Michael D Willett
Critical interpretation and meaning in plays, representing a variety of types and periods.
During the quarter, we will learn to feel the forms of genre: how the mechanics of play-making inform or disinvite performance; we will learn the craft of literary exegesis as practiced on slippery productions that involve a whole host of human concern: what is a play to the sound designer?, and how do we talk about that? We will also gain familiarity with the various periods and places from which our texts spring: for Sophocles, a play is a different sort of instrument than it is for August Wilson; but not so different as to be unrecognizable in ambition. Finally, we'll practice registering our responses in written form to drama wherever it plays out, in both live/"real" and impossible theaters.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
In this course, we will seek to expand our notions of what constitutes a play, what constitutes "play," and how we can tell the difference through reading a range of playwrights across 2000 years of theatrical history and several languages and continents. What's more, we'll begin to stage our own responses (performances of a kind as well) to these texts in light of the critical traditions that inform them, and to inhabit the various attendant roles, reading from actoral, directorial, and literary-poetic positions.
Expect to attend performances, to stage scenes, to hear and to give research presentations, and to engage your fellows both inside and outside class in a continual dialogue: interpersonal, academic, theoretical, real.
See all the plays you can between now and then. This is a good city; they abound. Especially recommended are productions by New Century Theater, Book-it Reperatory Theatre, Washington Ensemble Theater, The Balagan, and anything you find on campus.
Class assignments and grading