Associate Professor Bashford (Chair); Professor Woodson †; Assistant Professor Junghyun G. Lee; Assistant Professor Riegel; Visiting Assistant Professor Raffeal Sears; Visiting Assistant Professor SEVAN; Visiting Instructor Frankie Baron; Visiting Instructor Eleanor Goudie-Averill; Visiting Instructor Jeffrey Jean-Philippe.
† On leave fall semester
Curriculum. The study of theater and dance is an integrated one. While recognizing historical differences between these arts, the department emphasizes their aesthetic and theoretical similarities. The basic structure of the curriculum and the organizational pattern of the department’s production activities are designed to promote the collaborative and interdependent nature of the theatrical arts. Faculty, staff and major students form the nucleus of the production team and are jointly responsible for the college’s Theater and Dance season. Advanced students carry specific production assignments. Students in Core Courses and in Courses in the Arts of Theater and Dance also participate, through laboratory experiences, in the creation and performance of departmental productions.
Major Program. In the election of departmental courses, students may choose to integrate the many aspects of theater and dance or to focus on such specific areas as choreography, playwriting, directing, design, acting, performance art and video. Because advanced courses in theater and dance are best taken in a prescribed sequence, students preparing to major in the department are advised to complete the three Core Courses and one course in the Arts of Theater and Dance by the end of the sophomore year. Two of the three core courses are offered every semester in rotation. Students interested in the possibility of majoring in the Department should consult with the Chair as soon as possible.
Minimum Requirements. The three Core Courses; two courses in the History, Literature and Theory of Theater and Dance; two courses in the Arts of Theater and Dance (for the purpose of fulfilling this requirement, two half-courses in dance technique approved by the Department may replace one course in the Arts of Theater and Dance); one advanced course in the Arts of Theater and Dance; the Major Series: 400H and 498 or 499. More specific information about courses which fulfill requirements in the above categories can be obtained from the Department office.
The Senior Project. Every Theater and Dance major will undertake a Senior Project. In fulfillment of this requirement, a student may present work as author, director, choreographer, designer, and/or performer in one or more pieces for public performance. Or a student may write a critical, historical, literary or theoretical essay on some aspect of theater and dance. As an alternative, and with the approval of the department, a student may present design portfolio work, a directorial production book or a complete original playscript. In such cases, there will be no public performance requirement. In all cases, the project will represent a synthesis or expansion of the student’s education in theater and dance.
Project proposals are developed in the junior year and must be approved by the faculty. That approval will be based on the project’s suitability as a comprehensive exercise. Because departmental resources are limited, the opportunity to undertake a production project is not automatic. Approval for production projects will be granted after an evaluation of the practicability of the project seen in the context of the department’s other production commitments. Written proposals outlining the process by which the project will be developed and the nature of the product which will result must be submitted to the Department chair by April 1 of the academic year before the project is proposed to take place. The faculty will review, and in some cases request modifications in the proposals, accepting or rejecting them by May 1. Students whose production proposals do not meet departmental criteria will undertake a written project.
Comprehensive Evaluation. Because the Theater and Dance curriculum is sequenced, successful completion of the required courses and of the major series—Production Studio and Senior Project—represents satisfaction of the departmental comprehensive requirement. In addition, majors are required to attend departmental meetings and end-of-the-semester conversations each semester.
Departmental Honors Program. Departmental recommendations for Honors will be based on faculty evaluation of three factors: (1) the quality of the Senior Project, including the documentation and written work which accompanies it; (2) the student’s academic record in the department; and (3) all production work undertaken in the department during the student’s career at Amherst.
Extra-Curriculum. In both its courses and its production activities, the Department welcomes all students who wish to explore the arts of theater and dance. This includes students who wish to perform or work backstage as an extracurricular activity, students who elect a course or two in the department with a view toward enriching their study of other areas, students who take many courses in the department and also participate regularly in the production program while majoring in another department, as well as students who ultimately decide to major in theater and dance.
An introduction to methods of visual research and visual creativity for textual, narrative, and performance interpretation. The course is conducted in a format combining discussions, creative play, student presentations, and collaborative critique. Class discussions and readings include the theoretical basis of a range of historical theatrical conventions, from Aristotle through the present. Class exercises in perception and analysis build skills culminating in the realization of three-dimensional and story-boarding projects.
Limited to 12 students per section. Spring semester. The Department.2023-24: Not offered
A first college-level course in the fundamentals of acting, with an emphasis on the connections between dramatic action and character. Students learn how to analyze dramatic texts and bring them to life through a collaborative process, and by using body, voice and imagination. Classwork includes regular exercises designed to develop acting craft. Homework includes memorization, regular rehearsals and relevant reading, alongside practical research and short writing in various modes. Assignments progress toward realizing performed scenes.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Sears.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025
This course will focus on case studies of selected works and artists of contemporary performance over the last century as a means of placing the creation and practice of theater and dance in context. We will closely consider these case studies as reflective of important aesthetic traditions and experiments in contemporary performance. In addition, we will seek connections between the different case study examples and the social, cultural and political environments that fostered them. We will reflect on issues of race, gender, identity, political activism, individual expression and differing collaborative structures in our encounters with these case studies. We will also look to historical precedents and sources that inform our understanding of artistic innovations and processes. Required of Theater and Dance majors.
This foundation course in the history/theory of performance is open to all students. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2022-23.2023-24: Not offered
This is an intermediate-level course in contemporary dance technique with a primary focus on movement practice. Using the studio as a laboratory, we will embody increasingly complex and dynamic movement that investigates clarity, freedom, adaptability, and artistry and challenges stamina. Additionally, contemporary dance’s roots and influences will be acknowledged and applied through movement exploration. These include the borrowing and fusing of movement vocabularies from jazz, modern, hip hop and improvisational dance forms like Contact Improvisation. Occasional writing assignments will allow us to reflect on our movement histories and articulate personal progress within the course. This course meets twice a week. Pre-requisite: two or more college-level courses in dance techniques, or equivalent experience. Because the study of dance technique requires ongoing practice, this course may be repeated for credit.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. The Department.2023-24: Not offered
This online, intermediate-level dance technique course will highlight the influences of Black artists on American contemporary dance forms. Co-taught by Five College Dance faculty, including Molly Christie González (UMass), Aston McCullough (UMass) and Jenna Riegel (Amherst College), this course will give students the opportunity to learn from and engage with faculty from other campuses and assimilate various forms of contemporary dance including Katherine Dunham technique and philosophies, jazz techniques, and the choreographies and techniques of the Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Company. Our physical practice will be enhanced with visits from guest artists, readings and viewings. This course is designed for students with previous movement experience.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Riegel.2023-24: Not offered
The study and practice of contemporary movement vocabularies, including regional dance forms, contact improvisation and various modern dance techniques. Objectives include the intellectual and physical introduction to this discipline as well as increased body awareness, alignment, flexibility, coordination, strength, musical phrasing and the expressive potential of movement. The course material is presented at the beginning/intermediate level. A half course. Because the specific genres and techniques will vary from semester to semester, the course may be repeated for credit.
Fall semester. The Department.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024
In this course, we will engage in a collaborative, creative process to generate an original choreographic work. We will utilize both embodied and traditional scholarly research to inform and support the emergence of our collective creation and locate our work within a broader historical and cultural context. Students will have the opportunity to increase their expressive range, technical skills, and versatility as performers while also deepening their understanding of shared artistic processes. The course experience will culminate in a presentation of our work either in concert or in digital form at the end of the semester.
Limited to 18 students. Auditions will be conducted during the first class meeting. Spring semester. The Department.2023-24: Not offered
This course will include studio sessions in contemporary modern dance technique at the intermediate level and rehearsal sessions to create original choreography; the new work will be presented at the end of the semester. The emphasis in the course will be to increase expressive range, technical skills and the performance versatility of the performer through the practice, creation and performance of choreography. The course will include readings and video viewings to offer a broader understanding of performance and choreography.
Limited to 18 students. Auditions will be conducted during the first class meeting. Fall semester. Jungeun Kim.2023-24: Not offered
This is an intermediate/advanced-level course in contemporary dance technique with a primary focus on movement practice. Using the studio as a laboratory, we will embody increasingly complex and dynamic movement that investigates clarity, freedom, adaptability, and artistry and challenges stamina. Additionally, contemporary dance’s roots and influences will be acknowledged and applied through movement exploration. These include the borrowing and fusing of movement vocabularies from jazz, modern, hip hop, and improvisational dance forms like contact improvisation. Readings and occasional writing assignments will allow us to deepen our understanding of our movement histories and articulate personal progress within the course. This course meets twice a week. Prerequisite: two or more college-level courses in dance techniques, or equivalent experience. Because the study of dance technique requires ongoing practice, this course may be repeated for credit.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Konner.Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024
In this second course in the craft of speaking, students learn to shape and speak text to powerful effect. Students build on prior work to extend vocal range and capacity while learning component principles of spoken expression. Articulation, inflection, methods of contrast and interpretation, tone, verbal imaging and aural structures of poetry and rhetoric are practiced in a studio setting. Emphasis is placed on personal engagement and presence to others while speaking. Assignments in text scoring and memorization support class work. The course culminates in presentations of prepared texts. Two class meetings per week.
Requisite: THDA 125H. Professor Bashford.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2023, Spring 2025
The African American Theater spans over 200 years, from the earliest performances of the African Grove Theater to the Classical Theater of Harlem’s Afro-futuristic Twelfth Night in Marcus Garvey Park. This course will investigate and interrogate the history of American theater by examining Black creatives and their works as not merely contributors but pioneers of American theater. These studies will be addressed in tandem with the dominant culture's historical narrative of Black theater arts and the Black experience by posing these questions: Why isn't Black American theater history considered American theater history? How is Shakespeare relevant to the Black experience? How was theater used to counter and protest the Black stereotypes and the many injustices that plagued the Black body? How receptive is white American theater to the accountability of the #WeSeeYouWAT movement? Why is there an absence of a Black audience in the theater today? Key moments will include the revolutionary founding of the African Grove Theater in 1821, the act of resistance of The Black Patti Troubadours in the face of minstrelsy, and the first all-Black Broadway cast of Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake’s hit, Shuffle Along. The course will also explore significant plays, reviews, books, articles, genres, theater companies, productions, and artists, including William Wells Brown, August Wilson, James Baldwin, Charles Fuller, Nathan Jackson, Douglass Turner Ward, Dominique Morrisseau, Keith Josef Adkins, Pearl Cleage, Carlyle Brown, Tarell Alvin McCraney, George C. Wolfe, Anna Deavere Smith, Chadwick Boseman, Nathan Alan Davis, William Shakespeare, Errol Hill, and Marvin McAllister.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Sears.Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2019, Spring 2023
How do actors offer vigorous contributions towards ensemble storytelling, while refining their own interpretive capacities? How do we shape and deploy the full energy and specificity of our individual, relational, and collective performance possibilities? How do we work together in manipulating myriad dynamics to hold and shape space, direct focus, orchestrate sound and rhythm, build and release tension, all towards distinctive group playmaking? This intermediate studio course builds on foundations of THDA 113: Action and Character as it continues to hone skills in voice, textual interpretation and embodiment of character towards more fully realized creative partnerships. A progression of study employs elements of Linklater Voice Training, Alexander Technique, Viewpoints, theater games and other practices to deepen each actor’s connective capabilities, while introducing approaches for collaboration towards more deeply shared interpretations of ensemble scene-work. Students will be guided through frameworks for experimenting, crafting, and directing themselves and their peers through increasingly challenging performance propositions, while taking on heightened texts and embodying epic theatrical roles that demand individual and collective commitment, facility, dynamism, and power.
Limited to 14 students. Spring semester. Professor Bashford.2023-24: Not offered
This is an intermediate course in acting that focuses on applying and integrating technique, dramaturgical research, and ensemble playing skills to realized interpretations of scenes, with an emphasis on achieving dynamicly theatrical results. Students will undertake a progression of increasingly challenging scene studies while building skills in physical and speaking expressive capabilities to explore the musicality and power of acting for the stage. In addition to character portrayal, the focus of studio and rehearsal work will be on the evocation of dramatic metaphor through the development of shared interpretation and ensemble play. Material for study will include both older poetic texts and those that explore issues of contemporary cultural relevance. Requisite: THDA 113, or consent of the instructor.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Bashford.Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Fall 2023
This course is designed for students in dance, theater, film/video, art, music and creative writing who want to explore the challenges and potentials in creating site-specific performances and events outside of traditional "frames" or venues (e.g., the theater, the gallery, the concert hall, the lecture hall, the page). In the first part of the semester we will experiment with different techniques for working together and for developing responses to different spaces. We will conduct a series of performance practices and studies in numerous sites around the campus and utilize different mediums according to student interest and experience. A special emphasis will be placed on considering issues of access when we make choices about where and how to perform and create work. How can we encourage inclusive events that foster interaction and response with communities both near and far? What are possible relationships between art and community? How can we integrate important social and cultural issues into our art making? How might we collaborate with and make work for sites we are distanced from? What are crucial limitations to consider in creating site specific events, and how do we allow these limitations to inspire? The semester will culminate in a series of public final projects reflecting on the students’ processes through in-class showings, readings, viewings, discussions, and critical feedback sessions. Recommended requisite: previous college course experience in improvisation and/or composition in dance, theater, performance, film/video, music/sound, installation, creative writing, and/or design. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Kim.
Recommended requisite: Previous experience in improvisation and/or composition in dance, theater, performance, film/video, music/sound, installation, creative writing, and/or design is required. Limited to 8 students. Offered Spring 2023. Professor Woodson.2023-24: Not offered
This studio course is designed as an interactive laboratory for students interested in imaginative experimentation to discover and access multiple ways to generate material in different media (dance, theater, visual /digital art, text and/or sound). The course emphasizes a practice of rigorous play and a dedicated interest in process and invention. Also, the course will be informed by a view that anything and everything is possible material for creative and spontaneous response and production. Working individually and in collaborative groups, students will construct original material in various media and delve into multiple ways to craft interesting exchanges and dialogues between different modes of expression. A range of structures and inspirations will be given by the instructor but students will also develop their own "playlists" for inspiring creative experimentation and production. We will have a series of informal studio showings in different media throughout the semester. A final portfolio of creative material generated over the course of the semester will be required. This studio seminar requires instructor permission; interested students need to contact the instructor before registering.
Limited to 15 students. Spring Semester. Professor Woodson. The course will also incorporate instruction from guest artists.Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2023
(Offered as THDA 270 and ENGL 222) This course explores key aspects of writing for the theater in a workshop style, from a transcultural perspective. Through writing exercises, analysis of scenes, feedback sessions, and the rewriting of materials produced, participants will experience the creative process and start developing their own voice as playwrights.
Recommended: THDA 113 or equivalent, or a prior college-level course in creative writing. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as THDA 272 and ENGL 323) This course is an exploration of writing for performance using interdisciplinary and experimental approaches. By exposing students to contemporary manifestations of performance across cultures – including those by Rodrigo Garcia, Rimini Protokoll, Romeo Castelluci, Robert Lepage, Carolina Vivas, and Gebing Tian – this course will lead to a new understanding of the art and practice of writing for the theater. In dialogue with other artforms such as literature, music, dance, and cinema, as well as performance theory, we will creatively explore dynamics involving words, bodies, spaces, objects, and media. Through imagining, devising, writing, and performing exercises, participants will develop their own original pieces that will be showcased as works-in-progress at the end of the semester.
Limited to 18 students. Spring Semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022
The stories we tell have the power to change our perceptions about the world around us and the people in it. Decolonizing narratives is the act of undoing colonialism, or, in a broad sense, dismantling the power structures that have historically defined mainstream narratives. In this course, we will explore how to redefine and subvert common archetypes and tropes found in mainstream theater. In addition to discussing representation and casting, we will consider the following questions: who do we want our audience to be? That is, whose gaze are we writing for? What do we assume the audience knows and what do we feel the need to explain or contextualize? Who do we hope or expect will identify with our characters? Do we need to provide dramaturgical justification for identifying a character as a particular race, gender, sexual orientation, or other marker of identity? How can we redefine portrayals of characters who are routinely depicted as victims, or as evil, or as other? How can we subvert stereotypes, not by simply reversing roles, but by rendering a character’s full humanness, complexity, and agency? Students will learn the fundamentals of dramatic writing and employ these craft principles to write short plays throughout the semester that explore these questions. There will be an emphasis on excavating one’s unique and authentic artistic voice, and on creative process over product. The course will culminate in students writing either a substantial one-act play or, in some cases, a full-length play, depending on individual progress and interests. Reading assignments will include plays and other artistic material that challenge traditional narratives using new forms and structure, or in questioning conventional portrayals of people of the global majority, queer and transgender characters, the working class, Muslims, characters with disabilities, and more. Examples might include work by Jackie Sibblies Drury, Michael R. Jackson, Taylor Mac, Qui Nguyen, Rehana Lew Mirza, María Irene Fornés, Clare Barron, Kristoffer Diaz, Martyna Majok, and more. Previous experience in playwriting is highly recommended.
Limited to 12 students, with permission of the instructor after submitting a writing sample. Spring semester. Professor Choudhury.2023-24: Not offered
In this course, we will survey plays written by American writers of East Asian, South Asian, and Southeast Asian descent, starting with the first wave of Asian American playwrights in the 1960s to more contemporary work. Students will learn the fundamentals and vocabulary of dramaturgical analysis and employ these skills in class discussion and written assignments. Intersectional identities will be emphasized, and readings will include work by biracial, queer, and transgender writers. Playwrights studied will include Frank Chin, David Henry Hwang, Philip Kan Gotanda, Diana Son, Alaudin Ullah, Qui Nguyen, Young Jean Lee, Lloyd Suh, Madhuri Shekar, Rajiv Joseph, Carla Ching, Mike Lew, Jiehae Park, A. Rey Pamatmat, Clarence Coo, D’Lo, Rehana Mirza, Haruna Lee, Diana Oh, and more. While the focus will be on reading plays, students will also explore the socio-historical context of each work via reading assignments that will include critical essays, writings on the history of immigration to the U.S. from Asia, and writings on the representation of Asian Americans on stage.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Choudhury.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as THDA 370 and ENGL 322) A workshop for writers who want to complete a full-length play or series of shorter plays. Emphasis will be on bringing a script to a level at which it is ready for the stage. The majority of class time will be devoted to reading and commenting on developing works-in-progress. In addition, we will also hone playwriting skills through class exercises, and study exemplary plays by established writers as a means of exploring a range of dramatic vocabularies.
Requisite: THDA 270, 272, or the equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.2023-24: Not offered
A course in integrating previously studied skills, while developing collaborative and leadership roles in the making of Theater and Dance works, within the Department’s producing structure. With permission, enrolled student will accept a specific assignment within a departmental production team. A half course.
Admission with consent of the Chair. Not open to first-year students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Woodson.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025
Independent reading course.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall and spring semesters. The Department.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025
For Honors candidates in Theater and Dance.
Open only to senior Theater and Dance majors. Spring semester. The Department.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2024
For Honors candidates in Theater and Dance.
Open only to senior Theater and Dance majors. Spring semester. The Department.2023-24: Not offered
A beginning studio course in the development of voice for speaking. Students develop range and tone through regular physical exercises in relaxation, breathing technique, placement, and presence. Individual attention focuses on helping each student develop the physical, mental, and emotional self-awareness needed for expressive vocal production. Practice is oriented toward acting for the stage, but students with a primary interest in public speaking, teaching, or improved interpersonal communication will find this course valuable. A modicum of reading and written reflection is required. Three class meetings per week. A half course.
Limited to 28 students. Six spaces reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Bashford.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024
This course is designed to focus on the movement aspect of hip hop culture. Dance in the tradition of B-Boys and B-girls while learning a wide variety of hip hop movement. From the old school "bronx" style to commercial hip hop, learn a wide range of hip-hop vocabulary in a course emphasizing group choreography, floor work, and partner work. No previous dance experience is necessary. Class will incorporate funk, street, b-boy/b-girl, and house elements to stretch and tone the body. Class will include across the floor and center combinations which will ask the dancers to find their relationship to musicality, athleticism, dynamics, and articulation of the body.
Fall semester and spring semester. The Department.Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
This is a studio course in collaboration leading to completed theatrical creations. Students produce a portfolio of short projects, using published text or through rehearsal devising. Readings, writing, and class discussion are devoted to the shared practices of acting and directing, and to individual problems and approaches. Topics include the articulation of artistic vision, advanced textual analysis, and the use of space, sound and light. Studio exercises are employed to support relevant techniques. In addition, applicable organizational and research methods will be employed. When possible, students may collaborate with others enrolled in a related course in design. Two class meetings per week. Students should expect to schedule a significant amount of rehearsal time outside of class meetings for the successful completion of projects.
Requisite: One 100-level THDA course, and an appropriate intermediate, 200-level course in THDA, or equivalent college-level experience with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Professor Bashford.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Spring 2025