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Literature, Criticism and History Courses

theatre department - college of arts and sciences

CT0 62 Dramatic Structure and Theatrical Process (Fall: 3)
Scott T. Cummings
This foundational course provides a thorough introduction to theatre and drama study. It is geared towards, though not limited to, theatre majors (or prospective majors) in their first year. Dramatic texts are studied as blueprints for performed events. Students will read a wide range of plays in order to develop play analysis skills and to gain an awareness of how structure shapes meaning. Fundamental aspects of theatrical process and production are taken into consideration. The course concludes with a class-wide performance project and a comprehensive examination.


CT 275 History of Theatre I (Fall: 3)
This course follows the simultaneous development of the actor, playwright, architect and director from the Egyptian theatre through to the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. The course will also study the development of dramatic structure and form over time. In a larger sense, it will examine the role and function of theatre in each successive society, determining how the stage reflects the social, political and cultural concerns of each age.


CT 276 History of Theatre II (Spring: 3)
This course is a continuation of History of Theatre I. It begins in 1642 in England and tracks the simultaneous development of the actor, playwright, architect and director. However it studies the evolution within the larger cultural and political contexts that implicated every decision from the content of dramas to the seating arrangements within auditoriums. Among the epochs and influences that will be considered are art and decadence in English restoration comedy, the role of the playhouse in the rise of American proletarian culture, the impact of sentimentalism and Victorian morality on playwriting, the advent of psychology.


CT 361 Shakespeare on the Stage (Fall: 3)
Cross listed with EN 245
Stuart J. Hecht
William Shakespeare wrote his plays to be performed. Consequently, the most effective method of understanding his work is through performance. Lectures will describe the condition of Elizabethan England and its theatre, providing a larger social and historical context in which to view the playwright and his work. Part One of this course focuses on the years 1590-1599, roughly the first half of Shakespeare’s playwriting career as it evolved. The class will read, analyze and discuss some eight to ten of Shakespeare’s plays, including Richard III, Henry IV Part I, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It and Julius Caesar. Students will also be regularly expected to perform scenes in class from Shakespeare's plays as a means to explore how each play works. As such it is as much a class in learning how to stage and perform Shakespeare as it is in understanding Shakespeare’s dramaturgy.


CT 363 Experimental Theatre (Spring, alternate years: 3)

Cross listed with EN 242
John Houchin
This class will investigate the alternative drama and theatre of Europe from 1880 – 1933, and then from 1945 to the present. During the first period, the European theatre, like the continent itself, was in a state of continual revolution. Symbolists and Expressionists used theatre to access the spiritual anguish of human existence while Futurists and Dadaists created an aesthetic of chaos. Perhaps no other period in theatre was as frenzied, provocative and entertaining. Students in this class will study a number of scripts as well as wide variety of production philosophies, design techniques and acting styles from this period. During the second period, of major importance will be the impact of such pivotal theatres as Richard Schechner’s Performance Garage, Joseph Chaiken’s Open Theatre, Richard Foreman’s Ontological Hysterical Theatre, Elizabeth LeCompte’s Wooster Group. Topcis will include off- and off-Off Broadway political theatre, the rise of the regional theatre, multiculturalism, gender and performance art. This class will culminate in a performance-based project.


CT 364-01 American Theatre and Drama(Spring: 3)
Stuart J. Hecht
How has the ever-shifting national experience shaped our nation’s theatre—and vice versa? This course traces the evolution of the theatre and plays of the United States, from its beginnings to today. We will study the ongoing efforts to establish a national identity through the stage from the 18th century through to the present. Along the way we will look at melodramas, minstrelsy and vaudeville, dramas and musicals. We will study the impact of African Americans, women and immigrants. We will consider plays ranging from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Eugene O’Neill, from Odets to Miller to Shepard to Anna Deveare Smith and beyond. We will study the emergence of Broadway and Off-Broadway (and Off-Off B’way!), little theatres and regional theatres; in short, how we got here.


CT 365 Modern Theatre and Drama (Fall/Spring, alternate years: 3)
Scott T. Cummings
This upper-level theatre studies course traces the development of modern European drama from Ibsen to Beckett, or roughly speaking, from 1875 to 1975. Other major dramatists to be studied include Strindberg, Chekhov, Shaw, Pirandello, Brecht, Genet, and Ionesco. The various movements within modernism – naturalism, symbolism, expressionism, futurism, and surrealism – are also examined. Students are expected to read one or two plays a week, write two substantial papers, and take a comprehensive exam.


CT 367 American Musical Theatre (Fall, alternate years: 3)
Stuart J. Hecht
Examination of the development and workings of the American musical, from the multiple roots of its inception through to the present. As we trace the evolution of this diverse theatrical form we will study its leading creative artists and productions, its use of music, lyrics and book, its ties to American culture and shifting tastes. Through lecture, text and recordings, we explore the musical’s value and function beyond issues of entertainment. The course will cover the work of George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart and with Hammerstein, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and many more.


CT 368 Contemporary Theatre & Drama (Fall/Spring, alternate years: 3)
Cross listed with EN 249
Scott T. Cummings
This upper-level theatre studies course surveys important playwrights and developments in American theatre and drama over the past four decades. Works by Sam Shepard, Maria Irene Fornes, David Mamet, David Henry Hwang, Tony Kushner, Paula Vogel, Suzan-Lori Parks, and others are studied. Special topics include the off-Off Broadway movement of the 1960s; the resident-regional movement and the decentralization of American theatre; the advent of multiculturalism and performance studies; and the rise of solo performance. Students are expected to read one or two plays a week, attend local productions of contemporary plays, view film and video adaptations, give an in-class presentation, write several short papers, and take a comprehensive exam.


CT 370 Classical Greek Drama in Translation (Spring, alternate years: 3)
Cross listed with CL 202
Dias M.L. Philippides
Selected plays from fifth-century Attic drama, including Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy, Sophocles’ Antigone and Oedipus Rex, Euripides’ Medea, Hippolytus and Bacchae, Aristophanes’ Frogs and Lysistrata, will be read in English. Secondary readings, visual materials (videotapes of performances and slides), and discussion will focus on the development of classical drama, the ancient theatre, stage craft and contemporary society, including the roles of men and women and issues of justice, heroism and ethics.


CT 371 African American Turns The Impact of Black Culture on Mainstream American Entertainment (Spring, alternate years: 3)
Cross listed with BK 371
This course will investigate African American performance and its impact on the content, form and direction of theatre in the United States from the mid-nineteenth century until the present day. It will use a multidisciplinary approach that explores theatrical forms, related dramatic literature, film, music and visual art. Members of the class will also attend relevant theatre productions in Boston and have the opportunity to dialogue with African American theatre artists.


CT 387 Bertolt Brecht: Theory & Practice (Spring, alternate years: 3)
Stuart J. Hecht
Bertolt Brecht, the most influential playwright of the 20th century, revolutionized notions of modern theatre and drama. This class will examine a range of his plays, including The Threepenny Opera (music by Kurt Weill), The Good Person of Setzuan, Mother Courage and Her Children, Life of Galileo, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and others. We will study Brecht’s life and the times in which he lived. We will cover Brecht’s theories on theatre, learn what constitutes his famous “Epic theatre,” and examine his legacy on playwriting and theatre, politics and society. The course will include study of how his plays and ideas actually work on stage (for actors, directors and designers).

This course can be used toward the Theatre major’s upper-level dramatic literature/theatre history requirement.


CT 440 American Popular Entertainment (Spring, alternate years: 3)
John Houchin
This course examines 20th century America’s fearful fascination with various popular performance modalities. Our social history can easily be written in terms of our ambiguous and contradictory attitudes about social dancing, rock concerts, professional wrestling, beauty contests and clubbing. Throughout the 20th century a dizzying array of committees, courts, associations and synods have tried to suppress various forms of athletic, sexual and/or ecstatic entertainments. At the same time we have regaled hitters, runners, dancers, singers and actors with the adulation once reserved for popes, presidents and kings. This course attempts to uncover some of the reasons for this conflicted behavior and at the same time understand the convoluted evolution of popular entertainment in the United States.