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Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

Literature, Criticism and History Courses

theatre department

THTR 1172 Dramatic Structure and Theatrical Process (Fall: 3 credits)
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.


THTR 2275 History of Theatre I (Fall: 3 credits)
John Houchin
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.


THTR 2285 History of Theatre II (Spring: 3 credits)
John Houchin
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.


THTR 3386 Shakespeare on the Stage (Fall: 3 credits)
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. Through lecture and discussion we will explore the conditions of Elizabethan England and its theatre, consider the larger social and historical conditions from which to understand the playwright and his work. We will cover some eight to ten of Shakespeare’s plays, including comedies, tragedies, history plays and problem plays. Students will also get to perform scenes from each play in class, to see the plays come alive, to discover how each actually works (character, language, ideas, structure) and to see how Shakespeare’s stage design actually impacted how he wrote his plays. Our goal is to develop a working knowledge of the plays in their own context in order to make better informed choices when analyzing or performing them, intellectually and/or artistically.


THTR 3374 American Theatre and Drama (Spring: 3 credits)
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.


THTR 3377 Fashion and Decor: A Cultural History (Spring: 3 credits)
Jacqueline Dalley and Crystal Tiala
An upper-level theatre studies course. Trends in fashion and interior decoration simultaneously shape and are shaped by the culture from which they grow. When we look at styles of a particular period, we see reflections not just of personal taste, but also social values, political and economic developments, influence of popular culture, new technology, and the overall mood of the period. Through lectures, discussions and visual research projects, this class will examine trends in fashion and decor as they relate to the cultures of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, highlighting the correlation between fashion, decorative arts, architecture, and interior design.


THTR 3387 Modern Theatre and Drama (Fall/Spring, alternate years: 3 credits)
Stuart J. Hecht
This upper-level theater 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.


THTR 3376 American Musical Theatre (Fall, alternate years: 3 credits)
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.


THTR 3382 Contemporary Theatre & Drama (Fall/Spring, alternate years: 3 credits)
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.