Summer Theatre Studies Courses

Summer Session I

Directing Practicum, Section 001 (In-Person)

THEA-UT 676.001 | 4 units | Instructor: Frederick Ertl

This class introduces students to fundamental directing tools: principles of stage composition and visual story telling, action based script analysis, basic directing theory, applied Viewpoints and theatrical conceptualization. Through weekly composition and scene exercises students learn to create communicative stage imagery, physicalize dramatic action and articulate sub-textual behavior. Class work includes written analysis and production concept papers. Readings include writings of Brecht, Erving Goffman, Stanislavski, Grotowski, Bogart and Francis Hodges.

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Directing Practicum, Section 002 (In-Person)

THEA-UT 676.002 | 4 units | Instructor: Kevin Kuhlke

This class is designed to introduce students to skills and concepts that are fundamental to the art of stage directing. These skills and concepts include script analysis and production research (from given circumstances, dramatic action, character and “ideas” through to interpretation and production concept), theatrical composition (staging and visual story telling), crafting (how to go from analysis to concrete, active and specific stage reality), and communicating with actors. These skills and concepts are applicable to a wide range of production aesthetics. Students will create and/or show devised and scripted scene work in almost every class. Much, but not all, of the class work will be created inside a basic Stanislavskian framework of learning to clearly and dynamically physicalize the dramatic action in communicative stage language. Readings from Grotowski, Richards and Hodges on “action” will be studied and applied to scene work. Students will be introduced to fundamental aspects of Stanislavski’s Active Analysis. A close reading of Chekhov’s Three Sisters or The Seagull will be used to model a way of reading a play as a director, focusing on the relationship between given circumstances and the characters actions, intentions and emotional points of view and how those suggest themes and overall ideas in the play. Social theories of Erving Goffman will be studied and applied to the creation of original theater pieces in order to expand the students understanding of the potential communicative power of sub-textual behavior. In conjunction with learning how to use secondary research and critical essays to prepare production concepts, students will read theoretical writings of Bertolt Brecht and apply them to the creation of original work that introduces them to the use of multiple tracks inside a performance, the use of meta-theatrical “frames” and ways to embed dramaturgical concepts into the dramatic action. An analysis of The Bacchae by Euripides will used to provide examples how selecting and researching overriding ideas and themes in support of a theatrical concept can influence a director’s choices in design, character’s actions, emotional points of view and intentions. There will be two major writing assignments. These focus on play analysis, production concept and research. There will also be several one-page basic analysis assignments. Each class will begin with a physical warm up and improvisational movement exercises to help students anchor composition concepts in their bodies. These exercises are from many sources including aspects of Viewpoint theory primarily: Space, Shape, Time and Kinetics.

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Studies in Shakespeare: On Film (In-Person)

THEA-UT 700 | 4 units | Instructor: John Osburn

The study of Shakespeare on film offers an opportunity for observing actual historical artifacts (the films) in relation to the texts on which they were based (the plays). By engaging directly with realized versions of the scripts, it is possible to more fully consider how changing social, cultural, political and technological mores affect the performance and interpretation of seemingly fixed texts that are often the object of cultural reverence and a purist devotion to the “original.” By looking at a field that involves filmmakers from the silent era to the present and from both English and non-English speaking cinematic traditions, one confronts both the interpretive fluidity of the scripts themselves and the contingency of tastes and values as they relate to styles of acting, textual fidelity, technological polish, and identity issues such as race, sex and gender, class, and colonialism. That a quintessentially theatrical body of work has resulted in a rich and varied body of work in a different medium will lead to a discussion of dramatic adaptation and what it means to realize a “version” of a Shakespearean play.

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Theatre and Therapy (In-Person)

THEA-UT 673 | 4 units | Instructor: Stephanie Omens

Drama therapy is defined as the intentional use of dramatic processes in order to facilitate change, healing, and growth. In this course, we will learn what drama therapy is, from a theoretical and experiential point of view. Drama therapy is an active form of psychotherapy, experiential in essence, and therefore in order to understand drama therapy and how it can help others, we must experience it. In addition, each class will consist of a theoretical presentation on the drama therapy method that we experience.

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Theatrical Genres: Comedy & Performance (In-Person)

THEA-UT 632, Section 001 | 4 units | Instructor: Fritz Ertl

What is comedy? WHY do we laugh at all? WHAT makes us laugh? How is comedy today different from yesterday; how is it the same? Combining theory with practice, this class endeavors to explore comedy both critically and in performance, embodying the comic even as we theorize about it. We will look at comedy historically, and as it manifests in various genres, as well as break it down structurally – all the while keeping an eye to the cultural influences that inform all comedy. The primary mode of exploration for this class will be stand-up. Arguably the most prevalent form of comedy of our age, stand-up offers us a window into how all comedy works, including: the importance of surprise; comedic timing; comedic structure; and comic situations and characters. In terms of content, we will address status as a location for humor; the importance of the body in comedy; and cultural taboos. In addition to working on our stand up routines, each class will have a critical component, and class discussions will serve to deepen our evolving routines. Of particular interest is the examination of (and distinction between) comedy that affirms cultural norms versus comedy that subverts these norms. 

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Topics in Performance Studies: Burlesque (In-Person)

THEA-UT 650 | 4 units | Instructor: Lynn Sally

This class will transform how you look at theatre and theatre history. Burlesque, at its root, is about parody. When Lydia Thompson and the British Blondes brought their brand of burlesque to New York City in 1868, American burlesque was born. The Blondes lampooned classic plays, poked fun at current events, and upended both high and low culture, all while “putting on” the other gender (as opposed to burlesque’s later association of “taking off” via striptease). Since Thompsonian burlesque introduced the shocking yet enticing (and potentially subversive) combination of feminized spectacle with parody, poking fun has been central to burlesque, and it spans form, content, and style.

This course will cover the major historical shifts in American burlesque traditions including Thompsonian burlesque, the emergence of striptease, and the neo-burlesque movement. We will watch films that document burlesque; read biographies of major figures and scholarly work about performance, theatre, and burlesque; and discuss and practice neo-burlesque with guest artists. We will think, read, write, and discuss (a lot) in this class about ‘big topics” such as gender, performance, desire, sexuality, class, race, camp, nationalism, fashion, censorship (etc.) via the signifier of the burlesque body. Understanding performance requires deeply exploring how it reflects and simultaneously constructs culture. In this condensed summer session, we will divide our lass time between discussion and practicums. 

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Topics in Performance Studies: Museums, Fairs, Sideshows (In-Person)

THEA-UT 750 | 4 units | Instructor: Robert Davis

A fascinating look at the history and design of museums and other shows: from medieval fairs to contemporary institutions. In particular, a focus on how museums and shows have presented displays using theatrical contentions as well as a how objects “perform” for an audience. Course work will cover the histories of museums, world’s fairs, circuses, zoos, and freak shows, as well as include field trips throughout New York City.

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Summer Session II

Ecology of New York Theatre (In-Person)

THEA-UT 679 | 4 units | Instructor: Elizabeth Bradley

Emerging from the global pandemic theater as both an “industry” and an art form is at a crossroads. Almost every operating principle on which the professional theatre in New York City has relied is being reevaluated. How will the profession that is emerging in 2023 and beyond be different? How much can we understand about the forces that are driving material change? What, if anything, will or should remain unaltered? What or who determines if altered and better models of creation and distribution will emerge? In what areas will promised changes remain unfulfilled?? We will examine these trenchant questions through readings, discussions, site visits, attendance at select productions, viewing of complementary digital content, and interviews with thought leaders from various sectors of production around the city: Broadway producers, not-for-profit companies, presenters, unions, venues, and more.

The course is being offered as a three-week intensive - three hour classes four days a week. While it will not be possible to cover every linchpin organization, company or creator, students will understand the key issues, trends and operating frameworks of theater in the city.

This course is open to all students and counts towards the BEMT & Producing minors. This course has a ticket fee of $250.

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LGBTQ+ Performance: Queer, Feminist, & Trans Performance (In-Person)

THEA-UT 624 | 4 units | Instructor: Benjamin Gillespie

If gender and sexuality are embodied social categories that significantly inform how we become legible in the world, to what end do performers and performance practices put these differences on stage to transform, question, obscure, aestheticize, and expand what we understand as human identity? This seminar covers a broad range of queer, feminist, and trans performances across theatre, dance, cabaret, and performance art that express different forms of non-normative identity and their intersection on stage. Along with performance texts, we also look at groundbreaking theoretical readings in queer, feminist, trans, critical race, disability, and age studies. Students will focus on the exceedingly diverse ways in which performance offers alternative spaces for artists to challenge dominant cultural ideologies, normative identities, and performance conventions through theatrical means. Looking at identity-based performances historically will ground our analysis of more contemporary productions, particularly those happening in the current season. Students will be able to explore how personal identity and the queer and trans body matter politically in contemporary performance by analyzing various forms of performative enactment. What does it mean to perform feminist, queer, and trans identity on stage and in everyday life? How does performance offer a lens through which to read and understand identity-based differences in the U.S. and beyond?

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Political Theatre: Theatre & Social Justice (In-Person)

THEA-UT 622 | 4 units | Instructor: Ash Marinaccio

This course is for students passionate about justice and interested in how theatre intersects with socio-political issues. We will study theatre and performance associated with various social movements to learn more about theatre’s participation in social change. Students will analyze case studies, dramatic literature, and social theory to see how these forces influence each other and society. We will read, work with and engage with readings, plays, and case studies to understand how theatre and the performing arts have functioned in times of social and political instability. Students will work individually and as teams to develop theatrical responses to the pressing social justice issues in their communities and the world.

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Realism & Naturalism (In-Person)

THEA-UT 705 | 4 units | Instructor: Joseph Jeffries

Realism and Naturalism are foundations of contemporary theatre but where and how did these forms begin and take shape and how are they distinct from each other? This class explores the societal and theatrical pressures that gave rise to these genres around the start of the Industrial Revolution and how they continue to impact and shape theatre and audiences today. Plays by Zola, Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov and Shaw as well as critical and historical writings will be dissected along with consideration of movements from Romanticism to the birth of Avant-Garde movements like Symbolism , Futurism and Dada. The birth of the director, the craft of acting and the impact of new technologies on the stage and playwriting will also be placed into context.

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Theatrical Genres: Boal & Beyond: The Theory and Practice of the Theatre of the Oppressed (In-Person)

THEA-UT 632, Section 002 | 4 units | Instructor: Alexander Santiago-Jirau

This class will take a detailed look at Augusto Boal and the impact of his body of work, known collectively as the Theatre of the Oppressed: a collection of games, techniques, and exercises for using theatre as a vehicle for personal and social change. Boal, one of the most well-known theatre artists from Latin America, has influenced a wide number of areas in applied and political theatre. The class will begin by locating Boal autobiographically and through his work with actors and non-actors. We will then explore his idea of the facilitator or Joker and then investigate Boal in light of some of his central influences including Aristotle, Brecht, Freire, and others. We will continue with theoretical and hands-on investigations of the many stages of the Theatre of the Oppressed such as Image Theatre and Forum Theatre. In the later parts of the class, we will investigate a number of case studies where Boal’s techniques have been applied across different contexts. Throughout, Boal’s idea of the spect-actor, an activated audience member who co-creates the material, will guide us philosophically and pedagogically. This means that students are fully expected to co-create the class alongside the teacher.

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Theatrical Genres: Race & Ethnicity on the American Stage (Online)

THEA-UT 632, Section 003 | 4 units | Instructor: SAJ

While Omi & Winant (1994) describe the 1950s and '60s in the US as representing a "racial break," a transformation in the nation's understanding of race and ethnicity, Melamed (2011) expands this understanding of race and ethnicity in culture from the 1980s to the 2010s. Beginning from Melamed's periodization, this class takes up questions of race and ethnicity on and through the US stage from the Reagan era to the Obama years. Prioritizing playwrights of color, we will study plays and musical about Black and Indigenous people of color, whether those are people indigenous to what is now known as the US, or people who have been, or the descendents of people who have been displaced, kidnapped, enslaved, or who are otherwise diasporic. We'll place these works within their rich theatrical paratexts: the contextual artifacts that surround and distinguish these plays, including critics' reviews, billboards, playbills, marketing campaigns, newspaper articles, and televised debates. By grounding our understanding of the American theatre's representations of race and ethnicity in a Black Marxist historical materialism, we'll seek to understand the relationship between the message of a play and its impact on the world.

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