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Graduate Program: Theatre and Performance Studies

Courses & Seminars

Recent Graduate Seminars

  • American Theatre and Drama from the Colonial Era to 1890
  • Classical Dramatic Theory and Criticism
  • Confronting Genocide on Stage and Screen
  • Contemporary Latin American Performance
  • Domestic Tragedy: Women and Violence in Theatre
  • Feminist, Queer, and Trans Performance
  • Foundations and Futures in Performance Studies
  • History of Directing
  • History of Popular Entertainment
  • Ibsen and Strindberg
  • Introduction to Graduate Research Methods
  • Modern and Postmodern Dramatic Theory
  • Performance Ethnography
  • Theatre and Performance in the Indigenous Americas
  • Theatre and Visual Studies
  • Theatre Pedagogy, Curriculum, and Professional Development
  • Theoretical and Historical Development of Latina/o Theatre

Graduate Course Descriptions

American Theatre and Drama from the Colonial Era to 1890
"I glory in being an enthusiast in the cause of liberty and my country," proclaimed Philadelphia hairdresser, playwright, and patriot, John Murdock in his 1794 drama, The Triumphs of Love, or Happy Reconciliation. Questions about what constituted an "American citizen" — or an "American play" would prove thorny ones in the century that followed the war. And pressure from overseas and at home underscored national anxieties that nothing American theatre artists could produce would ever quite measure up to their European counterparts. Ironically, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Americans faced many of the same questions concerning theatrical entertainments that the country does today: Should America have a "national" theatre? What would that mean? Whose idea of America should prevail? Could the theatre address political debates? Could it address the issue of racial inequalities? Of labor unrest? Of the growing immigrant population? Could regional distinctions be reconciled into a national imagination? This course examines how the nation's theatres and drama developed in the way that it did.

Classical Dramatic Theory and Criticism
A study of the major theoretical and critical statements on drama and theatre in Europe from Plato to Hegel. Special attention will be given to the development of genres and the examination of specific concepts such as "catharsis," "verisimilitude" and "decorum." The relevance of theoretical concepts to performance practice will be regularly questioned.

Confronting Genocide on Stage and Screen
This seminar will focus on representations of genocide in theater and on film from the Armenian Genocide to the Nanking Massacre, from the Holocaust to Argentina's Dirty War, to atrocities in Guatemala, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. We will explore the ethics and artistic integrity of these representations, the challenges artists and audiences face in confronting unimaginable realties, and the role these works can play in promotion awareness, understanding, and the possibility for social change. We will consider artistic expression as a form of cultural resistance as well as a way for survivors to cope with trauma and develop resilience. Recommendations: Graduate seminar open to interested undergraduates with permission.

Contemporary Latin American Performance
A study of the intersection of theatre with politics, culture, and history at crucial moments in twentieth and twenty- first century Latin America. Class discussion organized around issues of nation building, immigration, memory, and globalization. Analysis of play scripts and critical theory to investigate how theatre creates and represents social and political transformation, civic responsibility, accountability through the act of witnessing performance, and analysis of major innovations in Latin American theatre and performance.

Domestic Tragedy: Sexuality, Identity, and Performance
This seminar focuses on domestic violence in drama from Greek tragedy to contemporary performance art. In establishing the parameters for our study, we will consider social, cultural, and historical factors as well as aesthetic criteria. We will explore such issues as misogyny and the idea of masculine superiority, sexual politics and the ideology of "women's sphere," gender stereotypes, the prevalence of sex and violence in Western theatre, and the notion of love as a death sport as we arrive at a definition of domestic tragedy and determine its usefulness as a dramatic genre.

Feminist, Queer, and Trans Performance
If gender and sexuality, as embodied social categories, significantly inform how we become legible, how and to what ends do performers use bodies and their environments to transform, question, obscure, and expand what we understand as human, or even a body? This class draws on critical race, disability, indigenous, and postcolonial scholars who ask how power, pleasure, and violence are distributed and accessed via the management of gender and sexuality. It pairs these critical texts with artistic works to examine how queer, trans, and feminist theories are made in the flesh.

Foundations and Futures in Performance Studies
Performance studies takes seriously that performance is a critical site of knowledge making: a mode of doing research, of engaging in critical analysis, and of staging theory. The field holds a wide conception of what performance can be, including national and global exhibitions of power, gestural practices, everyday stylings of the body, rituals, concert dance, and much more. As an interdisciplinary field, performance studies draws from and makes itself relevant to other academic disciplines such as theater, literature, dance, film, art, and music, as well as critical social theory, anthropology, and history.

History of Directing
This course explores the work of a range of nineteenth-and twentieth-century directors who helped to shape contemporary theatre and film. Beginning with the Weimar court theatre under Goethe and moving through the conventions of the Victorian playhouse, the reaction against realism, the advent of expressionism, the age of the epic, and transition into post-modernism, this course encompasses both the history and the evolving theory of directing. In the process, it constitutes a survey of modernist culture. Students will be expected to research both historical productions and reconstruct the work of contemporary directors.

History of Popular Entertainment
A study of "illegitimate" entertainments in the Western hemisphere and their relationship to urban societies. Theoretical approaches will be made to individual phenomena such as fairs, circuses, pantomime, performing animals, puppets and automata, minstrelsy, variety theatres, sexual displays, and early film. Students will explore the innovations and cultural influence of seemingly marginal phenomena. Extensive oral presentations and a formal research paper required.

Ibsen, Strindberg and Chekhov
The lives, works and influence of the three leading European playwrights of the late 19th and early 20th centuries will be studied in the context of Scandinavian and Russian culture, Euro-American theatre history and literature, and contemporary concerns about class, gender and alienation. In addition to their major plays, relevant prose and poetic works from their hand will be explored. Significant writing and documents by their contemporaries will form a part of the reading, along with relevant films (Bergman, Mikhalkov), music (Grieg, Tchaikovsky) and paintings (Munch, Levitan).

Introduction to Graduate Research Methods
This course introduces students to different historiographical approaches to theatre research and invites them to begin the process of archival investigation. Required for all first-year graduate students.

Modern and Postmodern Dramatic Theory
This course examines major writings in dramatic criticism and the development of various literary, critical, and cultural theories as they relate to dramatic art and performance from 1875 to the present. Topics range include Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Structuralism, Feminism and Gender Studies, Postcolonialism, Cognitives Studies, Ecocriticism, and Affect Theory.

Performance Ethnography
Performance Ethnography is a critical research method that takes seriously the role of the body as a central tool in ethically encountering others and can also function as an interpretative tool to translate research back into the world. Centering the body also means considering the ways the body is read in terms of race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, and how those differences elicit particular kinds of data. Taking fieldwork as performance, this method also considers the contingency, context, and aesthetics of interactions in the field and of quotidian life. In this class, students will lean of the emergence of performance ethnography; consider the ethics of ethnographic research; try on fieldwork, participant observation, interview, oral history; and explore ethnographies that center performance as method and object of analysis. Participants will locate a field site in the area to focus their study, and will produce both a final essay and performance based on their fieldwork.

Theatre and Performance in the Indigenous Americas
Too often the relationship between Native communities and theater has been one of caricature, farce, and inaccurate (and often painful) misrepresentations. The selection of performance texts in this course offer a rejoinder to this history with works authored by and written for Native and Indigenous communities. The course focuses on themes prevalent in Native histories and spaces, which includes but is not limited to topics about ancestral lands, religious and ritualistic practices, and the challenges of authenticity, blood quantum, settler-colonialism and racial representation. Importantly, this course approaches performance and identity through an intersectional framework, meaning we consider feminist, queer, two-spirit and Trans* Native identities as they inform and shape art making processes.

Theatre and Visual Studies

This course will study the use of images as documents of theatre history. It will cover theories of iconography, types of document (e.g., portraits, genre paintings, and scene and costume designs), media (e.g., engravings, photographs) and formats. Specific topics, such as the commedia dell'arte and Shakespeare, will be explored from the angle of visual representation and its cultural seepage. Primary materials will be examined and outside experts will speak on specific topics. Students are expected to develop a hands-on ability to recognize and analyze such imagery. 

Theatre Pedagogy, Curriculum, and Professional Development
An introduction to the pedagogical theories, teaching practices and professional development skills necessary to expand career possibilities upon completing the PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies. Focus will be placed on both the study and practice of teaching strategies and tactics for making acquired skills legible to employers within and beyond the academy. Students will examine pedagogical trends, theories, and practices, with particular focus on teaching theatre in variety of contexts and to students from diverse backgrounds. Emphasis will be placed on creating, adapting, and justifying pedagogical strategies that employ the concepts discussed in course readings, lectures, and discussions.

Theoretical and Historical Development of Latinx Theatre
This course examines the emergence of Latino theatre and film as a potent creative and political force in the United States. Representative works by Latino playwrights, performance artists, and filmmakers will be discussed in light of issues such as labor and immigration, gender and sexuality, generation gaps in Latino culture, hybridized identities, interculturalism, and the United States' relationship with Latin American nations. Additionally we will explore emerging theorists and cultural critics who complicate the identity and aesthetics of Latinidad.