Reed College Catalog

Kate Bredeson

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

Catherine Ming T’ien Duffly

Acting, directing, contemporary American theatre, performance theory, community-based performance.

Peter Ksander

Scenography, stage design, design history, contemporary performance.

Barbie Wu

Acting and performance.

Theatre is essential to the liberal arts. The focus of our program is reading, studying, and making plays and performance. We believe that with each play we study or perform, 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, performance studies, 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.

Most of our classes, and all of our productions, are open to both majors and nonmajors, and each year our productions involve many students from across campus in all aspects of production, from working on costume creation in the costume shop to being a stage manager backstage or a performer onstage. Like all seniors in the college, 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, staff, 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 laboratory requirement (Theatre 100) by the time this exam is taken, and it is recommended that they have completed Theatre 202, 204 or 205, 331, and at least one course in theatre history.

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 laboratory: One unit of Theatre 100 (Theatre Laboratory)
  2. Theatre 201 (Stagecraft), Theatre 202 (Introduction to Theatrical Design), and Theatre 204 (Fundamentals of Acting and Performance: Movement) or Theatre 205 (Fundamentals of Acting and Performance: Text)
  3. Theatre 331 (Directing)
  4. Theatre history. Two of the following: Theatre 251 (Theatre History I: Antiquity to Naturalism), Theatre 252 (Theatre History II: Naturalism to 9/11), Theatre 253 (Theatre History III: 9/11 to Now).
  5. Performance studies. One course numbered between Theatre 270 and 290.
  6. Theatre 301 (Junior Seminar).
  7. Theatre 302 (Junior Production Studio).
  8. Junior qualifying examination.
  9. Theatre 470 (Thesis).

Recommended: at least one course from music, art, or dance.

A Minor in Theatre
The goal of the theatre minor is to ensure a strong understanding of theatre practice and theory across the field, including production work through the theatre laboratory.

Requirements for the Minor
All students will complete at least six units of theatre courses, which must include:

  1. Three of the following courses: Theatre 201 (Stagecraft), Theatre 202 (Introduction to Theatrical Design), Theatre 204 (Fundamentals of Acting and Performance: Movement), Theatre 205 (Fundamentals of Acting and Performance: Text), Theatre 233 (Devising), Theatre 331 (Directing), Theatre 335 (Playwriting), and Theatre 336 (Dramaturgy). All 300-level theatre courses have prerequisites.
  2. One unit of theatre history (Theatre 250–259).
  3. One unit of performance studies (Theatre 270–290).
  4. One-half unit of theatre laboratory (Theatre 100).
  5. Additional elective coursework in theatre to complete a total of six units.

Theatre 100 - Theatre Laboratory

One-half-unit semester course. Theatre 100 is a class in which students, faculty, and staff work together to create departmental stage productions. In this class, students learn about different parts of making theatre—from onstage to backstage work—that are required to make a theatre production. Students also learn the arts of collaboration and producing. Students may repeat this course for credit, and each time a student takes this class they can experience a different production role. Roles available include performer in mainstage shows, dramaturg, designer, stage manager, assistant director, and more. This course is available to majors and nonmajors, and students are admitted to the course by audition or department approval. All students, regardless of experience, are welcome to take this class, and if a student is interested in this class, the faculty will work with the student to help them find a role. Studio. May be repeated for credit.

Theatre 201 - Stagecraft

One-unit semester course. As an introduction to theatre technology, this course will familiarize students with the many components of theatrical production. It will provide students with a deeper understanding of the organizational structure and concepts involved in producing live performances, as well as provide instruction in safe practices. Students will be introduced to many of the tools and mechanisms that are used today 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-lab.

Theatre 202 - Introduction to Theatrical Design

One-unit semester course. 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 204 - Fundamentals of Acting and Performance: Movement

One-half-unit semester course. This course introduces students to the craft of acting and actor-driven performance creation, with a focus on embodiment. We will base our activities in physical theatre methods, including but not limited to Suzuki, Viewpoints, Composition, Lecoq, and/or Laban. Additional attention will be paid to the role of breath and voice in preparing the body to speak. This course is intended to complement Theatre 205; Theatre 204 and 205 may be taken in any sequence. Studio. May be repeated for credit with permission of the instructor. 

Theatre 205 - Fundamentals of Acting and Performance: Text

One-half-unit semester course. This course introduces students to the craft of acting and actor-driven performance creation, with a focus on scene study. We will base our activities in Stanislavskian theatre methods, as well as exercises drawn from Spolin and/or Boal. The course will include script analysis, objectives and actions, physicalization, character development, and vocal resonance and projection. This course is intended to complement Theatre 204; Theatre 204 and 205 may be taken in any sequence. Studio. May be repeated for credit with permission of the instructor. 

Theatre 221 - History of Clothing: Clothing as Communication and Rebellion

One-unit semester course. This course will give an overview of the form and function of clothing through time, and particularly as a device for communicating rebellion, dissonance, and political affiliation. 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 throughout history and media. Theatre 202 is recommended. Lecture-conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Theatre 223 - Visual Performance Narratives

One-unit semester course. 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 225 - Drawing, Rendering, and Modeling Live Performances

One-unit semester course. Before we act, we have to imagine what it is we want to enact. In this course students will study and practice approaches to communicating visual ideas as a tool in the development of a live performance. Students will respond to prompts and performance texts in sketches, models, drafting, and digital rendering. Both analog and digital tools and techniques will be explored. Students will learn key concepts in visual representation including accuracy and precision, scale and proportion, projection and perspective. Studio.

Not offered 2022–23.

Theatre 233 - Devising

One-unit semester course. This is a studio-based class in which students learn the tools and techniques for creating original performance based on source material—including poetry, prose, plays, found text, music, site, and self. The emphasis will be on ensemble-based/collective creation, and the key methodology will be improvisation/movement research. Students will create short, original performances. Studio.

Theatre 251 - Theatre History I: Antiquity to Naturalism

One-unit semester course. 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 252 - Theatre History II: Naturalism to 9/11

One-unit semester course. 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.

Not offered 2022–23.

Theatre 253 - Theatre History III: 9/11 to Now

One-unit semester course. This course examines developments in theatre history in the wake of 9/11. We will look at global trends in theatre practice and theory, with a particular focus on theatre in the United States. This course will also include study of theatre in our own midst in Portland, Oregon. Topics we will explore in this course include technology and theatre, contemporary theatre criticism and the field’s major journals, international theatre festivals, immersive theatre, twenty-first-century collectives, and theatre as a part of contemporary protest movements (Occupy, the Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter). Lecture-conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Theatre 261 - Play Lab

One-unit semester course. This course will serve as a laboratory in which to explore theatrical texts and develop text analysis skills fundamental for any theatre practice. Texts chosen will largely be modern works from playwrights of color and queer playwrights. Students will develop skills for cold reading and will examine plays by reading through them as an ensemble of players. This examination will be bolstered by post-reading discussions centered around representation, identity, race, equity, and beyond. This course is intended both for students who are curious about theatre but don’t know how to begin exploring their curiosity, as well as for advanced theatre makers eager to discuss how to improve the art form. The course will culminate in a final project. Conference.

Theatre 270 - Race and Identity in American Theatre

One-unit semester course. 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. Cross-listed as Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies 270. Lecture-conference. 

Theatre 276 - Community-Based Performance

One-unit semester course. This course explores the role of theatre making in civic change around race and inequality. In the course, students will study approaches to theatre that directly interact with the civic life of diverse communities, as well as ways the history of theatre can be better understood as being intertwined with and responsible to civic life. In collaboration with local theatre companies and practitioners, students will incorporate their classroom studies on historically relevant theatre practices (such as Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed; the United Farmworkers’ El Teatro Campesino; and the Black Arts Movement) with a firsthand engagement in local community-based theatre groups and non-arts organizations using theatre for community engagement. Cross-listed as Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies 276. Conference-studio.

Not offered 2022–23.

Theatre 280 - Gender and Theatre

One-unit semester course. 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.

Not offered 2022–23.

Theatre 290 - Introduction to Performance Studies

One-unit semester course. 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 2022–23.

Theatre 301 - Junior Seminar

One-unit semester course. This course is a rigorous investigation of theatre for junior theatre and interdisciplinary theatre majors. In this course, students will hone their skills in dramatic theory, critical writing, and research methodologies. Additional areas of study include theatre and social constructs, theatre and performance studies, the relationship of theatre and politics, and the business of professional theatre. This course asks the questions: What tools do I need to study and make theatre at an advanced level? How do artistic practice and academic scholarship work together to make a total artist/scholar? This course will focus on close readings, writing assignments, embodied exercises, and collaboration. This course prepares students both for the junior qualifying examination in theatre and for advanced production work and the senior thesis. Prerequisite: Junior standing in theatre or a theatre-combined interdisciplinary major. Conference.

Theatre 302 - Junior Production Studio

One-unit semester course. This course is a study of collaboration and theatre producing. In this course, students in the junior year who are majoring in theatre and interdisciplinary theatre subjects take on major roles (including those in design, acting, dramaturgy, assistant directing) in a mainstage production that is selected and directed by a faculty member and/or guest artist. The goal of this course is for juniors to gain experience in a professionally-directed production process before senior year thesis work, and for juniors to work together in advance of attaining senior standing in the department. All juniors will participate in production meetings and other collaborative conversations for this production. Previous coursework in the intended area of focus should be completed before taking the course. Prerequisite: junior standing in theatre or a theatre-combined interdisciplinary major or by permission of the instructor. Studio.

Theatre 310 - Techniques of Acting: Contemporary Theatre

One-unit semester course. 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 204 or 205 (previously numbered 203), or approved alternate with audition. Conference-lab.

Theatre 323 - Puppetry and the Performing Object

One-unit semester course. This course focuses on the history and practice of puppetry in historical and contemporary contexts, and the incorporation of puppets and performing objects into avant-garde performance contexts. We focus our study on the traditions of shadow puppetry in various regions (e.g., Indonesia, China, Greece) as well as other puppetry traditions such as Japan’s Bunraku and contemporary object performance. Lab work includes designing, constructing, and performing in various different puppetry styles. The course culminates in a large-scale shadow puppet performance. Studio.

Not offered 2022–23.

Theatre 326 - Costume Design

One-unit semester course. 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 2022–23.

Theatre 331 - Directing

One-unit semester course. 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 204 or 205 or approved alternate with consent of the instructor. Studio. 

Theatre 335 - Playwriting

One-unit semester course. 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 100, 202, 203, 204, 205, 331) or admission through an approved writing sample (instructor approval). Conference-lab.

Theatre 336 - Dramaturgy

One-unit semester course. 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 470 - Thesis

Two-unit yearlong course; one unit per semester.

Theatre 481 - Independent Study

Variable (one-half or one)-unit semester course. Prerequisite: approval of instructor and division.