2013-2014 Theatre Courses
First-Year Studies: Power Plays: Theatre as Politics
This course examines how periods of social unrest and political upheaval can yield profoundly influential works of dramatic literature. Referencing specific historical events and political movements, including those of the late 20th century in America (the AIDS crisis of the 1980s; the antiwar, women’s, and civil rights movements of the 1960s), we will investigate how a play can come to be a record of its times and a lasting call to arms. Studying a large number and cross-section of plays that range from the classical to the modern and contemporary canons (from Lysistrata to Hair to Angels in America), we will determine how style, form, content, and the intent of the playwright shape audience response and why certain plays continue to inform the way we think and live. Students are expected to participate fully in class discussions and conferences and to create individual and group projects that are the expression of their own particular interests and areas of theatre study; i.e., acting, directing, design, playwriting. For the purposes of discussion, students will be asked to read aloud from selected assigned plays. Class work will include text and comparative analysis of selected plays and discussions of the political and historical contexts from which our plays emerged. In addition to plays, students will be assigned to read nonfiction support material. A series of documentary films and film adaptations of plays will be shown. In choosing this class, you are choosing to be a Theatre Third. This means that, in addition to this course, you will be automatically enrolled in Theatre Techniques: Technology and you will need to enroll in one other theatre component of your choice. As a Theatre Third, you are also required to attend all theatre meetings and colloquiums as listed below, as well as complete 25 hours of technical work each semester. This class meets twice a week.
Required of all students taking a Theatre Third (including First-Year Studies with Kevin Confoy) and Theatre graduate students, Theatre Meeting takes place on Mondays—B-week schedule—at 5:30 p.m. in the PAC-Suzanne Werner Wright Theatre and usually lasts approximately 30 minutes. Students are required to swipe in before each meeting. At each of these meetings, students will receive important information about upcoming theatre program events, production details, and DownStage presentations. An opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to make announcements is provided.
Required of all students taking a Theatre Third (including First-Year Studies with Kevin Confoy) and Theatre graduate students, the hour-long Theatre Colloquium meets six times during the academic year to explore current topics in the theatre and meet leading professionals in the field.
Students taking theatre courses at Sarah Lawrence for the first time are automatically enrolled in Theatre Techniques: Technology and are encouraged to enroll in Theatre Techniques: History and Histrionics and Theatre Techniques: Design Elements—three courses that introduce them to the history of theatre and to a wide range of technical theatre skills. Students who are interested in performance have priority enrollment in Theatre Techniques: The Actor’s Workshop. All Theatre Third students are also required to complete 25 hours of technical work each semester.
Theatre Techniques: Technology
This four-week course is an introduction to the Sarah Lawrence College performance spaces and their technical capabilities. The course is required of all students during their first semester in the Theatre program. This class meets once a week.
Theatre Techniques: Actor’s Workshop
This workshop will translate the actor’s imagination into stage action by building one’s performance vocabulary. The class engages the students’ essential self by expanding their craft through a wide-ranging set of training techniques. Students will explore through improvisation, movement, vocal techniques, scenes, and the performance of realism, experimental, classical, and comedy of manners from such playwrights as Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Oscar Wilde, Jose Rivera, Sara Ruhl, Susan Yankovich, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Samuel Beckett, to name a few. This class meets twice a week.
Theatre Techniques: History and Histrionics
Have you ever wondered where Arthur Miller got the idea to get inside Willy Loman’s head? Did you realize that it was only after August Strindberg went insane that he wrote some of his most famous and influential plays? Did you know that the comedies of Ancient Greece and the 17th century were far more sexually explicit than contemporary comedies? Did you know there’s a Nigerian play that is about the ancient African culture, but which uses ideas from Aristotle to tell its story? And that Aristotle’s ideas can also be found in plays by William Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen, and Tennessee Williams? Did you ever wonder what we really mean by “realistic”—or “naturalistic”—and that there’s a difference? Did you ever consider that Godot may already have arrived? History and Histrionics answers these questions but asks many more. We read great plays from the last 2,500 years—tragedy, comedy, social critique, realism, naturalism, expressionism, musical theatre, absurdism, existentialism, and much more—to try to figure what they’re about, why they were written as they were, and how they fit into the great constellation of our dramatic heritage. This course meets once a week.
Theatre Techniques: Design Elements I
This course is for students with little or no design or technical experience who are curious about design and want exposure to multiple design areas. It is also a useful tool for directors, playwrights, and actors who want to increase their understanding of the design and technical aspects of theatre in order to enhance their abilities as theatrical artists. This is a very hands-on class, in which students will learn the basics needed to execute set, costume, lighting, and sound designs. We will use a short scene or play as the focus of our discussions of the collaborative design process. Class format will include classes with the full design faculty, as well as classes focused on specific design areas. This class meets once a week.
Theatre Techniques: Design Elements II
This course is for students who have design or technical experience or have taken Design Elements I and want to explore design and technical theatre in greater depth. This course is also useful for students who are studying one area of design and want an introduction to other areas. Students will explore two of the four design areas (set, costume, lighting, and sound) in greater depth, building their technical skills, design basics, and collaborative communication skills. Class format involves classes with the full design faculty and six weeks of classes in each of two design areas with individual design teachers. The goal of this semester is to have students develop the ability to create a simple design in their chosen areas. Prerequisite: Design Elements I or faculty permission. This class meets once a week.
Contemporary Practice I for Dance and Theatre
Successful performances in dance and theatre rely on training that prepares performers in mind, body, and spirit to enter the realm of aesthetic exploration and expression. In this class, we will work toward acquiring skills that facilitate the investigation of how the body moves in familiar and previously unimagined ways. Through traditional and experimental practices, students will develop a sense of functional alignment, form, physical energy and dynamics, strength, and focus, as well as awareness of time and rhythm. Improvisation is an important aspect of this study. Placement class required; please check with the Dance program office for the exact date and time.
Using experimental exercises and improvisation, we will explore the character’s connections to his or her environment, relationships, needs, and wants. In the second semester, we will concentrate on fashioning a workable technique, as well as on using improvisation to illuminate scene work from the great dramatic playwrights: Lorca, Chekhov, Strindberg, O’Neill, Shaw, etc. This course is open to students who are willing to approach material experimentally in a laboratory setting. This class meets twice a week.
Great art comes from using oneself. If theatre is a way of knowing oneself, improvisation energizes that process. This course is for actors who are willing to personalize, place their characters in dangerous situations, play strong objectives, and then move on—a conscious way to reach the unconscious. We will approach the material experimentally in a laboratory setting twice a week. Students must be willing to act with and without text. This class meets twice a week.
Acting Poetic Realism
The plays of Anton Chekov, Tennessee Williams, and August Wilson serve as the point of departure in our exploration of the craft of acting. In this class, students will be challenged to expand their range of expression and build their confidence to make bold and imaginative acting choices. Particular attention will be paid to learning to analyze the text in ways that lead to defining clear, specific, and playable actions and objectives. This class meets twice a week.
Creating a Role
It is a sanctum of discovery, enabling the actor to explore non-Western movement: centering energy, concentration, the voice, and the “mythos” of a character to discover one’s own truth in relation to the text—both contemporary and the classics. Traditional as well as alternative approaches to acting techniques are applied. Fall semester concentrates on working on roles such as Hamlet, Leontes, Caliban, Othello, Lear, Macbeth, Hecuba, Medea, Antigone, and Lady Macbeth; spring semester, applied to scene study from works by Arrabal, Beckett, Ionesco, Maria Irene Fornes, Sam Shepard, Albert Camus, and Jean Genet. This class meets twice a week.
Making New Work
This is a performance lab open to actors, dancers, visual artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and directors. The class will form an ensemble where creative processes, media crossovers, and global forms and styles are presented within an active media lab. The group, using shared performance techniques, will explore the development of personal devised work. Methods of vocal and physical work will add to interdisciplinary collaborations in order to explore sources of inspiration for new work. Investigating both traditional and contemporary performance, we will acknowledge new connections that are happening between video games and text, science and technology. Crossing cultural and media traditions, the group will create and present weekly projects, as well as a final performance.
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, with the goal of bringing his characters to life. Class time will be divided among physical, vocal, and text work. This class meets twice a week.
Breaking the Code
A specific text-driven, on-your-feet approach to performance, based on identifying, analyzing, and exploiting particular attributes common to characters in all plays, Breaking The Code provides a foundation and a context for the most vital and decisive characterizations. Students will read, discuss, and act scenes from contemporary plays and adaptations. Open to both actors and directors. This class meets twice a week.
Close Up and Personal
Great camera work demands intimacy, emotional adaptability, risk, and connection. Students will learn how to maintain an organic experience in spite of the rigid technical restrictions and requirements. During the fall semester, we will work on cold-reading techniques, emotional expansion exercises, and scenes from published works. In the second semester, we will put original monologues and scenes on camera. We will use a monitor playback system for reviewing work to help identify specific problems. Class size is limited. This class meets twice a week.
An exploration of the classic structures of comedy and the unique comic mind, this course begins with a strong focus on improvisation and ensemble work. The athletics of the creative comedic mind is the primary objective of the first-semester exercises. Status play, narrative storytelling, and the Harold exercise are used to develop the artist’s freedom and confidence. The ensemble learns to trust the spontaneous response and their own comic madness. Second semester educates the theatre artist in the theories of comedy. It is designed to introduce students to commedia dell’arte, vaudeville, parody, satire, and standup comedy. At the end of the final semester, each student will write five minutes of standup material that will be performed one night at a comedy club in New York City and then on the College campus on Comedy Night. This class meets twice a week.
Actor and Director Lab
This course creates a functional and working process for the presentation of plays. Student actors and directors work together on chosen scripts as a way of determining and shaping a common and shared approach to the text. PROOF provides a particular way of reading, analyzing, and breaking down scripts that makes a foundation for the most vivid, physical, and distinctly realized expressions of a play. Students will study and analyze a number and variety of plays from different periods and of different styles as a way of developing a practical way of working and a guide map into a text. Students will be expected to both act and direct in scenes and in short plays for in-class presentations. This class meets once a week.
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. This class meets once a week. Audition required.
Breathing Coordination for the Performer
Students improve their vocal power and ease through an understanding of basic breathing mechanics and anatomy. Utilizing recent discoveries of breathing coordination, performers can achieve their true potential by freeing their voices, reducing tension, and increasing vocal stamina. In the second semester, principals of the Alexander Technique are introduced; students consolidate their progress by performing songs and monologues in a supportive atmosphere. Two sections. This class meets once a week.
Building a Vocal Technique
A continuation of Breathing Coordination for the Performer, which is suggested as a prerequisite, students deepen their understanding of breathing coordination and Alexander Technique and work on songs and monologues of their choice. The emphasis is on maintaining physical ease in performance to increase vocal range and power.
This class meets once a week.
Voice and Speech I: Vocal Practice
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 warm up 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.
Introduction to Stage Combat
Students learn the basics of armed and unarmed stage fighting, with an emphasis on safety. Actors are taught to create effective stage violence, from hair pulling and choking to sword fighting, with a minimum of risk. Basic techniques are incorporated into short scenes to give students experience performing fights in classic and modern contexts. Each semester culminates in a skills proficiency test aimed at certification in one of eight weapon forms. This class meets once a week.
Advanced Stage Combat
This course is a continuation of Introduction to Stage Combat and offers additional training in more complex weapons forms, such as rapier and dagger, single sword, and small sword. Students receive training as fight captains and have the opportunity to take additional skills proficiency tests, leading to actor/combatant status in the Society of American Fight Directors. This class meets once a week.
Movement for Performance
We will explore the full instrument of the performer, namely the human body. Daily exercises open the body to larger movement potential while introducing students to a better functioning alignment, efficient muscle and energy use, full breathing, clear weight transfer, and an increased awareness while traveling through space. In addition, students will be asked to create “movement-based pieces” in an effort to discover and articulate the languages that the body communicates 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 expression, and more personally expressive in their performances. In addition to occasional reading handouts, there will be opportunities to visit rehearsals and performances of professional theatre and dance in New York City. This course meets twice a week.
Movement for Performance
This class is for the serious-minded actor who, after graduation, anticipates pursuing a career as a performer. Predicated on the idea that auditioning is a learned skill at which one gets better with more experience and practical knowledge, the class will focus at its core on the only unalienable factor: the individuality of the actor him/herself. As much time will be spent on material selection as execution, actors will be asked to make necessary friendships with the dreaded “monologues” and, hopefully, come to regard them as necessary filters through which they can express themselves as both people and artists. Cold-reading prep will also be covered. The hope is for the actor to leave class with not only one or two terrific audition pieces, but also a better understanding of the casting process itself and what is in and out of his/her control. 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 these forms through individual and group research projects. We will further our exploration with hands-on learning in various techniques of construction. Students will then have the opportunity to develop their own manipulation skills, as well as gain an understanding of how to prepare the puppeteer’s body for performance. The class will culminate with the creation and presentation of puppetry pieces of their own making. This class meets once a week for two hours.
New Musical Theatre Lab
Investigations for those aspiring to produce, direct, create, and/or perform musical theatre and experimental chamber opera, this class is open to theatre designers and technicians, actors, singers, dancers, composers, lyricists, and musicians who are interested in learning and using crossover skills. Students will create teams to present and perform in class project scenes that include set and costume designs and musical and choreographic styles and that go from concept ideas to production. Students will research the history of musicals, including European cabaret and global performance, with a particular focus on the influence of interdisciplinary needs of contemporary musicals. The process of adaptation, auditioning, casting, rewriting, rehearsals, and performance will also be presented. Second semester, the class will develop an open performance workshop. An interview before the registration week audition is required.
We will explore the actor’s performance with songs and 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. This class requires enrollment in a weekly voice lesson and an Alexander Technique class. This class meets once a week. Audition required.
SLC Lampoon is a comedy ensemble of actors, directors, and writers. The techniques of Second City and TheaterSports will be used to create an improvisational troupe that will perform throughout the campus. The ensemble will craft comic characters and write sketches, parodies, and political satire. This work will culminate in a final SLC Lampoon Mainstage performance in the style of Second City or “Saturday Night Live.” This class meets twice a week. Audition required.
Directing & Design
Directors will study the processes necessary to bring a written text to life and 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. This class meets twice a week.
Directing the 20th Century: From Chekhov to Churchill
This class will focus on directing plays in the 20th-century canon, covering a range of styles and content. We will cover the whole journey of directing a play, with a strong emphasis on practical work. Students will be required to bring in design research for plays and to direct scenes from the plays, both of which they will present to the class for critique. The class will focus on how to use the text to inform the choices made by the director. This class meets twice a week. Jackson Gay will teach in the fall; Will Frears, in the spring.
Directing, Devising, and Performance
This class is a laboratory, where students will explore (on their feet) a range of methodologies, philosophies, and approaches to creating performance and theatre. How do you direct a theatre piece without starting with a play? Alongside a broad survey of artists and art movements of the 20th century that continue to influence theatre artists today, students will practice a variety of ways of staging, with and without text, and always in relation to being a “live event.” Following a trajectory from the Dadaists to Fluxus, from the surrealists to John Cage (and beyond), we will wrangle with these “postdramatic” artists and explore how their ideas can lead us in finding our own unique theatrical voice. Students will be given reading and creative assignments outside of class and will be expected to work collaboratively throughout the term. This class meets once a week.
Costume Design I
This course is an introduction to the many aspects of costuming for students with little or no experience in the field. Among the topics covered are: basics of design, color, and style; presentation of costume design from preliminary concept sketches to final renderings; researching period styles; costume bookkeeping from preliminary character lists to wardrobe maintenance charts; and the costume shop from threading a needle to identifying fabric. The major class project will have each student research, bookkeep, and present costume sketches for a play. Some student projects will incorporate production work. This class meets once a week.
Costume Design II
This is a more advanced course in costume design for students who have completed Costume Design I or who have the instructor’s permission to enroll. Topics covered in Costume Design I will be examined in greater depth, with the focus on students designing actual productions. An emphasis will be placed on developing sketching techniques and beginning and maintaining a portfolio. This class meets once a week.
Advanced Costume Conference
This is an advanced conference in costume design.
Lighting Design I
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. This class meets once a week.
Lighting Design II
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. This class meets once a week.
Scenic Design I
This course introduces basic elements of scenic design, including developing a design concept, drafting, and practical techniques for creating theatrical space. Students will develop tools to communicate their visual ideas through research, sketches, and models. The class will discuss examples of design from theatre, dance, and puppetry. Student projects will include both conceptual designs and production work in the department. This class meets once a week. There is a $50 course fee.
Scenic Design II
This class will further develop the student’s skill set as a scenic designer through work on department productions and individual projects. Students will deepen their skills in drafting and rendering for the stage and develop their ability to communicate with directors, fellow designers, and the technical crew. In addition, students will continue to have hands-on exposure to practical scenic construction, rigging, and painting techniques. Students in this course are required to design a department production. This class meets once a week.
Sound Design I
This course will cover sound design from the beginning of the design process through expectations when meeting with a director, how to collaborate with the rest of the design team, and ultimately how to create a full sound design for performance. The course will explain how to edit sound, as well as many of the programs commonly used in a professional atmosphere. Throughout the course, we will create sound effects and sound collages and cover the many ways that sound is used in the theatre. Skills learned in this class will prepare students to design sound in many different venues and on different types of systems. The class will focus on the creative side of sound design, while covering the basics of system design, sound equipment, and software. This class will meet once a week.
Sound Design II
This course is a continuation of training in the elements of sound design, with assignments that include designing for Theatre program productions.
Design Techniques in Media and Puppetry
This course allows students to explore design possibilities in projection, animation, scenic design, and puppetry through a series of exploratory projects and group work. We will create visual sequences using the overhead projector, stop-motion animation techniques, shadow puppetry, and video animation. The course will introduce basic digital manipulation in Photoshop®, simple video animation in After Effects®, and the live manipulation of video using Isadora media interface software. Individual projects in the second semester will challenge students to integrate these techniques into performance. Basic knowledge of Photoshop and the Macintosh operating system is highly recommended. This class meets once a week.
Introduction to Projection Design
This course will introduce students to all aspects of video design for integration with live performance. In this hands-on class, students will learn how to generate still and moving-image content and how to edit and prepare media. Fundamental image and video editing will be covered by using Adobe’s Creative Suite and Apple’s Final Cut Pro. Students will also learn programming, using Isadora software, as well as the specifics of hardware components that include mixers, monitors, and projectors and how to work with multiple screens. In addition, the course will include viewing and discussions of contemporary projection design and will address creative considerations of the practice. Students will complete a series of short assignments during the year and will develop a more realized design project for a final presentation. This class meets once a week.
Medley Playwriting Workshop: Developing the Dramatic Idea
You have an idea or vision for a play that you would like to write. You have no particular idea for a play, yet you feel eager to explore and learn how to write in the dramatic form—which involves live characters interacting in three-dimensional space before a live audience. Either way, this course involves learning craft techniques, as well as advanced methods, for dramatizing your ideas from initial scenes to completed rough/first drafts. The course will involve in-class writing exercises and reading selected plays. We incorporate free writing and brainstorming techniques, acting improvisation, and audio and video recordings from your in-process work. In-progress drafts of your work will involve 1-, 5-, 10-, and 30-minute versions of your play as it comes into being. This class meets once a week.
Experiments in Language and Form
In this class, we focus on writing “experimental theatre”; that is, we experiment with theatrical forms that extend beyond traditional portrayals of time, three-dimensional space, language, character, and dramatic structure and discover the impact that different types of onstage presentations might have on audiences. We are not interested in “imitating” the style of “experimental” playwrights but, rather, using their texts as influence, stimulus, and encouragement as we attempt our own “experiments.” As we investigate various experimental playwrights—Beckett, Ionesco, Arrabal, Adrienne Kennedy—we will seek to ascertain the political, spiritual, psychological, and social elements that influenced the creation of their works. Our aim, first and foremost, is to investigate and explore ways to genuinely investigate and give theatrical expression to our own personal, political, and spiritual interior lives, values, observations, and beliefs. We will then examine the most effective manner of communicating our theatrical experiments to an audience. Our “experimental writing” will include multimedia presentations as part of the scripted onstage play or performance. This class meets twice a week.
“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”—Jack London
Writers Gym is a yearlong writing workshop designed for writers of any genre and for any level of experience from beginner to advanced. Our focus is on writing exercises that develop characters and stories, whether for the stage, screen, or prose narration. In addition, we study theories about the nature of creativity. Our goals are as follows: to study writing methods that help to inspire, nurture, encourage, and sustain our urge/need to write; to learn how to transform personal experiences and observations into imaginative dramatic and/or prose fiction or poetic metaphor and imagery; to concentrate on building the inner lives of our characters through in-depth character work in order to create stronger stories; to explore—that is to say, investigate—and gain access to our spontaneous ideas; to articulate and gain a more conscious relationship to the “inner territory” from which we draw ideas; to confront issues that block the writing process; and to gain greater confidence in relation to revision as we pursue clarification of the work. This class meets once a week.
Playwriting Techniques in Solo Performance
This class is for people who lean toward performing and writing. Most of us have stories to tell, but what makes a personal story dramatic? This course challenges the solo performer to discover and craft the dramatic structure of the solo play—not just what is on the stage but what is on the page—with emphasis on imagination, characterization, story, and plot. This class meets once a week.
Solo Performance in Production
This course is designed to explore various aspects of staging solo performance. Through assigned texts and viewing video performances of contemporary artists, we will examine the myriad ways of structuring solo performance and experiment with uses of technology, music, visual art, and movement. In addition, we will look at contemporary trends in performance, audience participation, direct action, ritual, and endurance, as evidenced by artists such as Marina Abromovic. We will look at uses of nontraditional texts for performance such as the poetic series. We will also examine solo performance through the lenses of culture, current events, race, ethnicity, and gender. This class will include an informal end-of-year showing. The goal of the course is for each student to create a unique and individualized vehicle for him/herself. This class meets once a week.
The focus of this class is to investigate the mystery of releasing your creative process while, at the same time, discovering the fundamentals of dramatic structure that gives form to that process. To that end, in the first term students will write a series of both “spontaneous writing” exercises and “structural” exercises. Both types of exercises are taken from The Playwrights Guidebook, which we will use as a basic text. At the end of the first term, students will write a short but complete play based on one of their “spontaneous writing” exercises. In the second term, students go on to adapt a short story of their choice and 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. The work will be read aloud and discussed in class each week. Students will also read and discuss plays that mirror the challenges presented by their own exercises. This class meets once 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 plays in real time before a live audience? This course is designed for playwriting students who have a basic 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 points out, “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, although they may also bring in a partial draft or even a completed draft that they wish to revise. We will read some existent texts, time allowing. This class meets twice a week.
The Magic of Playwriting
This course challenges the assumption that talent cannot be taught. What we call “talent” is more likely a set of skills that may not be teachable but can be developed. During class, we discover a point of view, sharpen our creative torque, exercise focus, and listen to our subconscious. We also employ craft to make more potent our vision for a particular play. We interpret feedback from our peers in order to expand and adjust our material. Using techniques learned from great world dramatists, we rigorously edit and revise. All the while, we remember that there is a certain ineffable quality to every great play—something in its craft that remains a mystery. The objective of this course is to make the most of what can be developed or learned while retaining the magic of our work. This class meets once a week.
Theatre Outreach, Theatre History, & Production
Methods of Theatre Outreach
Developing original, issue-oriented, dramatic material using music and theatre media, this course will present the structures needed for community extension of the theatre. Performance and teaching groups will work with small theatres, schools, senior-citizen groups, museums, centers, and shelters. Productions and class plans will be made in consultation with the organizations and with 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. We will study sociological and psychological dynamics 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 afterschool programs, styles and forms of community on-site performances, and media techniques for artists who teach, as well as working with the Sarah Lawrence College Human Genetics program. This class meets once a week.
Methods of Theatre Outreach—Group B
Group B is a weekly conference course with Shirley Kaplan and Allen Lang that is available to students who have previously taken the Theatre Outreach course and who want to continue teaching and have a placement in the community. This class meets once a week.
The Performing Arts for Social Change
Today, theatre is increasingly defined as a commercial enterprise. This course will examine the use of theatre for social impact, examining its practice, theory, role, and production. Discussions will include how theatre is used for creating personal and social change and the key elements of successful projects. Classes will look at the full scope of a social change initiative—from process to performance to organization to impact. Interactive class sessions will include participation in a creative process involving community building, team building, conflict resolution, social issue analysis, and scene creation. Each student will be expected to develop a coherent theory of change and to construct a viable performing arts-based project “blueprint.” Students will also visit a rehearsal of The Possibility Project in Manhattan. Paul Griffin is founder and president of The Possibility Project, a nonprofit organization using the performing arts to empower teenagers to transform their lives and communities. This class meets once a week.
Dramaturgy is the study of dramatic structure—how plays are built and how they work. Although every play worth its salt works according to its own idiosyncratic plan, still there are certain principles that allow us take it apart in order to better understand how it was put together. There are many ways to do this, and we will be trying a wide assortment of them. For example, we will study two plays that utilize the same dramaturgical devices but to very different ends. This might involve looking at, say, both Sophocles’ Electra and Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge in order to examine classical structure; or comparing Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy to Shakespeare’s Hamlet in order to see the guiding principles of Elizabethan drama; or reading Augier’s simple-minded Olympe’s Marriage side-by-side with Ibsen’s great Hedda Gabler; or tracing the development of expressionism over the course of the 20th century from O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones to Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro. We will also look at how two plays may tell the same story but with different plots and using different dramaturgical principles. For this we might examine Euripides’ Hippolytus, Racine’s Phaedre, and Sarah Kane’s Phaedre’s Love; or Shakespeare’s King Lear and Nahum Tate’s neoclassical version of it (in which the end of the play finds Lear presiding at the wedding of Cordelia and Edgar); or the Orestes story from Aeschylus’ The Oresteia and Euripides’ Orestes to Sartre’s The Flies. The examination of multiple drafts of plays is often the surest way to see inside the playwright’s mind; fortunately, we have complete early drafts of plays that, after revision, became masterpieces. We might study Chekhov’s early manuscript of The Wood Demon in order to compare it to the play it became in Uncle Vanya; or look at Tennessee Williams’ early flop, Battle of Angels (which closed in Boston after nearly burning down the theatre) and its later reworking as Orpheus Descending. There are many other possibilities as well: faux folk drama in the form of Ansky’s great horror-thriller, The Dybbuk, or Lorca’s Blood Wedding; ritualistic drama from Genet’s The Maids to Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; farce from Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear to Guare’s House of Blue Leaves. Because an understanding of genre is essential to the work we will do, a working knowledge of the principal genres (classicism, Elizabethan, neoclassicism, realism, naturalism, expressionism, etc.) and their historical context is required for the course. This class meets twice a week.
Global Theatre: The Syncretic Journey
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to La MaMa, dedicated to the playwright and to all aspects of the theatre.”—Ellen Stewart
The La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City has been the host of contemporary and international theatre artists for 52 years. You will have the opportunity to attend the performances, meet the artists, and participate in workshops led by them, as well as access the La MaMa archives on the history of international theatre in New York. Your personal “syncretic theatre journey” is enhanced by the observance of fellow theatre-makers and oneself that is informed concretely by the application of text, research, movement, music, design, puppetry, and multimedia, as well as social and political debate in class. Coordinators of the La MaMa International Symposium for Directors, David Diamond and Mia Yoo, will host you in New York City, where you will exchange ideas with visiting and local artists: Yara Arts Group and artists of the Great Jones Repertory Theatre. Historical and contemporary experimental directors Vsevold Meyerhold, Richard Forman, Dawn Monique Williams,Cecile Pineda, and Karen Coonrod—and playwrights Eugene Ionesco, Mac Wellman, Lynn Nottage, Cherlene Lee, and Frederico Garcia Lorca—will be discussed.
Far-Off, Off-Off, Off, and On Broadway: Experiencing the Fall 2013 Theatre Season
Weekly class meetings in which productions are analyzed and discussed will be supplemented by regular visits to many of the theatrical productions of the current season. The class will travel within the tristate area, attending theatre in as many diverse venues, forms, and styles as possible. Published plays will be studied in advance of attending performances; new or unscripted works will be preceded by examinations of previous work by the author or company. Students will be given access to all available group discounts in purchasing tickets. This class meets once a week.
London Theatre Tour
The purpose of this course is to experience and examine present-day British theatre: its practices, playwrights, traditions, theatres, and artists. This is a two-credit academic course, and any student enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College is eligible to take the class. During two weeks in London, students will attend a minimum of 12 productions, tour various London theatres, meet with British theatre artists, attend regularly scheduled morning seminars, and make an oral presentation on one of the plays that the group is attending. Plays will be assigned prior to the end of the fall semester, and preparation and research for the presentation should be complete before arriving in London. Productions attended will include as wide a variety of venues, styles, and periods of theatre as possible. Seminars will analyze and critique the work seen, as well as discover themes, trends, and movements in the contemporary theatre of the country. Free time is scheduled for students to explore London and surrounding areas at their leisure.
DownStage is an intensive, hands-on conference in theatrical production. DownStage student producers administrate and run their own theatre company. They are responsible for all aspects of production, including determining the budget and marketing an entire season of events and productions. Student producers are expected to fill a variety of positions, both technical and artistic, and to sit as members of the board of directors of a functioning theatre organization. In addition to their obligations to class and designated productions, DownStage producers are expected to hold regular office hours. Prior producing experience is not required. This class meets twice a week.
The creative director of the Theatre program will lead a discussion group for all 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. This course is required for directing, assistant directing, and playwriting students whose productions are included in the fall theatre season. This class meets once a week.
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. This class meets once a week during the fall semester and will be taught by Ms. Minsky; spring semester, taught by Ms. Sealander, is devoted to mentored production practicums.
Tools of the Trade
This is a stagehand course that focuses on the nuts and bolts of light 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, drafting and 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. This class meets once a week.
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.
Graduate Student Components
Taught by a rotating series of Sarah Lawrence faculty and guest artists, this course focuses on developing the skills needed for a wide variety of techniques for the creation and development of new work in theatre. Ensemble acting, movement, design and fabrication, playwriting, devised work, and music performance are all explored. The class is a forum for workshops, master classes, and open rehearsals, with a focus on the development of critical skills. In addition, students in Grad Lab are expected to generate a new piece of theatre to be performed each month for the Sarah Lawrence community. These performances may include graduate and undergraduate students alike. Required for all Theatre graduate students. This class meets once a week.
Contemporary Collaborative Performance: Grad Projects I
This course will provide a critical and supportive forum for the development of new works of original performance, focusing primarily on where current dance and theatre combinations find inspiration. In the first semester, students will explore contemporary theatre-building techniques and methodologies from Dada to Judson Church and beyond. The majority of time will be devoted to lab work, where students will create their own short performance pieces through a multidisciplinary approach. Students will be asked to devise original theatre pieces that utilize methods such as solo forms, viewpoints, chance operations, and creations from nontheatrical sources. In addition to the laboratory aspect to the class, a number of plays, essays, and artists’ manifestos will be discussed. In the second semester, students will collaborate on a single evening-length work, utilizing theatrical and nontheatrical sources in an attempt to speak to our cultural moment. Please note: The second semester will require additional developmental/rehearsal time outside of class. In addition to class work, there will be several opportunities to visit rehearsals and performances of professional theatre and dance in New York City. Open only to first-year graduate students and required for all first-year Theatre graduate students. This class meets once a week and will be taught by Mr. Neumann in the fall. Faculty for the spring is currently tba.
This course will provide a critical and supportive forum for the development of new works of original theatre with a focus on conducting research in a variety of ways, including historical and artistic research, workshops, improvisations, experiments, and conversation. Each student will focus on creating one original project—typically, but not limited to, a solo—over the course of the full year. During the class, students will show works in progress. During conference, students and faculty will meet to discuss these showings and any relevant artistic and practical problems that may arise. This class meets once a week and is required for all second-year Theatre graduate students.
Theatre students may be invited to participate in outside programs, including:
The London Theatre Program (BADA)
Sponsored by Sarah Lawrence College and the British American Drama Academy (BADA), the London Theatre Program offers undergraduates from Sarah Lawrence an opportunity to work and study with leading actors and directors from the world of British theatre. The program offers acting classes with leading artists from the British stage. These are complemented by individual tutorials, where students will work one-on-one with their teachers. A faculty selected from Britain’s foremost drama schools teaches technical classes in voice, movement, and stage fighting. This intense conservatory training is accompanied by courses in theatre history and theatre criticism, tickets to productions, and the experience of performing in a professional theatre. In addition, master classes and workshops feature more of Britain’s fine actors and directors. Designed for dedicated students who wish to study acting in London, the program offers enrollment in either the fall or spring semester for single-semester study. Those wishing to pursue their training more intensely are strongly encouraged to begin their training in the fall and continue with the Advanced London Theatre Program in the spring semester. Audition required.
La MaMa E.T.C.
La MaMa E.T.C. sponsors two summer events in Umbria, Italy, in conjunction with Sarah Lawrence College: International Symposium for Directors, a three-week training program for professional directors, choreographers, and actors in which internationally renowned theatre artists conduct workshops and lecture/demonstrations; and Playwright Retreat, a one-week program where participants have ample time to work on new or existing material. Each day, master playwright Lisa Kron will meet with the playwrights to facilitate discussions, workshops, and exercises designed to help the writers with whatever challenges they are facing. More information is available at http://lamama.org/programs/umbria/.