Spring 2023

Decolonizing the Narrative: Playwriting for a New American Theatre

Listed in: English, as ENGL-220  |  Theater and Dance, as THDA-273


Naveen Bahar Choudhury (Section 01)


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.

How to handle overenrollment: Enrollment determined by evaluation of writing sample.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: an emphasis on artistic practice, improvisation, rehearsals and performance, reading aloud, group collaborations, movement, visual and aural analysis, written responses to performances and video viewing.

ENGL 220 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 02:30 PM - 04:20 PM WEBS 217
Th 02:30 PM - 04:20 PM WEBS 217


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