Drama Department

Chair: Christopher Grabowski; Professors: Gabrielle H. Cody, Christopher Grabowski; Associate Professor: Denise A. Walen; Assistant Professor: Shona TuckerbVisiting Assistant Professor: Kenisha D Kelly; Adjunct Assistant Professors: Elizabeth H Egloff, Darrell James; Adjunct Instructor:Rachel Hauck.

Requirements for Concentration: 10 ½ units. Drama 102, 103, 221-222, 2 additional units in dramatic literature, theater history or performance studies from the following courses: Drama 201, 210, 215, 231, 282, 283, 284, 317, 324, 335, 336, 337, 339, 340 of which 1 must be 324, 335, 336, or 337, 339 or 340. 2 units from the following production courses: Drama 202, 203, 205, 206, 209, 282, 302, 304, 305, 307, 336, 339, 340, or 390; 3 additional elective units at the 200-level or above in drama, film, or dance.

I. Introductory

102a or b. Introduction to Theater-Making: Theory and Practice (1)

An exploration of the strategies theatre artists use to approach the realization of dramatic texts on the stage. Through weekly practical projects, the class examines the challenges posed by a variety of dramatic genres.

Two 75-minute periods, plus one 75-minute laboratory.

103a or b. Introduction to Stagecraft (1/2)

An introduction to the fundamentals of stagecraft, including the processes of flat and platform construction, scene painting, rigging, and theatrical safety.

Two 75-minute periods, one 2 hour lab, and 16 hours of crew time are required.

Six-week course.

II. Intermediate

200a or b. The Experimental Theater (1/2)

This course focuses on putting theory and technique into practice through participation in the performance, design, or technical aspects of department productions in the Experimental Theater of Vassar College. Recent productions included Homebody kabul by Tony Kushner, Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, Quills by Doug Wright, Into The Woods by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, a new translation of Oedipus at ColonusSkryker by Caryl Churchill, and Rent by Jonathan Larson.

Prerequisite: Drama 102, 103, and permission of the department.

May be repeated up to four times.

One 3-hour period, plus rehearsal and crew calls.

201b. Text In Performance (1)

The analysis of performance texts as they are interpreted in contemporary production. Students engage in close readings of play texts and criticism and then examine the ramifications of production choices by viewing a number of professional productions. Ms. Cody, Mr. Grabowski.

Prerequisite: Drama 102, 221-222 or special permission of the instructors.

One 2-hour period and laboratory.

Offered Alternate years.

202b. The Art of Theater Making (1)

This course is a sequel to Drama 102. Students explore more deeply the complexities of interpretation and realization of texts on the stage. The source material includes poems, plays, and short stories, and culminates in the conceiving and staging of a non-dramatic text. Ms. Cody and Mr. Grabowski.

Two 2 hour periods, plus one 2 hour lab.

Prerequisite: Drama 102 or special permission of the instructors.

203a or b. The Actor's Craft: The Study of Acting (1)

The development of rehearsal techniques and strategies in preparation for acting on the stage. Ideas are drawn from the work of Constantin Stanislavsky, Michael Chekhov, Viola Spolini, Anne Bogart, Sanford Meisner, and others. Ms. Tucker.

Prerequisite: Drama 102, and permission of the department.

Two 2-hour periods.

205a. The Actor's Voice (1)

Instruction, theory, and practice in the use of the voice for the stage. Instructor TBA

Prerequisite: Drama 102 and permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period.

206a. Movement for Actors (1)

Training in stage movement for actors. Students learn to understand neutral posture alignment and explore the dynamic and expressive qualities of movement, as well as the methods of developing a rich physicalization of character. Concepts from the Alexander Technique, Laban Movement Analysis, experimental theatre, and post-modern dance are used. Ms. Wildberger.

Prerequisite: Drama 102, and permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period.

209b. Topics in Production (1)

In-depth study of one or more of the specialized skills used in the creation of the technical aspects of theatrical production. Past topics have included Drafting and Draping. Graphic Communication for Designers, Scene Painting, and Stage Management. May be repeated, but students may study each skill area only once.

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period; additional lab time required.

210b. Introduction to Playwriting (1)

Introduction to playwriting explores the process and possibilities of dramatic writing. Course work includes analysis of several plays over the semester, including work by Friel, Shepard, Kennedy, Murphy, and Chekhov, among others. The bulk of the work, however, is work-shopping of student writing. By the end of the semester, students turn in a portfolio that includes a monologue, a short play, and a one-act play, all of which are expected to be revised. Instructor TBA.

Prerequisite: Drama 102.

Two 75-minute periods.

215b. Plays of the Black Diaspora/Performing the Black Diaspora (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 215b) Through comedy, tragedy, and satire, playwrights from Africa, Europe, the United Kingdom, and the Caribbean have dramatized the rich heritage and vibrant cultures of the Black Diaspora. The course explores the forms and themes of black theater. It examines the evolution of the black theatre from the African Grove, to urban "chitlin" circuits, and contemporary Black theater. It discusses how playwrights of the black Diaspora have dealt with issues like myth, identity, gender, spirituality, love, and ownership. Works include plays by Wole Soyinka, August Wilson, Derek Walcott, Susan Lori Parks, Alice Childress, Pearl Cleage, Ed Bullins, Athol Fugard, Lorraine Hansbury, Lynn Nottage, Dipo Abgoluage and Errol Hill. Mr. Reid.

Prerequisite: Drama 102.

Two 75-minute periods.

221a. Sources of World Drama (1)

Drama 221/222 is a year-long course that provides an introduction to dramatic literature and performance practice from around the world. In 221 students read an array of dramatic texts from the works of the ancient Greeks to English comedies of the seventeenth century, along with works from Japan, China, and India. The course balances an exploration of dramatic literature and staging with an investigation of the theories that have affected both the literature and practice of theater, such as Aristotle's The Poetics, neoclassicism, and Bharata's The Natyasastra. The course focuses on a series of critical periods and explores the relationship between the theater and the culture responsible for its creation. Instructor to be announced.

Prerequisite: Drama 102.

Year-long course, 221/222.

Two 75-minute periods.

222b. Sources of World Drama (1)

Drama 222 is the second half of the year-long Drama 221/222. This course provides an introduction to dramatic literature and performance practice from around the world. In 222 students read an array of dramatic texts from the eighteenth century through contemporary dramas such as August: Osage County and works by Sarah Ruhl and Martin McDonagh, along with works from Africa, the Carribean, and the Middle East. The course balances an exploration of dramatic literature and staging with an investigation of the theories that have affected both the literature and practice of theater, such as Realism, Epic Theater, Absurdism, and Theater of Cruelty. The course focuses on a series of critical periods and explores the relationship between the theater and the culture responsible for its creation. Ms. Walen.

Prerequisite: Drama 102 and Drama 221.

Year-long course, 221/222.

Two 75-minute periods.

231a. History of Fashion for the Stage (1)

A historical survey of dress from the Egyptian era through the fin de siècle as seen in sculpture, manuscript illumination, painting, and drawing. Cultural background investigated through manners and customs in Western Europe. Ms. Kelly.

Two 75-minute periods.

241a. Shakespeare (1)

(Same as English 241-242) Mr. Foster.

Year-long course, 241-242.

242b. Shakespeare (1)

(Same as English 241-242) Mr. Foster.

Year-long course, 241-242.

281b. Writing Immigrant Narrative (1/2)

(Same as English and Women's Studies 281).

282a. Dramaturgy: The Art of Dramatic Structure (1)

The aim of this course is to give students the tools with which to engage in serious historical and cultural research on a particular text, and to learn how to most productively offer this material to the practical needs of a production company. Students read theoretical essays, published as well as unpublished plays, and learn how to "cut" scripts, as well as to "adapt" existing material. Weekly presentations in class, and "interning" on a Vassar Experimental Theater production constitutes a core part of the course. Ms. Cody.

Prerequisite: Drama 102

One 2-hour period.

283. Looking at Dance Theater (1)

This course examines the roots of Dance Theater in the United States and Europe, and further examines its development and impact on both American Theater and Dance. Dance Theater embraces the worlds of the avant-garde, post modern, and modern expressionist genres and is responsible for the miasmic mixture and pure invention that we see in the 21st century. Through movement and dance we will study economy of action, elements of butoh, dynamics, and physicality to create story and expression. Ms. Wildberger.

Special Permission.

Two 2 hour meetings per week.

Prerequisites: Drama 100 or Dance 100.

284. How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?: Women in the American Musical Theater (1)

(Same as Women's Studies 284) This course focuses on the role of female characters in the American Musical Theater. To what extent did the portrayal of women conform to a gendered norm or stereotype in the early American stage musical? How did the popular book musicals of the 1950s and early 1960s subvert assumptions of female behavior and femininity in a conservative post-war era? Characters such as the tomboyish Nellie in South Pacific, the acerbic Momma Rose in Gypsy, the commercially shrewd but personally vulnerable Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, and the nonconformist Aunty Mame in Mame defy sentimental appeal and traditional feminine norms. Do contemporary musicals, from the Disney franchise, to Hairspray and Wicked, to recent Tony winners such as Spring Awakening and In the Heights continue to challenge popular notions of femininity, and what part does genre play in the construction of gender? Ms. Walen.

Prerequisites: Drama 221/222 or WMST 130.

Two 75-minute periods.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 2)

To be elected in consultation with the adviser and the Office of Field Work.

297. Reading Course (1/2)

298a or b. Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

To be elected in consultation with the adviser.

III. Advanced

302a or b. Theatrical Design (1)

Study of set, costume, lighting or sound design. May be repeated in another area of design.

Prerequisite: Drama 102 and permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period.

304a. The Art of Acting (1)

Advanced study of classical acting including Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Ibsen in which students examine the challenges of creating an entire acting role. Techniques explored include John Barton, Michael Chekhov, Viola Spolin, Anne Bogart, and Kristin Linklater. Ms. Tucker.

Prerequisite: Drama 203, 205, 1 unit in dance or movement analysis, and permission of the instructor.

Two 2-hour periods.

Offered Alternate years.

305a. The Director's Art (1)

An exploration of the director's work through the study of different genres of dramatic texts. Students work on several projects during in-class exercises, and a final project is developed outside of class. Ms. Cody.

Prerequisite: Drama 202 or 203, 302 or 304, and permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period.

One 75-minute laboratory.

306a or b. The Art of Acting: Comedy (1)

Advanced study of comic acting styles including clowning, Commedia Dell'arte, Restoration, High Comedy and Absurdism. The work of Lecoq, Suzuki, Wilde, Coward, Ionesco, Beckett and Callow are explored.

Prerequisite: Drama 203, 205, 1 unit in dance or movement analysis, and permission of the instructor.

Two 2-hour periods.

310. Comparative Mod Chinese Drama (1)

317. Introduction to Screenwriting (1)

(Same as Film 317a) Study of dramatic construction as it applies to film, plus analysis of and practice writing short short screenplays. TBA

Prerequisites: Drama 102 or Film 210 and permission of instructor.

Writing sample required two weeks before pre-registration.

Open only to juniors and seniors.

One 2-hour period.

320b. Advanced Scenic Design (1)

Students study topics in set design as well as create work of their own. Topics to include design and text work on three plays, a survey of contemporary American set designers, discussion about working with directors and considering actors needs when designing as well as some introductory drafting and Photoshop work.

Prerequisite: Drama 302 in set design

One 3- hour period

324b. European and American Drama (1)

Historical and critical study of European and American dramatic literature, theory and criticism, playwrights, and/or aesthetic movements.

Topic for 2009/10: Genet Revisited: Life, Art, and the Production of Self. This course explores the significance and relevance of Genet's work today. We read Genet's novels, plays, essays, poems, letters, and examine the impact of his activism and politics of representation. Readings also include theoretical essays and the writings of other artists about Genet. Weekly presentations culminate in a final theatrical rendering of one of Genet's texts. Ms. Cody.

Prerequisite: Drama 221/222 or permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period.

335a. Seminar in Western Theater and Drama: "Serious Play: Female Authorship as Drama" (1)

The course focuses on the study of works by Adrienne Kennedy, Irene Fornes, Dacia Maraini, Caryl Churchill, Marguerite Duras, Karen Finley, and Sarah Kane. We explore the performativity of female authorship through the study of plays, critical essays, letters and biographies. Weekly assignments include performative writing, and performance labs. Ms. Cody.

Prerequisite: Drama 102, 221,222 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period.

Offered Alternate years

336a. Seminar in Performance Studies: Modern and Postmodern Theatrical Practice (1)

Selected topics in Western and non-Western performance traditions and literatures. Weekly assignments include performative writing, and performance labs.

Topic for 2010/11b: The Question of the Animal. This course focuses on the complicated human-animal relationships at the very root of myth and theater (Greek tragedy originates in the "goat song") and more generally in cultural performance and popular representation. Both classical and modernist theater are ripe with powerful animal metaphors, the circus is the ubiquitous metaphor for humanity and its discontents, and many brands of Performance Art and Extreme Performance have incorporated animals as sacrificial bodies. In brief, the animal has been -- and continues to be -- an important and fraught signifier on the stage of our cultural imagination. Why? And what are some of the ethical questions surrounding our appropriation of "nature" and the "natural" for aesthetic purposes? Whose interests does the human/animal binary serve? Why does the animal speak for us, and we for her? Through weekly readings culled from drama, popular culture, the social sciences, and a series of in-class workshops, we interrogate the most basic assumptions of humanist philosophy, and study the use and implications of performance ecologies in which the animal is central. The course culminates in the presentation of short theatrical responses to this material. Ms. Cody.

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period.

337a. Seminar in Para-theater (1)

This course explores the theory of performance through an examination of para-theatrical genres and their relation to performance. What is a performance and who constitutes the performance event? Course readings cover street theatre, demonstrations, stand-up comedy, tourism, dance, performance art, terrorism, mediatized and virtual performance, and theories of liveness as well as the performativity of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Students participate in fieldwork investigations and empirical exercises. Ms. Walen.

Prerequisite: Drama 221-222 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period.

339a. Shakespeare in Production (1)

(Same as English 339a and Medieval and Renaissance Studies 339a)

Students in the course study the physical circumstances of Elizabethan public and private theaters at the beginning of the semester. The remainder of the semester is spent in critical examination of the plays of Shakespeare and several of his contemporaries using original staging practices of the early modern theater. The course emphasizes the conditions under which the plays were written and performed and uses practice as an experiential tool to critically analyze the texts as performance scripts. Ms. Walen.

Enrollment limited to Juniors and Seniors

One 3-hour period.

340. Seminar in Performance Studies: Artaud and His Legacy (1)

This course is designed to introduce students to one of the most influential thinkers about the theater through the lens of Performance Studies. We explore Artaud's essays, poems, plays, films, radio texts, drawings and letters, and the ways in which his radical proposals have helped to form many of the great performance traditions of the late Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries. Some of the artists examined as part of Artaud's legacy are Tadeusz Kantor, Tatsumi Hijikata, John Cage, Robert Kaprow, Augusto Boal, Robert Wilson, Carolee Schneeman, Meredith Monk, Yvonne Rainer, Richard Schechner, Linda Montano, and Ann Hamilton and Suzanne Lacy. Ms. Cody.

Permission of instructor.

2 hour seminar.

361. Chinese and Japanese Drama and Theatre (1)

(Same as Chinese-Japanese 361) A study of Chinese and Japanese culture and society through well-known dramatic genres—zaju, chuanqi, kunqu, Beijing Opera, modern Spoken Drama, noh, kyogen, bunraku, kabuki, and New Drama; a close reading of selected plays in English translation. Scheduled films of performances convey Chinese and Japanese theatrical conventions and aesthetics. Discussions focus on major themes based on research presentations. All readings and discussions are in English. Mr. Du.

Prerequisite: one 200-level course in language, literature, culture, drama or Asian Studies, or permission of instructor.

380. The Performance of Catastrophe (1)

382b. Acting for the Camera (1)

Techniques of acting and writing for the camera. Special emphasis placed on collective class project. Instructor to be announced.

Prerequisite: Drama 102, 203 and permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period.

386. Shakespeare Today (1)

390a or b. Senior Project in Drama (1)

Students may propose to undertake a project in one of the following areas: research in dramatic literature, theater history, performance studies, acting, directing, design, or playwriting. Proposals can range from collaborative ensemble projects to solo work, to more conventional endeavors in specific areas such as research, acting, directing, or designing. The nature of this project is to be determined in consultation with the department. The department.

Enrollment limited to senior drama majors.

Prerequisite: senior standing, and permission of the department. In the case of directing and design projects, students must also have completed Drama 209.

Unscheduled.

391a or b. Senior Production Laboratory (1)

Participation in the performance, design, or technical aspects of department productions. Students undertake a major assignment with significant responsibility focusing on theory, craft and collaboration. The department.

Enrollment limited to senior drama majors.

Prerequisite: senior standing, 1 unit at the 300-level in Drama, and permission of the department.

May not be taken concurrently with Drama 390.

Unscheduled.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

To be elected in consultation with the adviser