Course Descriptions

Listed below are sample course descriptions that are being or have been taught in the School. Descriptions may vary across semesters and instructors. Visit for current course offerings; the School offers courses in TDPS, THET, and DANC.

TDPS201 - Introduction to Technical Theatre

An introductory course covering basic topics in technology and craftsmanship for the production of theatre and dance. The objective of this course is to provide the student with an elementary understanding of the process of realizing a production, from the design through build, run, and strike. The student should gain a working knowledge of theatre terminology as well as a familiarity with basic theatre tools and techniques for scenery, paint, props costumes, lighting, audio, video, and stage management.

TDPS479 - Production Practicum

TDPS479 is a graded course in a specified practical aspect of mounting a theatre or dance production. It is a hands-on, purely laboratory experience. The intent of repeating this course is to experience and learn a different skill set in the production process.

DANC109 - Improvisation I

This course is an introduction to the spontaneous movement form known as improvisation. Through guided movement exercises and experiences, readings, discussions, observations, and journaling, students will broaden self-awareness and physical and expressive skills in the movement aspects of time, space, energy, shape and dynamics. This course will delve into the basics of improvisation as self-exploration, technique, choreographic tool and performance form through various approaches and styles.

DANC128 - Fundamentals of Ballet

As this course is intended for students with little⊦ no dance training, the class will use lecture, discussion, and studio work to introduce the ballet, its history, and its aesthetics.  The lecture and discussion will help the  student recognize and articulate key terminology and criteria for aesthetic judgment in this form of expression. The studio work, including barre exercises and center and traveling sequences, will be performed in small groups as well as individually in order to help the student develop creativity in expressing themselves and a  kinesthetic awareness for self-evaluation.

DANC200 - Introduction to Dance

This course introduces students to dance by engaging with the multiple purposes of the art form through hands-on experiences, by exploring the history and current state of dance as a form of creative expression and social, religious, and cultural practice, and by investigating dance as it relates to other artistic disciplines.

During the session we will explore elements of a wide variety of dance styles and practices through movement explorations, dance-making, readings, discussions, videos, written responses, collaborative projects, and attendance at live dance events. By examining dance in both global and local contexts we will move towards a fuller appreciation and understanding of the influence of dance in our everyday lives as well as an embodied reflection and expression of the world in which we live.

This course will be split into three distinct units. The first will explore how dance is relevant to your life.You will be asked to participate in and reflect upon a movement class of your choosing and to complete a project that draws from your own personal dance heritage. We will also begin to build a movement vocabulary within the class that we will draw on later in the semester. The second unit will focus on refining your skills of observation and description when viewing dance and making and revising an original piece of dance through collaboration. We will discuss elements of theatrical production and site-specific choreography as well as how to write an articulate dance analyses paper. The third unit will culminate in a final collaborative project that incorporates knowledge and new understanding gained over the semester.

DANC207 - The Creative Process 

This class is about exploring the act of original creation from multiple vantage points. Discovering and nurturing one’s own creative voice through boldly committing oneself to experimentation, students are freed from the constraints of producing fully choreographed dance works. Movement, music, words, objects, and environments of all kinds will be explored together in solo, duet, and group forms. In addition to practicing new approaches to choreographing and improvisational dancing, students will have the opportunity to experiment with lighting, costuming, sound scores, site-specific choreography, video dance making, and alternative performer/audience relationships.

Possessing improvisational and choreographic skills along with technical proficiency is of increasing importance when working with professional choreographers and companies. They are therefore an essential part of becoming a holistic dance artist. We will begin each class with an at least 30-minute improvisation session exploring various topics in-depth.

The semester will consist of a series of one to two week pods in which various aspects of the creative process will be explored through specific assignments, such as: purely abstract motional qualities, spatial awareness, shape and design, movement and text, object theater, video dance, dancing from feeling, music choices, and possibly lighting and costuming ideas.

In addition to exploring ideas through dancing, we will study various artists through books and video to connect our work in class to what has been/is happening in the dance and art world at large.

DANC209 - Dance Composition

The objectives of this course are: (1) Development of principles of dance composition: form, space, time, dynamics and movement manipulation; and (2) Development of critical awareness and effective communication.

DANC218 - Foundations of Technique I

This course develops physical proficiency in the performance of basic modern dance concepts while enhancing students' understanding of fundamental principles, practices, and vocabulary common to modern dance.

DANC209 - Foundations of Technique II

This course develops physical proficiency in the performance of basic modern dance concepts while enhancing students' understanding of fundamental principles, practices, and vocabulary common to modern dance.

DANC304 - Teaching Dance

Students will be able to develop a sequential, developmentally appropriate dance class for students ages 3-18, evaluate postural and stylistic predilections for particular dance forms in students, design creative experiences in movement leading to improvisation and choreography experiences for students ages 3-18, give appropriate correction and feedback to students.

DANC318 - Foundations of Technique III

Class begins with an in-depth warm-up intended to: increase awareness of basic anatomical principals as related to motion; tune into the body, the space, and the other people in the room; and to increase flexibility, strength, and range of motion. We will then go on to phrase work going across the floor, emphasizing dynamics, musicality, momentum, and complete commitment in motion. 

Throughout each class, the dancer will be familiarized with the basic technical and kinetic mechanics
common to most forms of modern dance. Improvisations based on technical concepts as well as short choreography assignments will be integrated into class for a rich and all-encompassing experience of discovering one’s own creative voice through dance. Aiming to nurture one’s passion for moving and to awaken new possibilities and kinetic pathways, this is dancing for the smart, the fearless, and the funloving. The goal is to connect the worlds of technique and improvisation, form and spontaneity, work and play, motion and emotion, sound and silence, movement and stillness, individuality and community into an experience that opens heart, mind, and body.

Topics to be explored during this semester include: Anatomy in motion (open joints and outer muscles, moving from the bones, pliant feet, powerful tailbone, engaged psoas, free hip-sockets, buoyant pelvic floor, mobile spine, open sternum, floating shoulder blades, head direction, head-to-tail connection, sitbones-to-heels connection), Swing/Momentum, Breath Initiation, Anchor/Sail (one part of the body has to connect and anchor into the ground to make it possible for another part to sail into space), Going in and out of the floor with Ease (rolling, fall/rise, etc.), Timing, Awareness of Space, Twisting/Turning/Rotation, Qualities of Motion (lines/curves, contained/expansive, fast/slow, soft/hard, dense/spacious, staccato/sustained, etc), Levels, Upside-Down/Right-Side-Up, Elevation (jumping, leaping, flying), Touch (pushing/pulling, weight-sharing, falling/catching, partnering), Use of Eyes, Musicality, Dynamics, Decentralization/Body Parts, and Sensation.

Various methods of breathing, resting, and renewing one’s energy will be a regular part of class.

DANC371 - Somatics

The discipline of somatic studies emphasizes the unity of mind and body, and an integrated experience from within, through conscious guided movement and opportunities for increased self-awareness. The course will introduce students to an understanding of general somatic principles, and a range of somatic modalities. Additionally the course will focus on experiential learning including embodied anatomy, developmental movement, guided imagery, as well as re-patterning and hands-on techniques. Somatic studies as applied to dance will offer the opportunity for students to deepen perceptual abilities and sensory awareness, and increase movement capability, ease, efficiency, and expressivity. In-class work will be supplemented by readings, journaling, and outside assignments.

DANC448 - Modern Dance V

This class is designed to provide a forum for personal physical and philosophical exploration and play at an advanced dancer’s level.

Classes will be focused on exploring a sensitive and personal approach to dancing while maintaining technical proficiency. Expression of intent and choice will be encouraged while moving progressively from simple to more complex movement patterns. An immediate and active presence leading to generous fulfillment of dynamic dancing will be emphasized.

DANC488 - Project-Based Learning

The Fall 2013 project-based learning course will focus on a cross-disciplinary look at form and expression. Throughout the semester we will explore ways in which concepts, formulas, and ideas from a range of disciplines can find visual and kinetic form though dance. Particular attention will be given to the structure and progression of an idea -- its spatial, temporal, and dynamic life. What does the concept look like? feel like? How does it move? What is the human experience of the idea/concept/principle?

Students in the course will partner with students from other majors, one from ARHU and one from outside of the College, to better understand a significant idea or theory in each discipline. Each partnership will generate the content for a choreographic study based on the structure of an idea in the other discipline and the process of translation from one form to another. A paper will be required for each of the completed studies describing the structure of the idea and the process of translation. There will be open showings of the studies and open conversations about the process.

The course will also explore, through readings, viewings, and movement, the expressive power of form in selected works of modern/contemporary dance artists. These investigations will be shared in in-class presentations.

DANC489C - Contact Improvisation

Contact Improvisation (CI) is an improvisational duet dance form based on sensation, weight, touch, communication and essential connection between two people, first instigated by Steve Paxton in the early 1970s in the U.S., influenced by modern dance, martial arts, social dance and cultural values of its time of inception. This cooperative dance practice explores states of presence, perception, sensory awareness, and responsiveness to one’s self and environment, as well as physical strategies related to gravity, momentum, falling, rolling and lifting. CI’s influence can be seen in modern/post modern dance and physical theater training, choreography and performance. CI is a rich opportunity for collaborative play and experimentation dancing with another person, and is accessible to people of all physical abilities and experiences. In this course we will engage in regular studio practice as well as read, watch, discuss and respond to Contact Improvisation.

DANC719 - Choreographic Project

This course aims to provide you with tools and methodologies for identifying and accessing source materials for
choreography, and turning those materials into choreographed works. Included in the course: Investigating,
adapting, devising, and proposing choreographed works.

THET110 - Introduction to Theatre

This course teaches students how to become knowledgeable audience members and to appreciate the meanings that theatre can hold in a given cultural context. Among other topics, students will learn:

  • How to read plays effectively
  • How to think and write critically about performance
  • The jobs of different types of theatre professionals
  • An overview of theatre history
  • The role that theatre plays in contemporary culture
  • The ways theatre addresses issues of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and class
  • Theatre's relevance to widespread audiences

The readings for this course will introduce students to the dramatic canon, provide students with fundamental knowledge of
dramatic principles and theatrical styles, and address a range of contemporary social issues. This course is intended as an
introduction to theatre and does not require prior theatrical experience.

THET116 - Fundamentals of Theatrical Design

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the fundamentals of theatrical design through design terminology, style, and aesthetics. By examining and interpreting realized costume, scenic, and lighting designs in combination with class projects, students:

  1. Analyze theatrical designs, visual art, and advertisements using standard design terminology.
  2. Complete visual research for a play design using multiple media (print, internet, found object, fine art, etc.).
  3. Visually articulate design ideas through the clear and concise presentation of research.
  4. Learn to constructively and objectively critique theatrical designs and peer work.
  5. Develop the vocabulary to articulate one’s own design ideas.
  6. Gain a basic understanding of the collaborative role of each designer in the production team

THET222 - Foundations of Acting & Performance

This physically and emotionally engaging studio is designed to introduce students to the power of self as the primary acting instrument, and the concept of the intelligent and passionate acting ensemble as the ultimate collaborative opportunity and responsibility. It is also an experience-based exploration of the fundamentals of the nature of the planned performance and of the collaboration involved in the process. The semester will be divided into four modules: movement, voice, acting technique, and auditioning. The culminating events will be student in-class performances and presentations, including work with text, movement, and improvised song.

THET223 - Text and Context in Western Theatre

This three-credit course explores the social, political, and cultural development of Western theatre from the classical period to the twenty-first century. It is part of the Foundation series for Theatre majors and prepares students for upper-level courses in global theatre. By the end of this course students will:

  1. Be familiar with the socio-historical context, plot, and characters of a variety of plays significant to Western theatre history.
  2. Demonstrate understanding of a selection of theatre theories and scholarship that played an important role in shaping Western theatre history.
  3. Utilize an appropriate play analysis vocabulary in written work and discussion.
  4. Be able to analyze a play from a dramaturgical perspective.
  5. Make comparisons and connections between plays and demonstrate the understanding of these relationships in written work and discussion.
  6. Research and write a paper that examines a play in its historical context.

These skills prepare the student for future studies in the major and allow them to enter the field as educated practitioners.

THET274 - Introduction to Stage Management

The objective of this course is to familiarize you with the techniques and skills required of a Stage Manager in a theatrical production. At the conclusion of this course you should be able to function as an Assistant Stage Manager in a supervised situation.

THET293 - Black Theatre and Performance I

This course offers a survey of the discussion and performance of Black Theatre from the late nineteenth century through the 1960s. Organized primarily around the works of ten playwrights, it aims to identify questions concerning the development of approaches that will advance the scholarly and public receptions of the field.

Playwrights to be discussed include William Wells Brown, Angelina Grimke, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, Marita Bonner, Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, DouglasTurner Ward, and Ed Bullins.

Students will be expected to: a) participate in discussions and debates of the material; b) perform monologues, poems, and scenes; c) present an oral research project; d) write a final paper that assesses the reception of a specific topic or aspect of a playwright’s oeuvre and delineates directions for future inquiry OR present a final project or performance.

THET310 - Voice for the Actor I

This class is an exploration of the performer’s voice, with the precept that one’s voice is a manifestation of one’s state of being. Any presenter or any performer needs to use his or her voice as a tool to communicate ideas, intentions and objectives. The main focus of the class is the learning a series of exercises designed to liberate the speaking voice from habitual psychophysical tension and develop vocal range, stamina, clarity, power and sensitivity to impulse. Work will include discovery of sound in the body, awareness and opening of the channel (jaw, tongue, and soft palate), exploration of resonance, vocal freedom and range, isolating and strengthening resonating chambers and articulation exercises. Group and individual exercises designed to stimulate and develop the imagination, physical and sensory awareness, creativity and capacity for ensemble work will be practiced as a basis for vocal presence. Text work will include a Shakespearean sonnet and a monologue from a playwright chosen for the semester. Writing work includes extensive journaling and a self-evaluation. You will be required to read Freeing the Natural Voice by Kristin Linklater, 2-3 plays written by the assigned playwright, and periodic handouts. The goal of these applied techniques and exercises is the development of a voice capable of carrying within the vibrations and universal resonance and frequency of any human condition, and the ability to powerfully extend your voice into the bodies, minds and hearts of your fellow actors and the audience.

THET371 - Scenic Design I

Stage decoration (a.k.a. scene design) is, in simplest terms, the craft of creating an adequate and appropriate background for theatrical action. The current course is intended to teach students the principles of scene design and their applications in creative and production process. The class is structured so that students are, one hand, becoming acquainted with the practical basics of scene deign as a profession and, on the other hand, learn to appreciate scenography as a form of artistic expression and visual interpretation of literary texts in the context of modern theatre.

Areas to be covered in the class include the design conceptualization and process, script analysis, rendering, painting and drawing techniques, scale, period research, model-making and drafting.

Classes will feature some lecture, supervised studio time, discussions and critiques, and students’ presentations. Students will be given time in class to work on their projects, but they are absolutely expected to work independently outside the class.

Please save all process work for the project. Hand in all rough sketches and “studies”. A project without “process work” will be considered incomplete and graded accordingly.

THET371 - Stage Property Design

This class is a basic knowledge class specializing in the area of properties production for the stage. The various classes and projects represent only a small exposure to the many skills needed to become an affective props Artisan. This class will cover basic construction techniques for the stage to more advanced props specific processes in furniture construction and restoration. These classes will also lay the groundwork to understanding the process of being a properties master from initial script analysis for props through working with the designers/director/stage management/ and other props Artisan. We will also discuss when and how to build/buy/borrow/ or find the props best suited to the production.

THET408G - The Color of Sex: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Contemporary Performance

Taking up the charge posed by Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano, this course aims to decenter white, masculine heterosexuality by introducing students both critical material and performance texts that challenge patriarchal, Eurocentric, and heteronormative narratives in American theatre as well as within the performances of “everyday life.”

This course juxtaposes theoretical readings, films, and plays that address portrayals of masculinity/femininity, gendered hierarchies, and/or queer identity through African American, Latina/o American, and Asian American subject positions. In doing so, the material covered in this class will not only prompts student to consider the inherently independent nature of race, sex, and gender, but it will explore how our social scripts regarding these identifying characteristics are both perpetuated and interrogated through theatre and film. In doing so, we will wrestle with a number of proliferation questions, for example: How does the issue of race and culture complicate the staging of gender politics? Can one argue that one issue necessarily takes precedence over the other? How do varying racial narratives/histories inform performative scripts of class versus race? In terms of sexuality, how can a play stage images of Asian, Latino and/or Black men to critique assumptions regarding White masculinity? Is the presentation of these alternative scripts ultimately liberating, or do they simply create new conceptual binds?

Of particular interest to this course is the fact that the representation of queer identities is a relatively uncultivated terrain among artists-of-color. Although there are dramatists of color placing gay and lesbian characters and issues on the page (Robert O’Hara, Cherríe Moraga, and Oliver Mayer, among them) their work has yet to receive the critical attention and production opportunities their artistry—and their lives—deserve. We will discuss the social and cultural explanations for this artistic phenomenon, and students will be charged to participate in the excavation and recognition of new and unattended texts. This, of course, reflects the importance of this course: there are stories that have been denied, silenced, ignored, and forgotten that need to be uncovered and addressed.

THET408L/THET608P - The Social Life of Spoken Words

The objective of this course is to explore storytelling and linguistic/physical performance as it functions in social life and to examine how and why different genres of narrative are performed – some with an artistic goals, some political and educational, others with higher personal stakes. Case studies include traditional oral narrative, folktales, religious stories, slam poetry and spoken word, enacted/theatrical storytelling, stand-up comedy, personal and legal testimony, and criminal courtroom trials. We analyze relationships between liveness and recording, repertoire and archive, truth and fiction, genuine and fake, art and real life.

THET411 - Voice for the Actor II

Students will learn basic dialects and accents of English. They will also learn research methods so that they may be able to do their own dialect work in the field. They will apply these research methods to a final project. Students will learn to read and write in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), work with Paul Meier’s system of dialect and accent acquisition, and become conversant with valuable resources such as the International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA) and the Visual Accent and Dialect Archive (VADA). By the end of the course, they will have contributed their own research to VADA.

THET425 - The Actor's Process II

This course is designed to build upon the foundation of your previous performance courses and seeks to help you develop your own process. It is the goal of this course for you to understand that every form of drama has its own “truth”. It is also the goal that you, the actor, will learn to realize and trust your own unique gifts and insights in the creation of the characters in these plays. We will spend considerable time on “the inner game of acting”.

THET465/THET699A - History of Fashion for the Theatre

The course is designed as a broad survey of the evolution of clothing styles and materials through history, from early Mid-Eastern civilizations to the present day. It will demonstrate how sociological, political, economic, artistic, geographic, technological and other factors affect clothing through the ages, and how, at the same time, costume and personal adornment emerge not only as practical necessities and/or signs of social rank, but also as manifestations of human individuality, character, personal taste. We will examine how knowledge of historic costume expands and deepens a person's understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts of the past and how, on the other hand, it is applied in professional involvement with clothing and adornment, particularly in theater and cinematography.

A student who successfully completes this course is expected to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Identify the characteristic silhouette of garments from each historical period of Western costume.
  2. Apply a specific set of criteria and vocabulary for identification of costumes by historical time period.
  3. Demonstrate ability to search, discriminate, and choose appropriate historical costume resources for reference and study while conducting a costume design research for a historical play.
  4. Compare and contrast the technological, psychological, economic, artistic and other historic developments and influences that led to changes in dress from one period to another.

THET488A - Theatre Architecture from the Minoans to the Baroque

This class looks at the essential components that make up an architectural space intended to be used for live performance and breaks them into two general categories -- accommodation for an audience and accommodation for the performer. We start off with readings from the work Will it Make a Theatre in order to understand the modern concept of what is needed to accommodate an audience and live performers. We then do a historical survey of how people in different periods and different cultures thought about the issues involved from the first theatre buildings to 1815; by which time all basic theatre forms used today had already been created. The readings consist of articles posted on the ELMS site for the class. There are three short to mid-sized projects, 10-12 quizzes and a final exam for the class.

THET489G - Globalization and Theatre

This course surveys the various ways in which contemporary theatre has been created and circulated in a global context. With increasing globalization, new possibilities of theatre and performance have emerged, bringing together previously unconnected styles and artists. New forms of theatre have been used for political activism, social development, and cultural education. Globalization has also brought about vast commercialization of corporate-sponsored shows that have reached audiences worldwide. Topics of the course include: street performances, popular theatres, commercial theatres, tourism and theatre, theatre festivals, political theatre, community theatres, ethnic theatre, and intercultural theatre. The course will introduce representative works from Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East, but emphasis will be given to Asian and Asian diasporic works. Readings include play scripts and critical essays.

THET499E - The Business of the Business

This class will take you through all aspects of the theatre. We will analyze various publicity, management, union, casting, and agency practices as well as how they apply to you and your career in the non-profit and commercial theatre. Finally, we will explore early career opportunities such as internships, assistantships, fellowships and entry-level positions in the entertainment industry.

This class is an in depth study of the business of working in the theatre. We will cover the “tricks of the trade” when it comes to creating, establishing and maintaining a career while working in the entertainment industry. We will examine various scenarios for actors, designers, managers and creative’s to better prepare you for the challenges you will face in your career.

THET608E - Embodiment

The course examines theories of body and embodiment as they relate to theatre. Embodiment has been used as an interdisciplinary concept in social science, literary studies, cognitive science, art, and performance studies. The course provides a broad overview of how the concept has been used in other disciplines, but it also situates theories of body and embodiment in theatre history as a way to reevaluate acting, gesture, narrative, dramatic character, and audience reception. 

THET711 - Critical Theory: Methods and Concepts

As scholars in the fields of theatre and performance studies, theory provides us with innumerable ways to illuminate our readings of both text and embodied performance. The primary goal of this seminar is to introduce doctoral students to a number of postmodern and contemporary theorists with a particular emphasis on how their approaches can be applied to the study of theatre. While our goal is to become acquainted with a broad spectrum of critical methods, this is not a comprehensive survey course and we will not be delving deeply into any one theory or method. There are number of important movements and schools of thought that, due to the complexity of theory—and the limits time—will not be covered. The goal, however, is that the material that is covered will make you more comfortable with reading and applying theory so that you will be more inclined to pursue these areas further and/or investigate other theoretical methods on your own. To that end, I have listed some suggested texts at the end of this syllabus.

In addition to familiarizing students with some basic theoretical approaches and arguments, this course is designed to encourage students to “think through” and apply theoretical methods to theatre and performance. In so doing, we will constantly question and discuss (in the words of Alice Rayner) “the practical side of theory” as well as “the theoretical side of practice.” Through the explication and application of the assigned readings, this course will help students understand how theory can be used to analyze or interpret performance-oriented texts and, hopefully, help them identify methods that may be particularly useful to their own research interests and projects.