Theatre History II: Naturalism to Now

Course Description and Objectives

"A play is a blueprint of an event: a way of creating and rewriting history through the medium of literature."
–Suzan-Lori Parks, "Possession"

This conference is a rigorous investigation into the study and practice of theatre history. It is essential for theatre artists and scholars—from designers to playwrights, from dramaturgs to actors—to have a deep understanding of the origins and developing practices of the craft of theatre, and the evolving arts of playwriting and playmaking throughout history. This course provides that foundation by researching and questioning the act of making theatre from the late 1800s, when today's dominant styles of realism and naturalism began to emerge, to the present. 

Throughout this conference we will investigate the dominant theatre paradigm of the 20th century: realism, with a focus on how the century's many avant-garde theatre artists vigorously challenged it, and in the process altered our understanding of what theatre can be and do. This course is designed to help us develop an understanding of some of the more influential work of such challengers (including playwrights, directors, designers, theorists, and actors) through an examination of their work, and a look at what they were working against. This conference incorporates both theory (theatre historical and dramatic literature approaches), as well as practice (end of term performance projects). Throughout the course, we will continually inquire into the very idea of the "avant-garde(s)", especially as we see them repeatedly become mainstream.

This conference is organized as a survey, to introduce relevant concepts, terms, and movements in many different periods, countries, and genres. Through a variety of readings for each period we study, we will dig into each historical moment and its theatre, and then move on with greater understanding to the next golden moment of theatre history.

This conference provides the foundation for upper level conferences in literature and history in the Theatre department, as well as introduces many of the concepts that will be key to the successful completion of the junior qualifying examination in the Theatre department.

This conference is equally important for non-majors, as it offers a deep investigation into how today's theatre came to be. A passionate and exuberant study of theatre history provides a window into political, social, cultural, religious, scientific, and art histories as well. Through theatre history we become better theatre practitioners, scholars, and artists. Through theatre, we will learn more about our world as it was, it is, and may be.