human beings have been engaging in creative endeavors in various ways for millennia, it shouldn’t be difficult to say what art is or, for that matter, how it functions. Yet the difficulty of agreeing on any one definition of art becomes quickly evident. The historically siloed nature of the disciplines of poetry, prose, painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, performance, music, dance, theatre, film, etc.— each with its own particular attributes—might present certain obstacles to answering the question in a unified fashion. But perhaps the problem lies elsewhere. Perhaps creative endeavors have functioned in many different ways and served many different purposes, in different cultures, and at different times. This course is, admittedly, an incomplete but nevertheless broad survey of some of the ways in which art has been conceived of, how it has been made, how it has functioned, and how people have thought about its changing nature and purpose. Assigned readings will include texts from various fields, including the philosophy of art and aesthetics, literary theory, performance studies, gender studies, cultural theory, anthropology, and psychology, as well as texts from artists themselves. Our readings will range from accessible to challenging. Throughout, I will be teaching from the perspective of a dance artist. These readings will be accompanied by our own experiences and discussion of artworks in various media.

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Lighting in Life and Art

Component—Year

Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that allows us to see. Light’s qualities and its interaction with space have profound effects on the affect of an experience. We all know that the feel of a midsummer afternoon is not the same as that of a cloudy, gray afternoon or a subway car or a sunset or a night with a full moon. What qualities of light generate these disparate feelings? The art and practice of crafting light is the subject of this component. We will examine the theoretical and practical aspects of light in multiple settings. This will begin with a practice of noticing what we might typically ignore. From there, we will approach learning how to craft the conditions of light primarily, though not exclusively, within a theatrical environment. Understanding the historical conventions of theatre—in particular, those of theatrical dance in the United States—will provide a point of departure to begin to think beyond those historical conventions. Emphasis will be on learning basic lighting skills, including those of stagecraft. Students will collaborate with, and create original lighting designs for, the Time-Based Art works when such needs are appropriate to the artistic proposal.

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Movement Studio Practice

Component—Year

This course will be taught by various faculty, and there will be various levels of the course. Level 1 will be taught by Peggy Gould. Levels 2 and 3 will be taught by various faculty TBD.

In these classes, emphasis will be on the steady development of movement skills, energy use, strength, and articulation relevant to the particular style of each teacher. At all levels, attention will be given to sharpening each student’s awareness of time and energy and to training rhythmically, precisely, and in accordance with sound anatomical principles. Degrees of complexity in movement patterns will vary within the leveled class structure. All students will investigate sensory experience and the various demands of performance.

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Music for Dancers: The Logic of Interaction

Component—Spring

This component will provide students with the opportunity to play a full array of percussion instruments from around the globe: African djembes, Brazilian zurdos, Argentinian bombo, Peruvian cajon and quijada, Indian tabla, traditional traps, and more. Students will also be able to program and execute electronic drums, such as the Wavedrum and Handsonic. The focus will be prevalent toward enhancing a dancer's full knowledge of music but will expand the vocabulary for choreographers, actors, and composers, as well. The purpose of the component is to grant students the tools needed to fully immerse themselves in the understanding of the relation of music, dance, and the performing arts. Students will expand their knowledge of terminology and execution and will be able to learn the basic rudiments of notation. We will analyze the interaction of music from both intellectual and cultural points of view. We will learn how to scan musical scores with various degrees of complexity and explore the diverse rhythmic styles that have developed through time and through different geographical and social conditions. Classes will consist of group playing. All instruments will be provided and made available for practice.

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TBA

Performance Project: Rosas danst Rosas

Component—Fall

Fumiyo Ikeda, assisted by John Jasperse

In 1983, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker had her international breakthrough with Rosas danst Rosas, a performance that has since become a benchmark in the history of postmodern dance. Rosas danst Rosas builds upon the minimalism initiated in Fase (1982): abstract movements constitute the basis of a layered choreographic structure in which repetition plays the lead role. The fierceness of these movements is countered by small, everyday gestures. Rosas danst Rosas is unequivocally feminine: four female dancers dance themselves, again and again. The exhaustion and perseverance that come with it create an emotional tension that contrasts sharply with the rigorous structure of the choreography. The repetitive, “maximalistic” music by Thierry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch was created concurrently with the choreography. This restaging of Rosas danst Rosas will focus primarily on the 2nd movement. The Fall 2020 Dance Program Performance Project, Rosas danst Rosas (1983) by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, is made possible with the generous support of the Barbara Bray Ketchum Artist-in-Residence Fund.

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Time-Based Art

Component—Year

In this class, graduates and upperclass undergraduates with a special interest and experience in the creation of time-based artworks across various disciplines will design and direct individual projects. Students and faculty will meet weekly to view works-in-progress and discuss relevant artistic and practical problems, both in class and in conferences taking place the following afternoon. Attributes of the work across multiple disciplines of artistic endeavor will be discussed as integral and interdependent elements in the work. Participation in mentored critical response feedback sessions with your peers is a key aspect of the course. The engagement with the medium of time, the constraints of presentation of the works both in works-in-progress and in a shared program of events, and the need to respect the classroom and presentation space of the dance studio will be the constraints imposed on the students’ artistic proposals. While, typically, many of these works might include embodied action that could fall under the discipline of dance, this course is open to any student who is interested in cultivating discourse across traditional disciplinary artistic boundaries, both in the process of developing the works and in the context of presentation to the public. As such, the inclusion of live performers is not a requirement. Toward the end of the semester, within the context of Winter and Spring Time-Based Art Events, this course will culminate in exhibitions, screenings, and performances of the works in a shared program with all enrolled students. The performances, screenings, and exhibitions will take place in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Theatre or elsewhere on campus in the case of site-specific work.

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2D Animation: Short Narratives

Open , Seminar—Year

Instructor: Robin Starbuck, fall; Scott Duce, spring.

In this class, students develop frame-by-frame animation and short-storytelling skills by focusing on the process of creating animated exercises and shorts. Instruction includes story development, visualization, character, continuity, timing, digital drawing, rotoscoping, and compositing. All of the production steps required to complete a short, animated film are demonstrated and applied, in the fall, through exercises that aim at the production of a final short, animated film by each student, or team of students, in the spring semester. Participants will develop and refine their personal style through exercises in story design and animation fundamentals directed at translating ideas into moving images. Digitally-drawn images (with the option to include live action and photographs) will be assembled in sync to sound. Compositing exercises cover a wide range of motion-graphic features, including: green screen, keyframing, timeline effects, 2D and 3D space, layering, and lighting. Working in frame-by-frame animation, students will be provided with a strong working knowledge of Harmony Premier, a creative, efficient, digital software used in the film and TV animation industry. The method of working for students includes digital drawing on a student’s own computer or digital tablet. The teaching system for this as an online course includes small (3-4 students) online group meetings, alternated with one-on-one individual conference meetings with the professor. This system allows students to form community groups while also providing each person with the opportunity to progress according to their own creative interests. If the class meets on campus, we will continue with class meetings and individual conferences. Students must have access to an internet connection and a reliable computer able to handle media software. Course requirements: 1T (min.) media external hard drive and a digital drawing tablet. Software and online meeting system TBA. No prior drawing or animation experience is necessary. 

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Sarah Lawrence Virtually Live: Creating the Prerecorded Comedy-Variety Show

Advanced , Small seminar—Year

In this yearlong advanced course, writers and performers of the “Sarah Lawrence Live” ensemble project will develop, write, and virtually record 10 20-minute segments of a comedy variety show to be screened for the campus on a schedule throughout the year. The episodes will also be posted online on an SLC live website. Using the recent inspirational platform of the virtual Saturday Night Live show, the class will plow ahead into unprecedented creativity and Sarah Lawrence abilities and get it done. One of the cast members will act as the host and introduce the show and guide the audience through the program. Each segment will showcase SLC comedic and dramatic skits, short films, and original musical performances created by SLC alumni, current students, and the music program. Historical and current TV shows will be explored for reference and inspiration. Use of improvisation techniques, writing prompts and theatrical exercises, virtual table-reads, and group discussions will establish a cohesive, collaborative, communal creative team. The editing of the shows will be a hands-on creative and technical collaboration among the project ensemble.

Faculty

Shakespeare and the Semiotics of Performance

Open , Lecture—Year

The performance of a play is a complex cultural event that involves far more than the literary text upon which it is grounded. First, there is the theatre itself, a building of a certain shape and utility within a certain neighborhood of a certain city. On stage, we have actors and their training, gesture, staging, music, dance, costumes, possibly scenery and lighting. Offstage, we have the audience, its makeup, and its reactions; the people who run the theatre and the reasons why they do it; and finally the social milieu in which the theatre exists. In this course, we study all of these elements as a system of signs that convey meaning (semiotics)—a world of meaning whose lifespan is a few hours but whose significances are ageless. The plays of Shakespeare are our texts. Reconstructing the performances of those plays in the England of Elizabeth I and James I is our starting place. Seeing how those plays have been approached and re-envisioned over the centuries is our journey. Tracing their elusive meanings—from within Shakespeare’s Wooden O to their adaptation in contemporary film—is our work.

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Japanese Literature: Translations, Adaptations, and Visual Storytelling

Open , Small Lecture—Spring

No previous background in Japanese studies, literature, art history, or film history is required for this course.

This lecture course is an introduction to Japanese literature from the 10th century to contemporary fiction, and we will explore the connections between literary texts, translations, and visual adaptations—paintings, hand scrolls, performing arts, film, and manga. We will read selected works of Japanese literature in English translation(s), including early Japanese tales such as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, The Tale of Genji, Life of an Amorous Woman, and modern novels and short stories by writers such as Shimazaki Toson, Hayashi Fumiko, Ota Yoko, Nakagami Kenji, and Murakami Haruki. With each text, we will examine other texts that are in conversation with these literary works and explore the content and forms of those conversations. In addition to lecture, there will be weekly group conferences and regularly scheduled film screenings throughout the semester.

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Forms and Logic of Comedy

Open , Seminar—Year

Comedy is a startlingly various form that operates with a variety of logics. Comedy can be politically conservative or starkly radical, savage or gentle, optimistic or despairing. In this course, we will explore some comic modes—from philosophical comedy to modern film—and examine a few theories of comedy. A tentative reading list for the first semester includes a Platonic dialogue (the Protagoras), Aristophanes, Plautus, Juvenal, Lucian, Shakespeare, Molière, some Restoration comedy, and Fielding. In the second semester, we may read Jane Austen, Stendhal, Dickens, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Kingsley Amis, Philip Roth, and Tom Stoppard. We will also look at film and cartoons. Both semesters’ reading lists are subject to revision.

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Imagining War

Open , Seminar—Year

War is one of the great themes in European literature. The greatest works of Greco-Roman antiquity are meditations on war; and as an organizing metaphor, war pervades our attempts to represent politics, economics and sexuality. Efforts to comprehend war were the genesis of the disciplines of history and political science; and the disaster of the Peloponnesian War forms the critical, if concealed, background to first great works of Western philosophy. We'll begin the first semester with readings from the Iliad, Thucydides, Plato, and Augustine and go on to study the Aeneid, Machiavelli, Shakespeare's Second Tetralogy and Hobbes. In the second semester, we'll look at the origins of political economy, among other things a discipline that sought to transcend the military metaphor; at Marxism, which remilitarized the language of political economy; at Byron's mock epic, Don Juan; and at two 19th-century novelists, Stendhal and Tolstoy—one of whom described war directly, and the other used it as an organizing metaphor for erotic, economic, and political life. We'll conclude with a look at some 20th-century literary, artistic, historical, and critical attempts to represent war with an allegedly unprecedented accuracy. This is an interdisciplinary course.

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Interrogating God: Tragedy and Divinity

Open , Seminar—Fall

The Greek gods attended the performances at the ancient theater of Dionysos, which both recognized and challenged their participation in human affairs. The immediacy of divine presence enabled a civic body, the city, to enter into conversation with a cosmic one, a conversation whose subject was a shared story about the nature of experience and its possible significance: tragedy. Divinity is less congenial about playgoing in later periods, but it seems to have lent tragedy both a power to be reborn and a determination to address the universe even as Christianity, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and the Industrial Age reimagine it. In this course, we shall read essential Western texts in which the constant of human suffering is confronted and the gods are called into question even as they shift their shape. Among our authors are Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Goethe, Byron, Ibsen, Beckett, Susan Glaspell, and August Wilson.

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The World According to Ariyoshi Sawako

Open , Seminar—Fall

No previous background in Japanese studies or literature is required for this course.

In this seminar, we will read a variety of works by Ariyoshi Sawako (1931-1984), one of Japan’s most talented storytellers in the last century. Ariyoshi’s novels vividly portray the lives of women in different historical moments, such as the dancer Okuni, the originator of kabuki theater, in Kabuki Dancer; the wife and mother of Hanako Seishu, the first surgeon to perform surgery using general anesthesia, in The Doctor’s Wife; and a mother, daughter, and granddaughter whose lives reflect changes in modern Japan in The River Ki. Many of Ariyoshi’s works also expose social issues, such as The Twilight Years, her immensely popular novel on the challenges of caring for aging parents, and Compound Pollution, her environmental novel that brought greater public attention to the harmful effects of chemical fertilizers and insecticides. Early in her writing career, Ariyoshi received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to study at Sarah Lawrence College, and we will also consider how her experiences at Sarah Lawrence may have influenced the directions she took in her subsequent writing. Ariyoshi’s literature will provide us with a lens to consider various topics, such as Japanese performing arts, history, gender, social issues, and translation. In addition to these readings, we will view some film adaptations of Ariyoshi’s literary works.

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Theory for Reading

Open , Large seminar—Fall

In this introductory class, we will deepen our understanding of how the acts of writing and reading have been understood in the Western tradition since antiquity and what they mean for us today. Each week, we will pair a piece of fiction or poetry with a philosophical or theoretical commentary. We will thus read Homer in the context of Plato and Aristotle’s understanding of poetry and fiction but with also in mind Nietzsche’s criticism of Platonism in The Birth of Tragedy. In the same spirit, Walter Benjamin’s use of Marxist theory will help us read E. A. Poe’s fiction and Baudelaire’s poetry in the context of mid-19th century Paris. We will also discuss Shakespeare’s Hamlet in light of its psychoanalytical readings by Freud and Lacan and analyze Kafka’s Metamorphosis alongside Deleuze and Guattari’s theorization of marginal forms of writing. Feminist and gender theory with Beauvoir and Butler, linguistics with Barthes, works by Foucault and Baldwin will also be discussed. Students will be encouraged to apply the material of this course to other texts of their choice. There are no conferences associated with this seminar, but students will have the option of developing a small personal research project.

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Wilde and Shaw

Open , Seminar—Spring

Toward the end of the 19th century, Oscar Wilde stated repeatedly that he was "an Irishman" and, therefore, beyond good and evil as defined by gentlemanly codes while George Bernard Shaw deemed nationalistic allegiances absurd and (prophetically, given the wars of the 20th century) lethal. In their stances, we can begin to see how the complexities and paradoxes of Irish identity—ethnic marginalization, religious zeal (secularized), linguistic play, knowing laughter—informed their ultimate self-definition as citizens of the world and thereby enabled them to fashion distinctively challenging art. It is also no exaggeration to say that each left the English language not as he found it. Wilde's life was short, and we shall read a good deal of his oeuvre: his fairy tales, his plays, his novel, much of his poetry, many of his essays. Shaw’s life was long, and we shall focus on his plays written before World War I, along with two brilliantly painful postwar works: Heartbreak House and Saint Joan. And, in both, we shall see how revolution can come disguised in conventional forms, as both playwrights transform drawing-room comedy into political commentary whose implications have yet to be resolved.

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Advanced Interdisciplinary Studio: Our Nine Senses

Advanced , Seminar—Year

This course is intended for advanced visual-arts students interested in working across disciplines and in more deelply pursuing their own art-making processes. Students making work in and across painting, drawing, sculpture, video, photography, sound, new genres, and performance are supported. Students will maintain their own studio spaces and will be expected to work independently and creatively and to challenge themselves and their peers to explore new ways of thinking and making. During the fall semester, students will be given open-ended, exploratory prompts based on nine human senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, balance, temperature, proprioception, and pain) from which they will be asked to experiment with how they make work and will be encouraged to work within new mediums. In the spring semester, students will focus exclusively on their own interests and will be expected to develop a sophisticated, cohesive body of independent work accompanied by two group exhibitions. We will have regular critiques, readings, image discussions, and trips to galleries and artists' studios and will participate integrally within the Visual Arts Lecture Series. This will be an immersive studio course for disciplined art students interested in making work in an interdisciplinary environment.

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Performance Art

Open , Seminar—Spring

Since the early 20th century, artists have explored performance art as a radical means of expression. In both form and function, performance art pushes the boundaries of contemporary art. Through this form of expression, artists have produced powerful works about the body and the politics of gender, sexuality, and race. This course surveys performance art as a porous, transdisciplinary medium open to students from all disciplines, including painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, video, filmmaking, theatre, dance, music, creative writing, and digital art. Students will learn about the history of performance art and explore some of the concepts and aesthetic strategies used to create works of performance. Drawing on historical and critical texts, artists’ writings, video screenings, and slide lectures, students will use a series of simple prompts to help shape their own performances. Artists and art movements surveyed in this class include Dada, Happenings, Fluxus, Viennese Actionism, Gutai Group, Act-Up, Joseph Beuys, Judson Church, Ana Mendieta, Gina Pane, Helio Oiticica, Jack Smith, Leigh Bowery, Rachel Rosenthal, Jo Spence, Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, Bas Jan Ader, Terry Adkins and the Lone Wolf Recital Corps, Carolee Schneemann, Martha Wilson, Adrian Piper, Martha Rosler, Lorraine O’Grady, Joan Jonas, Karen Finley, Janine Antoni, Patty Chang, Papo Colo, Paul McCarthy, Matthew Barney, Ron Athey, Orlan, Guillermo Gomez Pena, Narcissister, Annie Sprinkle, Vaginal Davis, Kris Grey, Carlos Martiel, Autumn Knight, Amanda Alfieri, Hennessey Youngman, Savannah Knoop, Shaun Leonardo, Francis Alys, Andrea Fraser, Tania Bruguera, Zhang Huan, Regina Jose Galindo, Aki Sasamoto, Pope.L, and many more.

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Senior Exhibition

Advanced , Concept—Spring

Requirements: To be eligible for a senior exhibition you must have at least 20 credits in the Visual and Studio Arts by the end of your fall semester as a senior. Interested students are encouraged to attend an informational meeting in the fall semester of their senior year (date and time TBA).

This course is intended for those students interested in exhibiting their work in a solo senior exhibition. Through a combination of group meetings and one-on-one studio visits, we will discuss your work’s development, the general conception and installation of a solo exhibition, and the various practical considerations inherent within the process of mounting a show of your own artwork. Students will be expected to visit gallery and museum shows as research and then to create and install their own solo exhibition during the semester, accompanied by a small printed catalog documenting their show. All students must attend opening receptions (time TBD), and we will visit each exhibition as a group to give feedback and critique. Additional classes will cover writing an artist statement, documenting your work, professional practices, and more.

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The Episode: A Course in Connections

Open , Seminar—Spring

This will be a course in the episode, a flexible way of putting content—fictional or nonfictional—in this world or another, together. The episodes that we know best are streamed online. We also read them, often without noticing their form. They are different from chapters or short stories. We will start by introducing each other to our favorites. Then we will do enough exercises to catch ourselves doing something right and continue until we have six episodes that connect, not necessarily conventionally. These will be supported and critiqued in small groups, while weekly exercises get presented to everyone. The course is a sneaky way to get people to write and revise something long over time. People can write fiction or nonfiction, for adults or children, and include poetry, songs, or drawings in their work. 

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Writing About the Arts

Open , Seminar—Fall

This class will examine and produce a range of work—from the journalistic to the critical, from the practical to the mystical—in the vast landscape of arts writing. We will write liner notes, catalogue copy for gallery shows, short reviews, long reviews, critical essays, and deep and subjective interior meditations on our experience of artists and their work. We will read broadly across time—possibly including, but not limited to, Samuel Johnson on Richard Savage, Wordsworth and Coleridge on themselves, Nietzsche on Wagner, Amiri Baraka on Billie Holiday, Virginia Woolf on Thomas Hardy, Thomas De Quincey on Shakespeare, James Baldwin on Richard Wright, Glenn Gould on Barbra Streisand. Mark Strand on Edward Hopper, Jean-Luc Godard on Nicholas Ray, Pauline Kael on Sam Peckinpah. Students should feel confident in their familiarity with one or two art forms, broadly understood, and should expect, along with the reading, to write several small and two large (8-12 pages) pieces. Conference work will comprise research projects on those artists or works of art, or both, that class members, in consultation with the instructor, decide are their special province.

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Ecopoetry

Open , Seminar—Year

In this poetry class—a yearlong school of poetry and the living world—we will consider the great organism Gaia, of which we are a part. We will read and write poems every week. We will ask questions: When did we begin to think of nature as apart from us? Why did we begin to speak of the animals as if we are not also animals? What are the stories and myths that have determined out attitude toward what we are and what we believe? We will read some of these stories and myths (myths of creation, Eden, the lost garden). We will read the long and rich tradition of poetry addressing itself to this subject, from the early indigenous peoples through the Zen monks and Wordsworth and right up through Gary Snyder and to utterly contemporary poets writing right now. We will read books and articles that teach us about the other animals and living entities that we call plants and trees and planets and galaxies. Each student will research an aspect of the living world and teach the rest of us what they have learned. And we will write poems that incorporate that knowledge. We will read books of poems but also watch films, take field trips, and meet with each other outside of class in weekly poetry dates. By the end of the class, my hope is that each of us will have a greater understanding of the great organism that we call Earth and will create a collection of poems that engage the questions that our class raises: What is time? What is death? What is Eden? Where is the garden now? Who are the other organisms? How have we, as a species, affected the other organisms? How have we affected the oceans, the earth, the air? How can poetry address the planetary emergency? Required for this class: intellectual curiosity, empathy, and a willingness to observe the world, to pay attention, and to write poetry that matters. This is a class for experienced writers, as well as for those who want to give writing poetry a try. All are welcome.

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Poetry: On and Off the Page

Open , Seminar—Spring

We will read a book of poetry each week, a mix of work from the late 20th century as well as more recent texts. We will spend half of each class discussing the weekly reading and the other half of each class discussing student work. At the end of the semester, students will turn in a portfolio of poems—with at least two earlier drafts for each poem. In addition to the reading and writing for class, students will have two major conference projects. Before spring break, each student will theatrically present a poem by a dead poet. This is more than just memorizing and reciting a poem; this is knowing a poem so well that you can speak it—as if the words are springing from you. Later in the term, students will pick a location on campus and, then, theatrically present one of their own poems in that specific location. Both of these conference projects will require additional rehearsal time beyond class time.

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Poetry Workshop: Wearing a Mask: Persona Poems

Open , Seminar—Spring

When I state myself, as the representative of the verse, it does not mean me, but a supposed person.—Emily Dickinson, in a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

For centuries, poets have spoken in the voices of other people. From the early Greeks to Shakespeare, to Walt Whitman, to Emily Dickinson, to Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, Robert Hayden, Lucille Clifton, Louise Gluck, Patricia Smith, Nick Flynn, Jorie Graham, Tyehimba Jess, etc. What is made possible when one speaks in the voice of a character that is not oneself? What is possible speaking through a character in an ancient story or myth? What is made possible when one gives voice to a character nothing like oneself? Who dares to speak in the voice of a flower? Of a bee? Of a storm? Of a star? What if one gives voice to the fragments of voices within one’s consciousness? In this class, we will read poems where the poet has spoken in a different tongue, or worn the mask of someone else, or of something else. Each participant will be expected to deeply read assigned collections each week, to meet with another student in a weekly poetry date, and to bring in one new persona poem each week. I hope we will find that outside the limits of the personal story is a cosmos of possibilities for empathy, revision, wonder, instruction, and finding another way in: slant.

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