Theatre Studies

THEA 100 Introduction to Theatre Studies

An introduction to the various aspects of theatre including performance and production, the play script, history, theory and criticism.

 

THST 200 Theatre History

Theatre 200 introduces students to the history of the practice of theatre, beginning in the fifth century BCE and progressing through to the twenty-first century. We will discuss the development of the theatre as a collaborative art form relying on the contribution of many artists, architects, playwrights, actors, directors, designers, and technicians. Discussing the evolution of these various roles, as well as the changing stages on which theatre has been performed, we will answer such burning questions as: How did Shakespeare's acting troupe get by without a director?; Why were performing dogs so popular on the nineteenth-century stage?; Why do Method Actors have so many psychological problems?; Why do actors in small avant-garde companies insist on harassing me when I'm in the audience, touching me, talking to me, making me uncomfortable?

 

THST 250 Script Analysis  

In this course, students will be introduced to the basics of script analysis, the practice of breaking a dramatic text into its constituent parts in order to understand how it works as a whole. This course will be of interest both to those students who wish to understand dramatic texts as a genre of literature and to those students who wish to understand written texts as blueprints for theatrical production.

 

THST 252 Critical Approaches

What are the characteristics of a good play? What does “good” mean, anyway? Should plays follow a clear formula? Should theatre appeal to the mind, to the heart, or to the senses? Should the stage be used as a place of instruction or as a place of play, where anything goes and morality can and should (if only temporarily) be discarded? What should or shouldn’t be the rights and responsibilities of theatre practitioners and their audiences? What is the relationship between individual and collective performance and identity, gender, community? How have larger critical movements influenced the theatre, and how have theatre practitioners influenced larger critical movements in their turn? In Theatre 252, we will examine, discuss, and debate these and other questions/problems as we survey performance theories and methodologies from those of the Greeks to those of today. The premise of this class is that theatre should not just be something we do@font-face { font-family: "Cambria"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }— it should also be something we examine and theorize and debate, from a position of familiarity with and understanding of its rich critical and practical history.

 

THST 300AA Studies in Greek & Roman Theatre

My love of Classics developed at an early age. I remember my childhood years with great fondness. Each night my father would ready my bottle, tuck me snugly underneath the covers, and lull me to sleep by reading some of the Classics. There was the tale of Oedipus, the man who killed his father and married his mother. Another popular choice was the story of Phaedra, who developed a sick sexual attraction to her stepson Hippolytus. And, my father's favourite, Euripides' Bacchae, which tells how a young man was ripped limb from limb by his drunken mother. Ah, treasured moments of my youth that will stay with me forever! In this course I attempt to recreate these magical experiences with a close reading of a variety of Attic tragedies.

 

THST 300AB Medieval Theatre

In this course, we will examine some of the rich variety of middle English plays written and performed from 1375 to the 1550s, a period in English history marked by significant political, religious, and cultural upheavals. The Peasant’s Revolt (1381), numerous northern rebellions, periods of famine and plague, the development and spread of the Lollard heresy and the eventual Reformation – these events influenced the development and content of early English dramatic texts. As we study the plays, we will therefore work to place them in their social and historical contexts. However, because these texts are dramatic, we will discuss them primarily as blueprints for production, not only medieval but also modern.

 

THST 301 AA Spain & France Golden Age

We will examine representative critical and creative French and Spanish theatrical texts written and staged between the middle of the sixteenth century and the end of the seventeenth. In both countries this was a period of productive (and often destructive, vindictive, venomous) debate over the artistic importance of classical dramatic theories and models to the contemporary theatre.  

 

THST 301AC Dramaturging Shakespeare

In Dramaturging Shakespeare, students will be introduced to the original performance context of Shakespeare's plays. Closely examining archeological and documentary evidence, we will discuss the architecture and performance spaces of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatres and how they affected performance style and audience reception. Through careful script analysis, we will determine likely space use (for example, of stage doors and of stage levels), contemporary technology employed for special effects, and prop and costume use. Finally, we will discuss the professional operation of acting troupes (their sizes, composition, and principles of operation) and of the theatres (the number of plays presented each month, times of performance, entry fees charged, and revenues received).

 

THST 302 Melodrama to Modernism

In North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century, theatre was the principle medium of entertainment for every social class. The educated and the illiterate flocked to theatres to see the latest farce/melodrama/tragicomedy. Men took their families to “wholesome” blackface minstrel, vaudeville, or music hall shows and, after, attended more exclusive “leg shows” and burlesques alone. Theatre technology developed to allow spectacular occurrences on the stage: train crashes, shipwrecks, chariot races, volcanic eruptions. Elaborate stage designs came into fashion which created the illusion of three-dimensional reality using two-dimensional sets. Meanwhile, beginning in the latter half of the century, small theatres began experimenting with new avant garde forms which offered challenging alternative theatrical productions to smaller audiences. Naturalism, symbolism, expressionism, dada, and surrealism never seriously competed with dominant theatrical forms for mass audiences but influenced popular drama in both subtle and overt ways. In this course, we will examine representative texts of both popular and avant garde theatre in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and discuss their interplay. We will in this way come to understand better the foundations of modern drama: we are today products of both nineteenth-century romanticism/melodrama and avant garde modernism. 

 

THST 350 Greek and Roman Theatre

Do you ever wonder what could lead a mother to tear her son limb from limb in the forest under cover of darkness? It crossed Euripides’ mind. Or have you ever envisioned a scenario where a father sacrifices his daughter on the day she is supposed to marry the class hunk? It piqued the curiosity of Aeschylus. Why did fifth century Athenians tell and enjoy such tales? Generations of inbreeding? Perhaps. But in this course we shall investigate how these myths and their dramatic representation constituted perhaps the key vehicle through which Athenians articulated and contested some of the ideas and tensions underpinning their democratic community.

 

THST 382 Comedies of Menace: Pinter

In this course, we will study works spanning the career of Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter: the master of menace, the crafter of the “Pinter Pause,” and the originator of the “Pinteresque.” In Pinter’s plays, the everyday innocuous rapidly degenerates to become the very strange and ominous. A woman on holiday visits the remaining members of her husband’s family, who offer her an alternative life of domestic “bliss.” A lodger at a seaside bed and breakfast is thrown a birthday party by the elderly female proprietor and two mysterious guests. A manipulative tramp is given temporary lodging by down-and-out brothers in their depressing hovel of a home. A group of friends enjoy a cocktail party while outside the army marches, arresting their family members, friends, and colleagues. *Warning: you will leave this course completely unsettled and with your faith in theatre restored.*

 

THST 450 Theatre Aesthetics

Why do puppets make us laugh? Why do they make us uneasy? Why are they used so frequently and in so many cultures to depict the narratives of religious myths? Why do we allow puppets to say and do things we wouldn't allow human actors to say and do? Why are so many puppet plays sexual, scatological, violent, political? How do puppets differ from human actors as agents and creators of theatre? In what ways are they similar? In Theatre 450, we will ask and begin to answer these questions.

 

THST 454AA Expressionist Theatre

In the first decade of the twentieth century, visual artists in Germany rejected the conventions of realism and advocated a new subjective style of art that projected internal human states (emotions, attitudes) onto external physical reality, modifying or distorting that reality to express the artist's inner vision. In the 1910s, Expressionism in the visual arts began to influence the German stage; European tours made by American artists and the new medium of film allowed its influence to spread in the 1920s across the Atlantic Ocean to the experimental stages of Little Theatres in the United States. In this course we will read a selection of both German and American Expressionist plays, comparing and contrasting the products of these two related but distinct experimental movements.

 

THST 454AC Staging the Passion

In this course, we will examine theatrical representations of Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection, from its early remembrance and re-enactment in the ritual of the Mass and the Easter liturgy to its reinterpretation and re-imagination in plays such as Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi and Adrienne Kennedy’s Motherhood 2000. As we discuss texts ranging from the early and late medieval to the postmodern, we will note and attempt to understand two apparently opposing representational impulses: to historicize the events leading to and including Christ’s death, and to transpose those events, making them contemporaneous with the time of theatrical production. Texts to be discussed will include Jesus Christ Superstar, the York Crucifixion, the N-Town Passion Play, W.B. Yeats' Calvary and The Resurrection, Ghelderode’s The Women at the Tomb, McNally’s Corpus Christi, and Kennedy’s Motherhood 2000. Some previous experience with late medieval English literature would be an asset but is not required.

 

THST 454AC Theatre of Cruelty

Published in 1938, Antonin Artaud’s _The Theater and Its Double_ eventually became one of the most influential texts written about theatre in the twentieth century.  This collection of manifestos called for an end to psychological realism on the stage and the creation of a new “metaphysical” theatre centred on the body—a body most material and least cerebral or spiritual when in pain. This privileging of body and of images of violation and destruction influenced generations of avant garde theatre artists in Europe, the United States, and Canada in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. In the course, we will study Artaud’s theories, his plays, and examples of the work he inspired.