Theatre is essential to the liberal arts. With each play we study or perform in the Reed Theatre Department, we learn about a different world, and delve into that world's cultural values, social and religious practices, gender roles, race relationships, and political debates. Engaged in in this way, Theatre is among the most successful disciplines at providing a truly interdisciplinary liberal arts experience.
Reed's Theatre Department mirrors the college's liberal arts mission. We believe that Theatre students should have a broad education in theatre history, theory, and practice. All Theatre majors are required to have coursework and production experience both onstage and backstage, and all majors are required to take classes in theatre history, directing, acting, and design, as well as a variety of electives. We offer additional coursework in dramaturgy, design, playwriting, performance studies, gender and theatre, race and performance, and translation and adaptation. Many of our classes, and all of our productions, are open to both majors and non-majors, and each year our productions involve over 150 students from across campus in all aspects of production, from being a stitcher in the costume shop to being a stage manager backstage or a lead performer onstage. Like all seniors at Reed, Theatre seniors carry out a yearlong written thesis project. Most students elect to supplement their written thesis with production work of some kind, pending department approval of the size and scope of the project. The faculty work as theatre professors and also as collaborative artists who produce a full season of student and faculty work in the Performing Arts Building.
Our department serves students from across the college. Each year we have a vibrant group of majors in Theatre, interdisciplinary majors in Theatre/Literature and Theatre/Dance, and ad hoc interdisciplinary majors in subjects such as Theatre/Classics and Theatre/Anthropology. Theatre engages both the mind and body, and many students—both majors and non-majors—thrive in the community environment that is Reed Theatre.
"In/divisble," April 2016
Our production season features a variety of student and faculty artistic work. Productions include those directed by faculty, senior-directed thesis productions, and a variety of scenes staged by directing classes. Additional class projects in acting, theatre history, playwriting, performance studies, and gender and theatre provide more opportunities for students to see and make artistic work.
Recent faculty productions include José Rivera's Marisol, Eugène Ionesco's The Bald Soprano, Thornton Wilder's Our Town, Nastaran Ahmadi's new play Exile, and In/divisible a production devised by a group of students and faculty. Recent student thesis productions include Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis, Naomi Wallace's And I and Silence, Maria Irene Fornes' The Successful Life of Three, Federico Garcia Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba, and a festival of new student playwriting work, including a radio play.
Student thesis work has also focused on devising, immersive scenographic experience, an exploration of race in the American musical, stage design for the Richard Strauss opera Salomé, sound design for Julius Caesar, a theatre history approach to the role of women in commedia dell'arte, a performance studies analysis of Beyoncé and critical whiteness, and an interdisciplinary thesis in Theatre and Anthropology on gender and the Portland mental health system.
Guest Artists and Scholars
Bread and Puppet visit Reed Theatre, Fall 2015
Reed Theatre regularly welcomes guest artists and scholars to the department to present work, give talks, and offer workshops. Recent guests have included Bread and Puppet Theatre, Jorge Huerta, Madison Moore, Michael Rohd, Lue Douthit, Anne Washburn, Universes, Meredith Monk, Anne Bogart, Philip Kan Gotanda, Guerilla Girls on tour!, and Tim Miller. Reed Theatre enjoys collaboration with the Portland theatre community, including projects and interactions with Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble, the Risk/Reward Festival, Profile Theatre, the August Wilson Red Door Project, and Portland Playhouse, among others.
Performing Arts Building
Students running tech in our new Studio Theatre booth
Since Fall 2013, the Theatre department has inhabited Reed's new Performing Arts Building, which Theatre shares with the departments of Music and Dance. In the new PAB, there are two theatres: the 180-seat state of the art Studio Theatre, and the 99-seat Black Box. The new building also features a performance laboratory, a dedicated rehearsal room, a design studio, an up-to-date and equipped scene shop and costume studios, and multiple networked classrooms. The building is designed to be energy efficient, boasts ample common spaces for collaborative work, a rooftop garden, art exhibition spaces, and has a wide atrium to welcome the campus and Reed communities. For more information about the development of this exciting project, which broke ground in 2011, please see this article in Reed Magazine.
Faculty and Staff
Professors Kate Bredeson and Peter Ksander with students, backstage
The department is staffed by theatre scholars and professional artists. Kate Bredeson (theatre history and literature, dramaturgy, playwriting, directing, gender and theatre) is a theatre historian, director, and dramaturg. Kate researches and writes about French and American 20th and 21st century experimental theatre. Her professional dramaturgy work includes collaborations with Court Theatre in Chicago, Yale Repertory Theatre, Portland Playhouse, and the Guthrie. Kate Duffly (acting, directing, race and American theatre, performance studies) is a scholar-director whose research and artistic work focuses on socially-engaged performance; she has had the opportunity to collaborate with acclaimed community-based theatre companies like Cornerstone Theater in Los Angeles and Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont. Peter Ksander (set, lighting, and sound design) is an Obie-winning stage designer who has worked internationally, and served as a curator for the Ontological Hysteric Incubator / the Incubator Arts Project in NYC. Elliot Leffler (theatre history and literature, directing, South African activist theatre, Theatre of the Oppressed) is a scholar, director, and facilitator of community-engaged performance projects whose research focuses on theatre as a catalyst for intercultural dialogue; he has collaborated with high schools, prisons, community ensembles, summer camps, churches, synagogues, and prominent theatre companies such as Portland Playhouse and Sojourn Theatre. Sharath Patel is a regional, national, and international sound designer focusing on the collaborative, immersive artistic experiences. His professional highlights include work with Yale University, Virginia Stage Company, ACT (Seattle), East West Players (L.A.), La Mama, P.S.122 (NYC), Milagro, Profile (Portland). He is a Professional Member of the Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association and a Resident Artist at Artist Repertory Theatre in Portland. Alissa Warren (Costume Shop Manager) is a theatre artist and educator with 20 years experience in theatrical costume construction and Apparel Design education. Rusty Tennant (technical director) is a multi-faceted theatre artist whose work has focused on sustainability and resource utilization as creative inspirations.
Reed Theatre and Diversity
Reed Theatre is a community dedicated to creative and scholarly excellence, and an environment in which students, faculty, and staff can fully participate, regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, socio-economic status, or disabilities. All plays we produce, no matter how they have been cast historically, are open to all members of the Reed community. Performers of all abilities, gender identities, and ethnic and racial backgrounds are welcome and encouraged to audition.