Reed College Catalog

Kate Bredeson

Theatre history and literature, dramaturgy, playwriting, directing, gender and theatre.

Chloe Chapin

Theatre design, fashion history.

Catherine Ming T’ien Duffly

Acting, contemporary American theatre, directing, performance theory, socially engaged performance. On sabbatical spring 2016.

Peter Ksander

Scenography, design history, contemporary performance. On sabbatical fall 2015.

Elliot Leffler

Theatre history and literature, directing, South African activist theatre, improvisation.

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 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 course work 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 nonmajors, 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.

Junior Qualifying Examination
Students are evaluated through a qualifying examination in the second semester of their junior year. Performance on this exam as well as departmental courses determines the student’s eligibility to proceed to senior standing and the nature and scope of the thesis project that may be undertaken. Students are expected to have completed the crew requirement (THEA 162) by the time this exam is taken.

Senior Thesis
The senior thesis of a theatre major may be a research-centered project or a project that integrates research with production. Recent production projects have been undertaken in directing, playwriting, acting, dramaturgy, and design.

Requirements for the Major

  1. Theatre 202, 210, 331.
  2. Two of the following four courses: Theatre 240, 250, 260, 280. One of these must be Theatre 250 or 260; one course in dramatic literature taken outside the department may be substituted for the remaining course.
  3. Four units of theatre electives.
  4. Fulfillment of crew requirement (see below)
  5. Humanities 210, 220, or 230 (generally used to fulfill the Group B requirement) or two units in one department (other than Theatre) within the Division of the Arts.
  6. Theatre 470 (Thesis).

Divisional requirement of proficiency in a foreign language at the second-year level.

Crew Requirement
Students majoring in theatre or combined theatre programs are required to complete two sections of Theatre 162 before taking the junior qualifying examination. With departmental permission, one section of Theatre 163 may be substituted for one of these sections. For stage managers, one section of Theatre 161 may be substituted. Students should fulfill this requirement in consultation with department faculty.

Theatre 160 - Applied Collaboration Techniques

Variable credit: either zero or one-half course for one semester.  In this class, students will develop techniques fundamental to the collaborative act of making performance. Student dramaturgs, directors, assistant directors, choreographers, performers, and other students directly involved in the daily artistic process of producing senior thesis theatre productions (excluding the thesis student and students involved as designers) will enroll in this course. Students enrolled in this course will undertake creative and scholarly work, engaging in embodied and historical research through acting, directing, choreography, and/or dramaturgical work on a student thesis production. Conference and laboratory leading to performance and followed by written evaluation. May be repeated for credit with departmental approval. Prerequisite: instructor’s permission or by audition. Theatre 210 recommended. Offered on a credit/no credit basis only. Conference-laboratory-studio.

Theatre 161 - Applied Performance Techniques

Variable credit: either one-half course or zero units 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-laboratory-studio.

Theatre 162 - Applied Theatre Production

Zero units for one semester.  Students undertake and fulfill production assignments in scenery, costumes, lighting, sound, projection, and other theatre technologies. Theatre department productions provide experience and understanding of the technology needed in the process of theatre production. Majors in theatre, literature–theatre, and dance–theatre and ad hoc–theatre majors will take this course in order to meet the departmental crew requirement. May be repeated for zero credit. Credit/no credit only. Studio.

Theatre 163 - Applied Theatre Design

Variable credit: either zero or one-half course for one semester.  Students undertake and fulfill design assignments in scenery, costumes, lighting, sound, and theatre technology. Theatre department productions provide studio experience for qualified students to undertake more advanced work in specific areas of theatre design. May be repeated for credit with departmental permission. Prerequisite: instructor’s permission or by interview. Theatre 202 preferred. Offered on a credit/no credit basis only. Conference-laboratory-studio.

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 210 - Acting Laboratory

One-half course for one semester. This course provides a basic introduction to the work of Stanislavski, exploring 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 215 - Improvisation: The Power of Play

Full course for one semester.  This course challenges students to embrace the challenges of improvisation in a variety of theatrical contexts, and to reflect on those experiences through a rigorous engagement with play theory. In a sequence of short units, we will explore improv-based games, improv comedy, improvisation-based devising work, and the improvisation structures commonly used in the context of applied theatre work (including forum theatre, playback theatre, and sociodrama). Simultaneously, we will be reading scholarly literature in the field of play theory, and processing our own experiences as improvisers through the vocabulary that has been developed in this interdisciplinary field. Conference-studio.

Theatre 220 - History of Clothing in Society and Performance

Full course for one semester. This course will give an overview of the form and function of clothing through time to the present day. In it, we will examine how clothing and personal décor function as social tools; how cultural forces influence specific fashions, aesthetics, and traditions in dress; and how these tools have been used or altered for dramatic performance throughout history. Theatre 202 is recommended. Lecture-conference.

Theatre 223 - Visual Performance Narratives

Full course for one semester. This course will look at both the history and contemporary practice of visual storytelling as the basis for performance. We will investigate futurist sintesi, tableaux vivants, “The Theatre of Images,” durational and serial performance, multiscreen installation, and other similar forms. We will examine the techniques and theories of related artists, thinkers, and movements, and do readings on the nature of images. Students will invent and perform their own image-based performances, using various media and performance styles, ending the class with a public presentation of the original works. Studio.

Theatre 240 - Race and Identity in American Theatre

Full course for one semester. The course explores the role American theatre has played in the construction, preservation, and interrogation of race and gender categories. Students analyze works that employ performance as a venue for political activism, for cultivation of intraethnic pride, and for explorations of social issues too sensitive to be addressed in other contexts. Drawing upon readings from the theatre and other humanities and social science disciplines, this course examines the ways dramatic texts help to foster intra- and cross-cultural understanding, and also how a familiarity with the politics of representation and various other concerns of identity-based cultural groups can inform performance practices. Students examine works from a variety of cultural traditions in an effort to understand how seemingly common institutions or value systems (family, gender, class dynamics) must always be viewed through specific historical and cultural lenses. This course provides students with a more nuanced understanding of what race is and how it functions in America, and how theatre has been implicated as both a tool of racism and a means by which to resist its effects. Lecture-conference.

Not offered 2015—16.

Theatre 245 - Performance and Activism in South Africa, 1948—Present: Staging the Reimagination of a Nation

Full course for one semester. This course examines the history of the antiapartheid struggle in South Africa in order to critically question the role that activist theatre and performance played in advancing social and political change. As they engage with the historical specificity of this topic, students also consider the broader questions of how social/political change happens, and how theatre makers can most effectively contribute to that change. Students will study a broad range of dramatic literature, including plays, musicals, and solo drag performances, in addition to studying political street demonstrations as performances. They will also read and consider analyses and reviews of these performances, and social/political theory by Paulo Freire, Theodor Adorno, Benedict Anderson, Jill Dolan, and Laura Edmondson. The final project asks students to leverage their insights about performance and social change as they create original performance that is tailored to issues of concern in our own place and time. Students will emerge from the course having honed their skills as theatre historians, and having honed their ideas about oppression, activism, and performance. Conference-lab.

Not offered 2015—16.

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.

Not offered 2015—16.

Theatre 260 - Theatre History II: Naturalism to Now

Full course for one semester. This course surveys developments in twentieth-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 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 twentieth-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 290 - Introduction to Performance Studies

Full course for one semester. Performance studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines “performance” in all of its multiple incarnations—including theatre, dance, visual art, everyday life, folklore, rituals and celebrations, and protests. Richard Schechner defines performance as “twice-behaved behavior”—repeatable, embodied activities. This course serves as an introduction to the major themes and issues within the discourse of performance studies. We will look at both the roots of this interdisciplinary field and the directions it might be heading. Readings will include some of the seminal texts in the field, including the work of Richard Schechner, J.L. Austin, Judith Butler, Erving Goffman, Diana Taylor, and others. We will examine how performance studies contributes to the study of theatre, as well as to an understanding of our increasingly mediated and globalized world. The course will be divided into sections including ritual and drama; performativity/performative utterance; embodiment/performing Identity; globalization and interculturalism; and performance ethnography. Students will apply readings in performance theory to performance sites such as theatre, museums, sports events, meals, community celebrations and more.  Conference-lab.

Not offered 2015—16.

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. Studio work is supplemented with writings by contemporary theorists and practitioners relevant to these topics. Prerequisites: Theatre 210, or approved alternate with audition. Conference-lab.

Not offered 2015—16.

Theatre 331 - Directing I

Full course for one semester. This course is an investigation of approaches to script analysis and directorial tools for working with actors in 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. Topics for 2011–12 were Brecht, Bogart, and devised theatre. Studio work is supplemented with writings by contemporary theorists and practitioners relevant to these topics. Prerequisite: Theatre 331. Conference-lab.

Not offered 2015—16.

Theatre 335 - Playwriting

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

Theatre 336 - Dramaturgy

Full course for one semester. This course is an examination of the art, craft, and study of dramaturgy. In it we will attempt to build an answer for the vexing question “What is a dramaturg?” and, most of all, we will seek to discover who dramaturgs are, how they work and what they do. In this course we will study the large number of things that make up the art of dramaturgy: translation and adaptation, new play development, production dramaturgy, theatre criticism, in-depth research, literary management, season selection, and artistic collaboration, among others. We will also study established dramaturgs, their writings, and how they work in the theatre. This conference will combine theoretical and practical approaches, collaborative work and individual research. This conference will prepare students to work as dramaturgs on departmental productions, and give a solid foundation in how to do research and writing in the field of theatre. Prerequisites: sophomore standing and one 200-level theatre history course. Conference.

Theatre 350 - Scenic Design

Full course for one semester. This course investigates the tools, techniques, and thinking behind the creation and shaping of three-dimensional space within a performance environment. Discussions and projects will center on finding visual images, creating physical spaces, and communicating meaning visually. The relationship between space, text, music, choreography, and architectural form will be explored. Prerequisite: Theatre 202 or approved alternate. Conference-laboratory.

Not offered 2015—16.

Theatre 355 - Costume Design

Full course for one semester. This course will examine the costume designer’s responsibilities as an artist and collaborator and explore the relationship among text, concept, and production as we undertake costume design projects throughout the semester. We will develop research, communication, and rendering skills as applied to the collaborative process of costume design. Discussions will include fabrication materials, performative movement, character and emotion, fashion, and pure visual expression as we work to create designs for clothing for text-based performances. Prerequisite: Theatre 202 or approved alternate. Conference-laboratory.

Not offered 2015—16.

Theatre 360 - Lighting Design

Full course for one semester. An exploration into the art and practice of lighting design for contemporary performance. The course consists of class projects and practical exercises exploring the relationship between light, space, movement, sound, and narrative. Detailed observations of light and its effect on different environments will be undertaken and current and historical conceptual approaches to lighting design will be presented and discussed. Prerequisite: Theatre 202 or approved alternate. Conference-laboratory.

Not offered 2015—16.

Theatre 365 - Performance Technology

Full course for one semester. This course is an investigation into the technologies and techniques used for integrating media into the performance environment with a focus on sound and projected images. Contemporary and historical techniques for media integration will be examined through readings, viewings, and performance projects. Technologies examined include audio composition, live-feed video, prepared video content, and interactive performance. Prerequisite: Theatre 202 or approved alternate. Conference-laboratory.

Not offered 2015—16.

Theatre 396 - Seminar

One-half or full course for one semester. Students will perform advanced work in a selected area of inquiry. Past seminars include Translation and Adaptation, Puppetry and the Performing Object, and Advanced Playwriting. Prerequisite: prior course work in the department (varies with the seminar topic). Conference-lab.

Advanced Theatre Design
Full course for one semester. Cotaught by both stage design faculty. In this course we will explore the process of theatre design more deeply, and build on the principles from Theatre 202. Each student will select an area of concentration (scenery, costumes, lighting, sound, video) to investigate. We will take performance projects from initial concept to a fully conceived design. Theoretical, practical, and artistic skills will be developed through projects aimed at furthering understanding of visual and aural communication through techniques specific to each concentration. The goal is to gain a thorough understanding of how designs get from initial impulses and research to final realization. Collaboration in the theatre-making process will be examined, with students working together to realize projects. (Note: This class covers similar material to the individual design topics classes [Theatre 350, 355, 360, 365]. Students who have previously taken one of the design topics classes should be prepared to work in a different area or in a second area different from their previous course work.) Prerequisite: Theatre 202 or by permission. Studio.

Full course for one semester. This course engages students in an experiential study of devised theatre, a contemporary practice wherein a creative team (including actors, designers, writers, dramaturgs, and often a director) collaboratively creates an original performance without a preexisting script. We will explore how an ensemble uses improvisation, self-scripted vignettes, movement/dance, and found materials to create a full-length, original piece of theatre. Students will adopt a reflexive praxis that integrates the processes of research, conceptual design, creation of original work, reflection on that work, and reading about the process of devising. Some of the material we generate in this conference-lab will be integrated in the theatre department’s spring production, and students who take this course can continue to be involved with that production (though this course is not a prerequisite for performing in that production). Prerequisite: at least one of Theatre 160, 161, 202, 210, 215, 223, Dance 112, or Dance 252. Students who have significant experience in the arts but have not taken any of these courses may seek consent from the instructor. Conference-lab.

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.