Spring 2014

Three, Two, One: Reading Small Drama

Listed in: English, as ENGL-231


Christopher A. Grobe (Section 01)


How small can drama get while remaining “dramatic”?  During the first half of the twentieth century, it was not unusual for a stage in America (or anywhere in the English-speaking world) to be filled with dozens of actors.  Over the last sixty years, though, the crowds onstage have thinned.  Today, three-, two-, and even one-person plays are as common as twenty-person plays once were.

In this course, we will study plays by American, British, Irish, and South African writers–from Eugene O’Neill and Samuel Beckett to Athol Fugard and Sarah Kane–who have found new inspiration within these tight constraints.  We will practice a kind of “middle-distance reading.”  That is, in addition to paying close attention to the local detail of a play, we will also stand further away from it in order inquire into its broader structure and premises.  How does this stage-world work?  What are its rules, its tendencies, its textures?  Most importantly, since this is a course on small-casted plays, how are characters created, tested, and distributed within the play?  How might theatrical character differ from novelistic character or poetic voice?

Limited to 25 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Grobe.

If Overenrolled: First preference will go to English majors who need a 200-level course to fulfill the requirements of that major. Others will be admitted according to seniority, with special preference given to Theater & Dance majors.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2022