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Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses

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Theater and Dance

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.

110 The Creative Process

In this course, we explore the ways in which artists in theater and dance create performances.  In particular, we will focus on collaboration as the primary mode of artists' creative research.  How do collaborating artists play with one other?  What kinds of conversations are the most generative?  How can we interact playfully with movement, text, space, and time?  How do the design elements of performance (such as light, sound, objects, etc.) “play” with each other?  Study of performance conventions and forms, seminal performance works, and theoretical readings will provide context for experiential learning. Through the creation of short pieces, students will learn to embrace the role of improvisation in various rehearsal situations and creative discussions, and increase their sensory awareness and responsiveness to others, while distinguishing among modes of thought and action.  Regular journaling and writing will be required.  In addition, visits to in-progress rehearsals and performances outside of class will also be included.

Two class meetings per week. Spring semester. Professors Bashford and Kim.

111 The Language of Movement

This introductory course focuses on movement as a language that communicates our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, habits and sensations. We will explore and expand our individual movement vocabularies through improvisation and various movement practices. Each week different practices and themes will be introduced to offer multiple viewpoints, different ways of moving, approaches of dance/performance making and compositional methodologies. The emphasis of the course will be exploration and trials in attempting various approaches and aesthetics.  Working in small groups collaboratively, students will develop creative projects based on their questions and interests, through a process that includes creative research, rehearsals, work-in-progress showings, and feedback.  The creative projects will be shared in an open showing at the end of the semester. Selected readings and viewing of videos will be included to give students a broad overview of dance, movement practices and methodologies of dance/performance making. Examples include Jonathan Burrow, Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham, Alva Noë, Marilyn Arsem and Liz Magic Laser among others. 

Limited to 20 students. Six seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester Professor Kim.  Spring Semester Professor Riegel. 

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023

113 Action and Character

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. In the fall, six seats reserved for first-year students. Fall and Spring semesters. 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

114 Contemporary Performance: Case Studies

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
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

115H Dance Technique: Beginning Contemporary

This is an introductory course in contemporary dance technique with a primary focus on movement practice. Using the studio as a laboratory, we will investigate the fundamentals of body awareness, alignment, flexibility, coordination, strength, musical phrasing and the expressive potential of movement. Additionally, contemporary dance’s roots and influences will be introduced 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. Because the study of dance technique requires ongoing practice, this course may be repeated for credit.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Riegel.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018

117H Contemporary Dance Technique: Intermediate

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
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

118H Contemporary Dance Technique: The Influence of Black Artists

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
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

120H Dance technique: Beginning/Intermediate Ballet

The study and practice of ballet as a contemporary movement vocabulary. Objectives include the intellectual and physical introduction to, or continuing practice in, ballet, 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.  This course may be repeated for credit.

Fall semester.  The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2022, Fall 2023

121H Contemporary Dance Technique: Modern 2/3

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.

Omitted 2021-2022.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Spring 2019

123H Contemporary Dance Technique: Hip Hop-Intermediate

This intermediate 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. 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.

Spring semester. Lecturer Lites. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

145H Dance Technique: Beginning/Intermediate Jazz

This is a course in Jazz dance technique with a primary focus on movement practice, while also exploring the socio-cultural aspects of the genre. Through directed improvisational and structured exercises, students will explore rhythmic complexity, musicality, and emotional and theatrical capacity, alongside physical isolations and technical versatility.

Fall semester. Visiting Instructor Baron.

Pending Faculty Approval

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

170 Introduction to Playwriting and Playwrights

In this course, students will be introduced to the basic principles of writing for the stage: voice, craft, and process.  Students will gain an understanding of such foundational aspects as conflict, character objectives, obstacles, and stakes. In parallel to learning the elements of playwriting, students will read plays from varying periods, cultures, and narratives.  Along with writing short scenes and short plays, students will learn the basics of dramaturgical analysis and complete in-class writing prompts to deepen their understanding of the form. 

Limited to 22 students.  Fall semester.  Professor SEVAN 

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

182H Digital Music Production and Recording

(See MUSL 182H)

207 Contemporary Dance Technique and Context: Intermediate

This is a course in intermediate-level contemporary dance as a technique practice and as a topic of cultural study. 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 recognized, explored, and discussed. These include the borrowing and fusing of movement vocabularies from jazz, modern, hip hop, and improvisational dance forms like Contact Improvisation. Weekly readings from such authors as Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Takiyah Nur Amin, and Ann Cooper Albright will serve to deepen our understanding of contemporary dance’s history, evolution, and value as a humanistic endeavor. Regular writing assignments will allow us to reflect on our movement histories and articulate personal goals and progress within the course. This course meets four times per 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. Professor Riegel. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

209 Contemporary Dance Technique and Repertory 3/4

This course will include studio sessions in contemporary modern/jazz dance technique at the intermediate level and rehearsal sessions to create original choreography; the completed piece(s) will be presented in concert at the end of the semester. The emphasis in the course will be to increase expressive range, technical skills and performance versatility of the dancer through the practice, creation and performance of technique and choreography. In addition, the course will include required readings, the viewing of dance videos and live performances to give an increased understanding of the historical and contemporary context for the work. 

Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2021-2022. Assistant Professor Riegel. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2020

216H Contemporary Dance Technique: Intermediate/Advanced

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
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

217H Contemporary Dance Techniques: Modern/Ballet 4

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 intermediate/advanced level. A half course. Because the specific genres and techniques will vary from semester to semester, the course may be repeated for credit.

Requisite: Ballet 1/2 or Ballet 2/3. Omitted 2021-2022.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2018

218 Contemporary Dance Technique and Repertory

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
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

218H Dance Technique: Contemporary Repertory

This course will include studio sessions in contemporary dance technique at the intermediate/advanced level, and rehearsal sessions to create original choreography; the new work will be presented in public performance(s). 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.

Requisite: prior college-level courses in dance technique or equivalent experience. Auditions will be conducted during the first class meeting. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Riegel.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Fall 2023

219H Dance Technique: Contemporary Partnering

In an atmosphere of curiosity, warmth and constructive risk-taking, this course investigates the dynamic possibilities of the moving relationships of our dancing bodies. We will practice and develop deep kinesthetic sensitivity and listening as we explore both an intellectual and embodied understanding of contemporary dance partnering basics such as weight sharing, momentum, counterbalance, force, fulcrums, tone and resistance. Directing our attention to cause and effect, our experimentation with different choices will guide our learning process. Skills to build trust and open communication, pillars of healthy dance partnering practices, are folded into every class. A half course. This course may be repeated for credit.

Limited to 20 students. Professor Jenna Riegel.

220H Dance Technique: Intermediate/Advanced Ballet

The study and practice of ballet as a contemporary movement vocabulary. Objectives include the intellectual and physical practice in ballet, including increased body awareness, alignment, flexibility, coordination, strength, musical phrasing and the expressive potential of movement. The course material is presented at the intermediate/advanced level. Appropriate prior experience is required. A half-course. This course may be repeated for credit. Spring semester. The Department.

221 Russian Performances

(See RUSS 257)

223 The African-American Playwright: A Select History of Representation and Citizenship

(Offered as THDA 223, BLST 113, and ENGL 371) What is meant by “the African-American experience” within the context of the U.S. American theater? What do the crafting and thematic concerns of plays penned by significant African-descendent writers in the United States tell us about the history of African-American theatrical performance and the larger issues of Black personhood, community, culture, and citizenship it reflects? This course is a thematic and critical survey of pivotal African-American plays from the mid-nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. Through practical dramaturgy and textual analysis we will study these playwrights’ deployment of their creative voice within social conditions that have evolved over the aforementioned period, from state-sanctioned exclusion to conditioned acceptance within U.S. American socio-cultural discourses. We will also examine how the civic work of these plays (and their writers) meet, intersect and coexist with that of other identity-based advocacy movements. Themes explored include slavery, segregation, nationality, class, religion, gender, sexual identity, among others. Playwrights studied may include Ira Aldridge, Angelina Grimke, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Fuller, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Kennedy, George C. Wolfe, August Wilson, Ntzoke Shange, and others.

Omitted 2022-23.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

225H The Craft of Speaking II: Spoken Expression

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

230 Elements of Performance: Perception and Analysis

When we experience a performance, we synthesize a rich array of sensations and information at once, and through time.  Yet, artists employ a variety of different means to create their work, building it bit by bit.  This course explores various elements that practioners use in the making of theater and dance, with an emphasis on the role perception plays in audience experience of meaning and feeling.  Elements of performance will include basic “building blocks” of audience perception (temporal, spatial, visual, aural), leading to consideration of more complex tools and conventions, such as ritual, language, movement, music, design, and performing techniques.  This class will study larger formal conventions used in the structure of whole performances as they reflect artists' possible intentions.

Students will develop analytical skills in the interpretation of multi-layered performance works, and in doing so, extend their own artistic possibilities and appreciation as audience members. In particular, we will investigate how artists build performances to challenge audiences and their society.  Activities include reading and viewing, discussion, targeted writing assignments, and creative exercises to develop experiential understanding. 

We will encounter influential theorists and artists (performers, playwrights, directors, choreographers, designers, etc.), including women, queer artists, and artists of color.  Authors and artists under consideration for this course include Aristotle, Stanislavsky, Grotowski, Beckett, Pinter, Churchill, Brook, Kushner, Bausch, Cunningham, Ailey, Bogart, Bill T. Jones, Lehman, Jawole Zollar, and Anna Deavere Smith, among others.  Guest Theater and Dance faculty will join class discussions as related to their areas of expertise.  Two class meetings per week, with additional collaborative time outside of class required for some creative exercises.

Open to first-year students. Professor Bashford. Omitted 2021-22.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

232 Collaboration in Theater

Theater making is a collaborative process, in which all participants contribute to the creation of the theatrical event. A good collaboration in theater brings together the personal voice of each and every collaborator and requires participants to listen and give room to all other voices during the creative process. This course encourages diversity of interests among the students: writing, researching, acting, designing and directing. It will offer various tools and approaches towards collaboration in theater, as being practiced by contemporary groups like The Wooster Group, Tectonic Theater Project, Kneehigh Theater and Anne Bogart.

The course will have a few “steps” in collaboration: we will start with simple and short pieces, in pairs or small groups. Halfway through the semester we will start devising a theater piece that everyone will work on. We will begin to see written drafts and rough drawings and models, and work our way through rehearsals towards a realized production. We will present the piece in front of an audience at the end of the semester.

Class will meet twice a week for two hours. In addition, 4-6 hours per week of rehearsals and/or reading and research are expected outside of class times. Previous experience in theater is welcomed but is not required. First-year students are encouraged to enroll, as well as students with past experience.

Limited to 20 students. Five seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2023-2024. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2019

235 Scene Study: Theatricality and Ensemble

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. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sears.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Fall 2023

245 Performance and Race

How do artists invent, reinvent, reinforce, or challenge racial identities through performance? Can race and racism be thought of as performance? What can citizen-performers do to construct a broader and more equitable social narrative? In this course, we will explore key concepts in performance and race studies, and consider them alongside intersecting identities, such as gender, sexuality, class, and disability. We will examine the work of modern and contemporary theater and dance artists of color, such as Suzan-Lori Parks, Larissa Fasthorse, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bill T. Jones, Eiko & Koma, Ananya Chatterjea, Miguel Gutierrez, and Ni’ja Whitson, through a lens of racially-defined aesthetics. We will also inquire into the ethics of art-making processes by encountering a variety of perspectives and practices shared by guest artists. In addition to reading, writing and discussion, this course will include creative practices to support the embodied understanding of course concepts. 

Spring Semester. Professors Carneiro and Riegel.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2022

248 Performance as Socially Engaged Art Practice

How do the arts play a role in society? How does performing produce a community’s collective experience that involves forms of social engagement? How does an artist consider social practice through the lens of performance? This course focuses on exploring a socially engaged art practice that creates collaborative and participatory processes with specific communities and their social and civic issues. In this course we will put theory into practice from engagement with various theoretical developments in relation to social practice in art to movement practices into creative projects. Class work will center on student-led projects and the classes’ role as a collaborative team. The course will consist of in-class movement practices, readings, viewings, discussions, site visits, community engagement and performance creation.  We will study scholars, practitioners and artists whose creative research and works engage in social practice, socially engaged art and community-based work. Examples include Pablo Helguera, Claire Bishop, Paul Chan, Shaun Leonardo, Miwon Kwon and among others. Limited to 22 students. The course is open to everyone.  No previous background is presumed but a willingness to collaborate and experiment with generosity are essential. 

Limited to 22 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Kim.

250 Moving Images: Bodies in Motion

This introductory studio class focuses on multiple ways of tracking, viewing, and capturing bodies in motion and explores choreographic ideas and practice alongside digital media. The course examines various artists’ practices and their creative research to expand the methodologies of art making and experimentation through in-class practices and hands-on projects. Examples include Okwui Okpokwasili, Liz Magic Laser, Joan Jonas, Bill Viola, Pipilotti Rist, Bruce Nauman, and Kimsooja. The course will emphasize working with the camera as an extension of the body to explore radically different points of view. We will experiment with framing, composition, and camera movement to bring a heightened awareness of kinesthetic involvement, animation and emotional immediacy to the bodies on screen and behind the camera. This course will focus on experimentation and exploration rather than technical skill building.  Based on student interests, final projects can range from choreographies for the camera, fictional narratives, and experimental film to multimedia live video performance and installation. Limited to 22 students. The course is open to everyone; previous experience in performance/video composition can be beneficial but is not required.

Fall semester. Visiting Professor Kim.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2017, Fall 2023

251 Liveness and the Livestreaming Studio

(See ENGL 228)

252 Performance In (and Out of) Place

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. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Woodson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2023

257 Black and Queer Agency in World War II Military Performance

(See SWAG 257)

260 Costume Design and Fashion History

An introduction to the analytical methods and skills necessary for the creation of costumes for theater and dance with emphasis on the integration of costume with other visual elements. This course will study western costume history and will include lab work in costume construction.

Requisite: THDA 112 or consent of the instructor.  Limited to 8 students. Omitted 2023-24.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2021

261 Lighting Design

An introduction to the theory and techniques of lighting for performance, with emphasis on the aesthetic, historical, cultural, and practical aspects of the art form. Students' practice of the techniques will be grounded in the deepening of understanding the way light acts upon the body and, thus, shapes our perceptions, our meaning-making, and our lived experiences. 

Requisite: THDA 112 or consent of the instructor.  Lab work in lighting technology.  Omitted 2023/24.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

263 Scene Design

The materials, techniques and concepts which underlie the design and creation of the theatrical environment.

In Fall 2020, students will collaborate with THDA 261: Lighting Design to explore the interactions between the two forms.

This course will be conducted in a hybrid format, with both in-person and on-line components as needed, supported by appropriate technology. Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person. 

Requisite: THDA 112 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 8 students, with priority given to majors. Non-majors need consent from instructor. Omitted 2023/24. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2020, Fall 2020

265 Time/Space: Introduction to Scenic Design for Performance

An investigation of different performing spaces from the past, present and future. In this course, students are introduced to various space designs for performance, including plays, operas, musical theater, dance, film and television, and concerts. Built on the understanding of performance spaces, students explore the relationship between performers and audience, and audience experience. Students will also learn the creative process of visual response to language and ideas. Assignments consist of reading, research, and small-scale presentations.  No previous design experience is required.  Fall semester.  Professor Lee.

Pending Faculty Approval

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

266 Transformation/Revelation: Introduction to Costume Design

An investigative look at clothes and style through the lens of costume design, rooted in cultural, socio-economic and political landscapes. In this course, students are introduced to fashion in history and the core principles of costume design for performance.  Assignments consist of reading, research, and small-scale presentations. No previous design experience is required.  Fall semester.  Professor Lee.

Pending Faculty Approval

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

268 Make Believe: Visual Responses to Storytelling

This is an introductory studio course that focuses on creating design elements for stories with dramatic structure. Students will learn to use design tools to create spaces and characters needed for effective dramatic storytelling. Independent research and in-class presentations, along with collaboration among classmates will be required. No previous design or studio experience is required. However, this is an appropriate next-level course for students who have taken THDA 265 or 266 and who want to continue study of design. Spring semester. Professor Lee.

269 Elements of Style: Analyzing Theatrical Design

In this course, students will learn to appreciate and analyze design elements in theatrical contexts by applying class instruction in a wide variety of design-related topics to independent research and peer discussions. A focus of the work will be on a vigorous exchange of observations, ideas, and critical analysis of how design elements and topics--ranging from the human brain to fashion history--affect our perception of character and story in live performance and other media, such as films and video games. Assignments consist of reading, research, and small-scale presentations. No prior design experience is required. Spring semester. Professor Lee.

270 Playwriting I

(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
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

271 Writing the Short Play

In this course, students will expand their study of the basic elements of writing for the stage: voice, craft, and process. The class schedule will be structured around writing and sharing ten-minute plays and short one-acts. Students will generate material by engaging in writing prompts and improv exercises, and practice writing from the unconscious. Creative process and discovery will be valued over product. Reading assignments will include material on dramaturgical analysis and plays written by contemporary playwrights, such as Tanya Saracho, Madhuri Shekar, James Anthony Tyler, Chisa Hutchinson, and Carla Ching.  There will be one field trip to New York City to a see a live performance.

Recommended prerequisite: students are strongly encouraged to take either THDA 170: Intro to Playwriting and Playwrights, or THDA 113: Action and Character prior to taking this course; students who have done so will be given priority.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Choudhury.

2023-24: Not offered

272 Writing the Full-Length Play

In this workshop-based course, students will continue to learn and hone the basic elements of writing for the stage: voice, craft, and process.  Playwriting work will be augmented by a focus on studying full-length plays and perspectives from global playwrights to expose students to a variety of forms, genres, structures, and narratives. A central goal of this course will be understanding the wide possibilities of creating a theatrical work from outside of a Western Naturalism perspective. Students will spend the semester writing and revising a single play, continuing to finesse foundational aspects such as conflict, character objectives, obstacles, and stakes. Students will also be expected to share work in a writers group format in class using the Liz Lerman method of critical feedback towards writing drafts. Please note that we will be discussing and covering sensitive topics in this course. This course also builds on the fundamental skills of close reading, dramatic analysis, beginning dramaturgy, deep discussion, revision, feedbacking, and thoughtful writing. Readings will include a selection of works from among the following playwrights: Peter Handke, Tanika Gupta, Henrik Ibsen, Arthur Miller, Tim Crouch, Sabrina Mahfouz, debbie tucker green, Same Steiner, Brandon Jacob-Jenkins, Caryl Churchill, Christopher Durang, Jennifer Haley, Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton, May Miller, and Wakako Yamauchi.  Requisite: THDA 170, THDA 273, or consent of the instructor with dramatic writing sample.  Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor SEVAN.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

277 War and Theater

How does war look through the eyes of playwrights?  For millennia, playwrights have responded to the world around them, and never with more criticism and empathy than during wartime. Risking exile, imprisonment, or execution, playwrights have spoken out against the self-serving interests of governments and colonial imperialists as a way to right moral and ethical wrongs. What does it mean to create art when your world is burning down around you? How do you rebuild out of the rubble and ashes once the smoke clears? In this course students will read a selection of war plays, as well as contextual readings, that ask us to consider the human truths and experience of war. A natural addition will be the examination of post-colonial perspectives within these dramatic works. Course readings will be plays that range from classical Greek and avant-garde German plays to American melodrama and riot plays of West and East Asia. The question driving us: What new perspectives can war-theater offer today while asking us to consider what could come next? This course teaches the fundamental skills of close reading, dramatic analysis, beginning dramaturgy, deep discussion, and thoughtful writing.

Limited to 22 students. Fall semester. Professor SEVAN.

Pending Faculty Approval

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

278 Who's Laughing Now? Comedic Plays as Social Commentary

Comedian Eric Idle notes, "LIfe doesn't make any sense, and we all pretend it does. Comedy's job is to point out that it doesn't make sense, and that it doesn't make much difference anyway." This course examines and analyzes the many forms of stage comedy. What might the comedic play teach us about the self and culture(s), espeicially when we come to understand its patterns of transgression to subvert social norms through jokes and laughter? Starting with the Greek humorists, we will traverse genres, periods, and cultures to reflect on various types of humor: satire, farce, parody, dark comedy, and absurdism. You will read for laughter, but also, you will read for how that laughter informs cultural ideologies and constructs social identities. How does comedy comment on politics, philosophy, and other socio-cultural topics? Readings may include a selection of works from among the following playwrights: Aristophanes, Moliere, Neil Simon, Christopher Durang, Robert Asking, Noel Coward, Larissa Fasthorse, Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood, Clare Boothe Luce, Aybu Kahn Din, Mae West, Laruen Yee, Tori Sampson, Yussef El Guindi, Samuel Beckett, and Susanna Centlivre, among others.  Spring semester. Professor SEVAN.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012

315H Dance Technique: Advanced Contemporary

This is an 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.

Requisite: two or more college-level courses in dance techniques, or equivalent experience. This course may be repeated for credit. Limited to 22 students. Fall semester. Professor Riegel.

Pending Faculty Approval

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

320 Seminar on Opera and Musical Theatre

(See MUSI 420)

335 The Play of Ideas

(See ENGL 435)

353 Performance Studio

(Offered as THDA 353 and FAMS 345) This is an advanced course in making performance in dance, theater, video and/or hybrid forms. Each student will create, rehearse and produce an original performance piece in his/her/their preferred medium. Due to Covid 19 restrictions, these pieces will be shared on digital platforms as ongoing works in progress (with students in the class) and as final projects with a wider audience at the end of the semester. Different strategies, tools and philosophies will be given and explored with an emphasis on taking creative advantage of found spaces and available resources. Improvisational and interactive structures and approaches among and within media will be investigated.  

Two ninety-minute class sessions per week and rehearsal/production sessions as required.   

Requisite: An intermediate departmental course in performance-making and consent of the instructor. Limited to 8 students. Spring semester. Professor Woodson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

355 Solo Performance: Movement, Text, Sound, Video

In this studio course, we will explore different skills and approaches towards creating solo performance. We will examine examples of historical and contemporary solo performances in theater, dance, video, music, radio plays, street, stand up and in political/social arenas to inform and ask what makes these effective (or not). We will use what we learn from these examples to inspire our own solo material. We will also develop additional techniques (through improvisational trial and error) that enliven and engage our different voices, stories, imaginations and emotions. An emphasis will be placed on exploring and crafting dynamic relationships within and between different media and modes of expression in order to create confident and compelling solo presentations for live and virtual arenas. We will consider the solo as both a personal vehicle of expression and as a means of giving voice to experiences of others. In the process of making compositional choices, we will consider the personal and social implications of these choices. The semester will culminate in public performances of final solos.

Requisite: Previous experience in performance and/or video--whether in the arts or public presentations in other disciplines/contexts. Open to juniors and seniors. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 10 students. Spring semester. Professor Woodson.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2023

360 Design Studio I

An advanced course in the arts of theatrical design. Primary focus is on the communication of design ideas and concepts with other theater artists. Also considered is the process by which developing theatrical ideas and images are realized. Students will undertake specific projects in scenic, costume and/or lighting design and execute them in the context of the Department’s production program or in other approved circumstances. Examples of possible assignments include designing workshop productions, and assisting faculty and staff designers with major responsibilities in full-scale production. In all cases, detailed analysis of the text and responsible collaboration will provide the basis of the working method. 

Requisite: THDA 260, 261, 263 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Dougan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020

363 Design Studio II

This course is a continuation of THDA 360, an advanced course in the arts of theatrical design. Primary focus is on the communication of design ideas and concepts with other theater artists. Also considered is the process by which developing theatrical ideas and images are realized. Students will undertake specific projects in scenic, costume and/or lighting design and execute them in the context of the department’s production program or in other approved circumstances. Students in this course will design for a full-scale production. In all cases, detailed analysis of the text and responsible collaboration will provide the basis of the working method. 

Requisite: THDA 360 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2023/24. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020

370 Playwriting Studio

(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. Omitted 2023/24.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

396 Theater, Drama, and Theory

(See ENGL 396)

400H Production Studio

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

420 BIPOC Shakespeares: Centering Black, Indigenous, and Latinx “Takeovers”

(See ENGL 420)

490 Special Topics

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

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

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

499D Senior Honors

For Honors candidates in Theater and Dance.

Open only to senior Theater and Dance majors. Spring semester. The Department.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

History, Theory & Literature Departmental Courses

231 Reclamation: Restoring the Black Legacy in American Theater

(See THDA 231)

Arts of Theater & Dance Courses

125H The Craft of Speaking I: Vocal Freedom

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

254 Impulse/Imagination/Invention: Experiments Across Media

(See THDA 254)

Studio Courses

122H Dance Technique: Beginning/Intermediate Hip Hop

In this studio course for beginners and intermediate dancers, students will learn about the dance techniques and culture of Hip-Hop, a popular form of Afro-diasporic cultural production and, for many, a lifestyle. Dance is a community thing. Students will learn about what differentiates hip-hop from related dance movements, alongside movements from the funk era, and social party dances from the 80’s to today. This study of movement vocabulary will be contextualized in analyses of hip hop’s history, culture, underground, and current trends, as well as the similarities between the movement today and before the movement was named “Hip-Hop.” Students will build stamina, strength, and expand their Hip-Hop vocabulary. The focus is on body awareness, musicality, and drills designed to help students master the movement, and most importantly, themselves, as they learn to understand, speak, walk, move, and create with the language of Hip-Hop culture. Through practice and repetition, and by working collaboratively with classmates, students will develop a greater capacity to learn intricate choreography, multiple combinations, and explore their own creative expression. Film and reading will create a framework from which to enter into the global culture of Hip-Hop and other dance styles influenced by it.  This course may be repeated for credit.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester and spring semester. Visiting Instructor Jean-Philippe.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023

340 Acting and Directing Studio

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