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 almost all 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 Macbeth, Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Jarry’s Ubu Roi, Marivaux’s Double Inconstancy, and Tennessee Williams's In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel. 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 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 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. Enrollment in Theatre 162 will allow work done in fulfillment of this requirement to be reflected on a student’s transcript and is open to non-majors.

Theatre 110 - 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. Lecture-conference.

Theatre 161 - Creative Ensemble

One-half course for one semester. We 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. Theatre 210 recommended. Offered on a credit/no credit basis only. May be repeated for credit, with departmental approval. Prerequisite: audition or interview. Conference-lab.

Theatre 162 - Stagecraft

Zero units 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. Lab.

Theatre 205 - Design for the Theatre

One-half course for each semester. This course is an introduction to production design that emphasizes script analysis and design conceptualization with reference to historical and modern practices and technologies. Topics will include stage lighting, scenery, sound, costume, mask, and makeup. Check with the instructor of each section for specific course content. All four sections may be taken for credit and, with the approval of the department and satisfactory completion of any one section, the course may be repeated as an advanced practicum-tutorial. Prerequisite: Theatre 110, 161, 162, or interest demonstrated through prior work in high school or community theatre. Conference-lab-tutorial.

Theatre 210 - Acting Laboratory

One-half course for one semester. This course is an experiential analysis of the basic physical, vocal, and analytical tools of the actor’s craft through group and individual exercises, audition monologues, and scenes. It also provides a basic introduction to the work of Stanislavski. 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. Offered alternate years.

Theatre 250 - Plays and Playhouses

Full course for one semester. This course will emphasize the study of dramatic form within the larger framework of the theatre as a cultural institution. Texts will be placed in a historical context in order to consider the evolving contingent relationships affecting the practitioners of theatre, the audiences they are responsive to, and the physical aspects of performance. Lecture-conference. Offered alternate years. Not offered 2009-10.

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. Offered alternate years. Not offered 2008-09.

Theatre 270 - Intercultural Experiments in Theatre

Full course for one semester. Many Western theatre practitioners have drawn inspiration from Eastern theatre traditions, Yeats (Noh theatre), Brecht (Chinese opera), and Artaud (Balinese theatre) among them. We will examine various cross-fertilizations as well as contemporary issues of interculturalism in the theatre. In addition, we will examine plays that have as their focus questions of cultural identity. Conference. Offered alternate years. Not offered 2009-10.

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.

Theatre 310 - Techniques of Acting: Contemporary Theatre

Full course for one semester. Students will be introduced to the theory and practice of acting approaches in 20th-century 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 equivalent experience with audition, or approval by the instructor. Conference-performance lab. Offered alternate years.

Theatre 320 - Techniques of Acting: Style

Full course for one semester. We 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. Scenes will be selected from a repertoire including commedia dell’arte, comedy of manners, and Elizabethan and Greek theatre. Maximum 16 students. Prerequisite: Theatre 210, or equivalent experience with audition, or approval by the instructor. Conference-performance lab. Offered alternate years. Not offered 2009-10.

Theatre 331 - Directing I: Production Concept

Full course for one semester. An investigation of approaches to script analysis for the director and the examination of texts within a theatrical framework. From this study the student proceeds to an exploration of the director’s production concept, its formulation through analysis and rehearsal processes, and realization in theatrical terms through performance. Conference-lab.

Theatre 332 - Directing Techniques: Contemporary Drama

Full course for one semester. Students will do advanced work in directing with emphasis on 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. Readings by contemporary theorists and practitioners relevant to the special topics. Prerequisite: Theatre 331 or comparable academic preparation. Conference-lab.

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, with attention given to verse drama (Shakespeare, Molière), early realism (Ibsen, Chekhov, Shaw), or varieties of the comic. The course is introduced with background and reading relevant to the special topics. Prerequisite: Theatre 331 or comparable preparation. Conference-lab. Offered alternate years.  Not offered 2009-10.

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. Conference-lab. The topics for 2009-10 are

Performing Identity: Going Solo  Examination of theories related to construction of identity in performance, including masked performance, historical presentation and solo performance, particularly in contemporary theatre.  Each student will create and perform a short solo performance piece.  Prerequisite: prior coursework in the department, with Theatre 210 and/or playwriting strongly recommended.

Playwriting Developing original scripts for performance. Weekly written projects leading to the completion of two short plays. Prerequisite: completion of at least one theatre course or admission through an approved writing sample.

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.