Reed College Catalog


The theatre department views performance work as a synthesis of an individual’s critical and creative faculties. Hence the great importance of the liberal arts experience to theatre artists, who must be able to analyze texts, research historical and cultural contexts, and make critical decisions, all of which contribute to imaginative and challenging performance work. Students use analytic and research tools in the projects they undertake as class assignments and in the larger productions that are produced for the Reed community and the public.

Classes and production work are open to majors and nonmajors, and first- and second-year students are eligible to enroll in many of the department’s courses. In two performance spaces, the department has produced a wide range of works by major playwrights from Sophocles to Shakespeare to Shepard. Recent productions include Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Jarry’s Ubu Roi, Marivaux’s The Double Inconstancy, and Anouilh's Antigone. Each year, projects are directed both by faculty members and by senior thesis students.

Junior Qualifying Examination

Students are evaluated through a qualifying examination in the second semester of their junior year. The evaluation of the exam determines the student’s eligibility to proceed to senior standing and the nature and scope of the thesis project to be undertaken. Students are expected to have completed the crew requirement by the time of this exam.

Senior Thesis

The senior thesis of a theatre major may be a creative project with a research component or an academic research project. Recent creative projects have been undertaken in directing, playwriting, acting, dramaturgy, and design.

Requirements for the Major

  1. Theatre 210 or approved alternate; Theatre 331; Theatre 470; theatre design (202, 205 or 206); two of the following four: Theatre 240, 250, 260, 270. Theatre 250 and 260 are strongly recommended for majors.
  2. Four units of theatre electives.
  3. Two units of dramatic literature, which are to be taken outside the department.

One unit selected from dance, music, or art is recommended.

Divisional requirements include proficiency in a foreign language at the second-year level and Humanities 210, 220, or 230 (generally used to fulfill the college’s Group B requirement).

Crew Requirement

Students majoring in theatre or combined theatre programs are required to contribute a minimum of 50 unpaid crew hours on technical staffs for department-sponsored productions before taking the junior qualifying examination. Student-directed productions under the aegis of the theatre department qualify as “department-sponsored.” Students should enroll in Theatre 162 in each semester in which they plan to contribute at least 20 hours toward fulfilling this requirement. Theatre 162 is also open to nonmajors.

Theatre 161 - Applied Performance Techniques

One-half course for one semester. Students will undertake intensive work in resolving acting and production problems, addressing problems of style, and developing techniques fundamental to performance. Conference and laboratory leading to performance and followed by written evaluation. Credit/no credit only. May be repeated for credit with departmental approval. Prerequisite: audition or interview required; Theatre 210 recommended. Conference-lab.

Theatre 162 - Applied Design and Technology

One-half course for one semester. Students will perform a minimum of 20 hours in a technical support capacity—set, light, costume, makeup, construction, running crew, or design—in a department-sponsored production. Completion of this course will constitute partial fulfillment of the department crew requirement. Credit/no credit only. May be repeated for credit with departmental approval. Prerequisite: Interview required, Theatre 120 or 205 recommended. Conference-lab.

Theatre 200 - Introduction to Theatre

Full course for one semester. This course provides a creative and critical introduction to the major disciplines of theatre art as well as an exploration of the history and practice of Western theatre traditions. Students will examine dramatic texts from a theatrical standpoint, attend and review theatre performances, and participate in performance and production activities. Conference-lab. Not offered 2010–11.

Theatre 201 - The Art and Science of Technical Theatre

One-half course for one semester. As an introduction to theatre technology, this course will familiarize students with many components of technical theatre through the lenses of science and history. It will provide students with a deeper understanding of the physical concepts behind many of the tools and mechanisms that are used in theatre as well as provide a forum for discussing and discovering current technical theatre practices and how they have been made popular and/or standard. Topics will include the historical progression of theatre technology and machinery; the science of sound, light and material structure; and current techniques used to implement production designs in scenery, lighting, sound, costumes, and properties. Lecture-conference-lab.

Theatre 202 - Introduction to Theatrical Design

Full course for one semester. Introduction to the design of the physical environment of the stage. Unifying aesthetic principles and distinctions will be considered in relation to scenery, costume, lighting, makeup, and sound for live performance. The course emphasizes script analysis, the elements of design, and the principles of composition and design conceptualization with reference to historical and modern practices and technologies. Conference-lab.

Theatre 205 - Design for the Theatre

One half to full course for one semester. This course introduces students to specific areas of production design and emphasizes script analysis and design conceptualization with reference to historical and modern practices and technologies. Topics include stage lighting, scenery, sound, costume, mask, and makeup. Students may take different topics for credit, and with the approval of the department and satisfactory completion of any one topic, the course may be repeated as an advanced practicum-tutorial. The topic for 2010-11 is set design. Prerequisite: Theatre 161, 162, 200, or interview. Conference-lab-tutorial.

Theatre 210 - Acting Laboratory

One-half course for one semester. This course provides a basic introduction to the work of Stanislavski, examining script analysis for the actor as well as an experiential analysis of the basic physical, vocal, and analytical tools of the actor’s craft through a series of group and individual exercises, leading to preparation of audition monologues and performance of scenes. Conference-lab.

Theatre 240 - Studies in American Theatre: Innovation and Experiment

Full course for one semester. We will examine the development of American theatre from its 18th-century origins to the present. A central focus will be the plays of American dramatists; attention will also be given to the evolution of indigenous theatrical forms (the minstrel show, the musical) and to significant European scenic and literary concepts and approaches to acting technique that have been absorbed into American stage practice. Lecture-conference. Not offered 2010–11.

Theatre 250 - Theatre History I: Antiquity to Naturalism

Full course for one semester. This course is a survey of theatre history from antiquity to the late 1800s. In it, we will examine the relationship between theatre and society, including how theatre both reflects and shapes the world outside its walls, and vice versa. This course focuses on reading plays, critical essays, and historical documents, as well as essay writing and a final project. We will address questions of physical performance space, performance style, audience, the development of design, and the political and social consequences of making theatre at different moments in history. Lecture-Conference.

Theatre 260 - Experimental Theatre in the 20th Century

Full course for one semester. This course surveys developments in 20th-century European and American experimental theatre by examining the work of influential directors, playwrights, designers, theorists, and theatre collectives. Changing views of the theatre’s aesthetic and social functions will be explored. Special topics will include the rise of the director, the evolution of theatrical space, models of theatrical organization, and the role of the avant-garde. Lecture-conference.

Theatre 270 - Intercultural Experiments in Theatre

Full course for one semester. This course examines the work of various theatre practitioners who have drawn inspiration from Eastern theatre traditions. It offers a basic introduction to some of these traditions, primarily Noh theatre, Chinese opera, and performance practices from India and Bali. We will discuss contemporary issues of interculturalism as well as plays that have as their focus questions of cultural identity. Conference.

Theatre 280 - Gender and Theatre

Full course for one semester. This course examines the roles gender has played in shaping world theatre as well as the roles theatre has played in shaping various cultural conceptions of gender. We will focus particularly on 20th-century performance, including cross-dressing, “re-dressing” of canonical plays, the ascent of performance art, and questions of theatre and gender raised by performers from Japan to Cuba. We will interrogate the historical, cultural, and personal variability of the notion of gender itself, asking ourselves: What are theatre artists doing with the idea of gender? Conference. Not offered 2010–11.

Theatre 310 - Techniques of Acting: Contemporary Theatre

Full course for one semester. This course focuses on the theory and practice of various acting techniques employed in contemporary Western theatre. Emphasis will be placed on both physical and psychological aspects of performance and characterization. Readings and research will focus on major practitioners and playwrights. Maximum 16 students. Prerequisites: Theatre 210, or approved equivalent with audition. Conference-lab. Offered alternate years. Not offered 2010–11.

Theatre 320 - Techniques of Acting: Style

Full course for one semester. This course will examine the theory and practice of approaches to acting in “period plays” performed in contemporary theatres. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the motivation for stylization and the development of physical and vocal skill necessary to successful performance. The focus will be on Shakespeare and Molière. Maximum 16 students. Prerequisite: Theatre 210, or approved alternate with audition, or instructor approval. Conference-lab. Offered alternate years.

Theatre 331 - Directing I: Production Concept

Full course for one semester. This course is an investigation of directorial approaches to script analysis and directorial tools for working with actors and bringing a text from page to stage. We will explore the process of developing and implementing a production concept: its formulation through analysis, rehearsal processes, and realization in theatrical terms in performance. Lab work will be supplemented by relevant writing by influential directors. Prerequisite: Theatre 210 or approved alternate. Conference-lab.

Theatre 332 - Directing Techniques: Contemporary Drama

Full course for one semester. This course will focus on advanced work in directing with emphasis on the interpretive and performance techniques requisite for the staging of contemporary drama. Specific focus is given to the Epic Theatre of Brecht or the absurdist drama of Beckett and Ionesco. Studio work is supplemented with writings by contemporary theorists and practitioners relevant to the special topics. Prerequisite: Theatre 331 or comparable academic preparation. Conference-lab. Offered alternate years. Not offered 2010–11.

Theatre 334 - Special Problems in Directing

Full course for one semester. This course is an advanced study that will focus on the problems of theatrical style, in particular the verse drama of Shakespeare and Molière. The course is introduced with background and reading relevant to these topics. Prerequisite: Theatre 331 or comparable preparation. Conference-lab. Offered alternate years.

Theatre 335 - Playwriting

Full course for one semester. This course is an exploration of the art and craft of playwriting. Over the course of the term, students will be introduced to the art of writing for the theatre. Structure, form, character, plot, and theme will be discussed, as will the art of critique and feedback. The course is structured around weekly readings of published plays, discussions of essays about the theory and practice of playwriting, and practical writing exercises. Weekly writing projects will lead to the development of two short plays for public staged readings. Prerequisites: Completion of at least two theatre courses (including one from among 161, 200, 201, 202, 205, 210, 331) or admission through an approved writing sample (instructor approval). Conference-lab.

Theatre 396 - Seminar

One-half or full course for one semester. Students will perform advanced work in a selected area of inquiry. The course may include but is not limited to preparation of roles, directing of scenes or plays, and experimentation in performance theories and scriptwriting. Scripts, criticism, and artistic problems will be dealt with in an attempt to arrive at a creative synthesis. Prerequisite: prior coursework in the department (varies with the seminar topic). Conference-lab. Not offered 2010-11.

Theatre 470 - Thesis

Full course for one year.

Theatre 481 - Independent Study

One-half or full course for one semester. Prerequisite: approval of instructor and division.