Intro Theatre Courses
For introductory theatre courses, I focus on close textual readings, dramatic structure/theory, the practice of theatre, introductory acting exercises, and responding to performances on campus and in the city. Below are some assignments, projects, and faculty observations from these courses.
Students wrote a comparative analysis of an adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone for one close-reading project I devised in an Introduction to Theatre class. Together we read Sophocles’ Antigone, Griselda Gambaro’s Antígona Furiosa, and Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona’s The Island. Individually, students had to choose from Luis Rafael Sánchez’s The Passion of Antígona Pérez, Dominik Smole’s Antigona, Sylvain Bemba’s Black Wedding Candles for Blessed Antigone, and Fémi Òşófisan’s Tegonni. They worked in peer discussion/research groups during class time to exchange ideas about the major themes and points of comparison, consulting Elinor Fuchs’s “EF’s Visit to a Small Planet: Some Questions to Ask a Play” – the model we had used earlier – to analyze the worlds of various Antigones. Acting projects were a regular feature of this class as well; I often use spare scenes to give students a sense of the many demands placed upon an actor. This faculty observation gives a glimpse into an acting workshop day in this introductory class.
Theatre Studies was a more in-depth introductory course for majors, wherein we explored the major components of theatre and performance. Students worked in groups to provide each other with an overview of various actor training methods. In student-led presentations, they provided the background of a particular acting method and led the class in exercises to demonstrate some of the basic aims of the method (we used Alison Hodge’s Twentieth Century Actor Training as our base text, with outside research expected). Another observation by faculty shares her experience after attending a few presentations in our class.
Theatre History & Seminars
While at the College of Staten Island, I taught all parts of a 3-section sequence of theatre history. When devising the reading lists and syllabi for these classes, I drew upon role-play and research to create the culminating project.Performance Histories I & II students at the College of Staten Island were asked to pitch productions as a group project. Choosing a play-text we read in class, students presented to a faculty panel, pitching the play in its original historical context – combining textual analysis with their knowledge of past performance logistics. The project guide assisted students in their research (they contributed to the questions as well when the project was initially assigned), and they were given a rubric so that the grading expectations were clear.
Along with close readings and in-class group projects, students were asked to respond to play texts critically AND creatively throughout the semester. I devised creative exercises called “freestyles,” where students could approach a text via acting, directing, playwriting, design, or some other form of personal response. We also did transcultural explorations and comparisons of various performance tropes, including blackface minstrelsy. A comparison of how blackface performance “worked” in the nineteenth century in very different geographic areas revealed both the power structures reinforced by such forms and the distinct cultural differences between the two – as described in this faculty observation based on a visit mid-way through our academic exercise.
In my Theatre for Social Action class, students explored major twentieth- and twenty first-century theorists and practitioners. After researching a particular performance group, students taught a shortened class session – assigning reading, curating materials, and finding video clips. For a final project, students devised a performance model to address a particular political or social issue, citing theorists and performers that had influenced their model development.
For a class on American Musical Theatre, we first studied the various elements that influenced the growth of the genre (vaudeville, minstrelsy, burlesque, operetta, etc.) before embarking on a series of thematic clusters. To study the musicals, students read each musical’s book, examined scholarly and critical responses, and listened to various recordings and screened productions when possible, comparing interpretations in revivals.
A regular extra credit option in many of my courses are “Treasure Hunts,” where students must research and visit various sites of theatrical and historical importance in New York City.