- Theaters of the Real
Theater, like other arts, often seeks to imitate reality, to present life as it is, to be—for lack of a better word—real.
For many reasons, however, reality in the theater is a particularly troubling ideal. First and foremost, what counts as a good representation of reality changes over time. Secondly, realism, the particular style that most contemporary media claim when they are “realistic,” was born in the nineteenth century and was and is a highly contested category. Third, and perhaps most importantly, theater is always in some sense real in ways that most other art forms are not: theater really presents real bodies in real space and real time. This course considers theater and its relationship to what we might call “the real.” Our focus is on how theater has represented reality, particularly since the rise of realism in the 1880s and 1890s. We will insist, first and foremost, that realism is a style with a specific history and a set of evolving, but essential practices that produce its effects. But we will also struggle with the distance between realism and reality, with theater’s phenomenological reality, and with the many non-realist theaters that nonetheless purport to present real life. In short, we aim to understand why and how—in production practices, acting techniques, narrative forms, and more—people attempt to stage the real. Taught at Columbia University
- American Plays and Musicals, 1940–Present
Cultural education usually occurs piecemeal: a novel from this period, a poem from that. Cultural works are not, however, truly isolated from each other, but rather appear as artifacts of cultural systems. This course uses cultural works to understand a single cultural system: Broadway since 1940. Comparative analyses of musical and non-musical plays will illuminate how Broadway has changed over the past seventy-five years. We will attend to economic, social, technological, and other transformations in how Broadway makes, markets, and measures its shows. Through our explorations of some of those shows, we will grasp the system’s effects on major dramaturgical strategies including approaches to plot, characterization, and staging. The course thus simultaneously surveys major works of the commercial American theater, narrates a history of Broadway since 1940, and models how to think about the relationship between that history of the Broadway system and the works it produces. Taught at Columbia University
- American Plays and Musicals, 1940–1960
Recent musical theater scholarship has investigated fruitfully the genre’s musical, economic, and socio-political contexts. Such studies have not, however, reflected sufficiently on the musical’s theatrical context. This lecture course places the mid-century American musical in conversation with contemporaneous non-musical plays. We will develop a methodology for the integrated study of a moment in theatrical time and place: Broadway, during and following World War II. Our hypothesis is that these side-by-side encounters will illuminate the plays’ dramaturgical strategies, including approaches to plot, characterization, and staging.
- Theater, Dance & Media: What It Is & How to Do It
What are theater and dance? What is at stake when a performance is live or recorded? How do performers use space, time, and bodies to make meaning? What is the relationship between a performance and a script? Why do performers and audiences gravitate to live arts? How do economic and political circumstances shape live performances? This sophomore tutorial in Theater, Dance & Media provides students with an intellectual and practical foundation to the concentration by exploring these questions and more. Sophomore Tutorial
- Theatrical Realism
Retitled "Theaters of the Real."
- Contemporary American Playwrights
This seminar explores work by some of the most popular and significant American dramatists of the past decade. Writers may include Annie Baker, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Sarah Ruhl, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Quiara Alegría Hudes, and Will Eno. Seminar
- A History of Western Drama
A lecture course surveying the history of Western drama from its origins in Greek tragedy to the present day. By examining all the elements of theater, students explore how and why dramatic styles change over time. This investigation reveals theater’s entanglement with (a) the material and immaterial world, (b) societies and individuals, and (c) the present and the past.
- Digital Humanities: Theory and Method
This course explores the theoretical underpinnings of and an array of techniques (useful for both critics and historians) in Digital Humanities. Students will both read in the Digital Humanities and practice methods by writing their own computer code. Authors may include Braudel, Bourdieu, Moretti, McCarty, and Drucker; subjects may include databases, topic modeling, GIS, TEI, network graphs, and visualization. Course meetings will consist of 2 hours of discussion followed by an optional laboratory hour to provide assistance with programming assignments. Graduate Seminar
- An English Theatrical Revolution, 1833-1914
Theater in Britain underwent a revolution from the mid-nineteenth to the early-twentieth century. As society wrestled with the changes wrought by industrial capitalism and the expansion of democracy, the theater responded with new content, new styles, and new modes of production. This seminar traces English theater’s trajectory from the heyday of melodrama to the establishment of what we still call Modern Drama. We will explore prominent styles from sensation melodrama and the “fallen woman” play to Gilbert & Sullivan’s operettas and Oscar Wilde’s drawing room comedies. Along the way, students will investigate Henrik Ibsen’s impact on British theater and the development of a non-profit theater model. The second section of the course looks at the relationship between the new professionalization of the theater world and the new meanings that theater had for its members. Students will understand the scope of English dramatic history in the nineteenth century and learn to think about theater not only as an artistic, but also as a political and an economic activity. Seminar
- American Plays and Musicals, 1940-1960
- Shaw, Beckett, Pinter, Stoppard
This seminar explores the work of four major playwrights from the United Kingdom: Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and Tom Stoppard. The quartet overlap and differ in ways that call attention to prominent themes in twentieth-century theater such as language, citizenship, and alienation. All four have impressed the English-language theater with their unique approaches to the stage. We work to understand the style, politics, and means by which each of these authors wrote for the theater. We attend both to what unites and what distinguishes these playwrights. Seminar
- A History of Western Drama