Bard College Catalogue 2013-14
Theater and Performance
Gideon Lester (director), Jeffrey Binder, Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, Miriam Felton-Dansky, Anne Gridley, Lynn Hawley, John Kelly, Chiori Miyagawa, Jonathan Rosenberg, Geoffrey Sobelle, Nilaja Sun, Naomi Thornton, Jean Ruth Wagner, Robert Woodruff
OverviewThe Theater and Performance Program aims to develop innovative thinkers and artists who use great theatrical ideas from the past and present to imagine and instigate the theater of the future. Theater and performance are intrinsically collaborative art forms, and collaboration and devised theater making are at the heart of Bard’s program.
The Theater and Performance Program trains well-rounded theater makers who study the history, theory, and contemporary practice of theater and performance; hone their technical abilities as writers, performers, and directors; and create their own productions and performances under the mentorship of master artists and teachers. Students are encouraged to be cross-disciplinary thinkers and makers who explore the intersection of theater and performance with dance, music, the visual arts, film, and literature, as well as with the sciences and humanities. Students work side by side with a faculty of leading professional theater and performance artists; in addition, a wide range of visiting artists from this country and abroad bring a global perspective of cutting-edge theater and performance to the Bard campus..
Areas of StudyTheater and Performance offers courses in context, technique, and creative practice and research. Students who major in the program are expected to take classes in all three areas of study.
Context courses include the history of theater and performance, contemporary practice, theories of theater and performance, dramatic literature, and world theater. Technique courses include skills-based classes in playwriting, directing, acting, voice, movement, dramatic structure, performance, and composition. Creative practice and research comprises productions, performance laboratories, master classes, and specialized workshops.
The Theater and Performance curriculum emphasizes courses in context and technique, ensuring that a strong foundation is built in the first two years of study. The following courses are required before Moderation: Theater 145, Introduction to Theater and Performance: Revolutions in Time and Space; Theater 201, Introduction to Acting: The Actor and the Moment; Theater 207, Introduction to Playwriting: The Theatrical Voice; Theater 244, Introduction to Theater Making; and Theater 246, Introduction to Theater History: Great Theaters of the World. In addition, students participate in the creation and performance of a group-devised Moderation project.
After Moderation, students are required to take two courses from a menu of options in each of the three areas of study—context, technique, and creative practice and research (for a total of six courses). Students must also complete a Senior Project.
Senior ProjectStudents choose from one of the following four categories:
Research paper: a 50- to 60-page paper on a significant aspect of theater and/or performance; theater or performance history or theory; dramatic literature; contemporary or historical practice.
Devised project: an original work of theater developed or performed by one to three students; and a 20-page paper detailing the project’s context and artistic goals.
Solo performance: a solo work, written and performed by a student; and a 20-page paper detailing the project’s context and artistic goals.
Specialized project: A detailed investigation of one of the major areas of theatrical practice through a performance component, for example, writing a play, directing a play, or performing a major role in a Theater and Performance Program production; and a 20-page paper detailing the project’s context and artistic goals.
Recent Senior Projects
- “From Repression to Expression: How ‘The Duende’ Manifests through Boundary”; and performed the role of Alma Winemiller in Tennessee Williams’s Eccentricities of a Nightingale.
- “Lessons Learned: The Use of Iconic Figures in Theater by Shakespeare, Brecht, and Kushner”; and directed Act III of Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl
- “War and Speech: Orality, Aurality, and How Ancient Greek Theater Is Helping Modern Warriors”; and a performance in Promenade, a play by Maria Irene Fornes
FacilitiesThe Theater and Performance Program is located in Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry. Facilities include studios, workshops, and two theaters, including the flexible Theater Two, which seats up to 200.
CoursesProgram courses emphasize the truly inclusive nature of theater, which encompasses performance, literature, design, history, artistic community, and intellectual rigor. Students are expected to acquire a solid familiarity with dramatic literature and to develop the ability to research the historical context and dramaturgy of a play and to write about it.
Acting for Nonmajors
This course introduces scene preparation and beginning scene technique, with an emphasis on relaxation, breathing, and concentration. The new actor learns to make choices and implement them using sense memory and to integrate this work with the text. Group and individual exercises and improvisations. Texts include poems, monologues, stories, and scenes..
In this course, which corresponds with Theater 303-304 (Directing Seminar), actors work with student directors on scenes for in-class presentation. Open to first-year students.
Movement for Actors
Basic training is provided in movement, analysis, rhythm, development of technique, and confidence in space.
Adapting classic and contemporary fiction or biographies to a theatrical form is a creative process that integrates the original intention of the material with the writer’s imagination. Students read examples of successful adaptations and examine different approaches to, and styles of, writing. They adapt short stories into short plays and choose a significant person in history, research his or her biographical information, and write a play based on his or her life.
Introduction to Theater and Performance: Revolutions in Time and Space
Class discussions are based on primary and secondary texts and modes of performance from 2,500 years of theater, starting with Aristotle and the Greek tragic playwrights and approaching the cutting edge of contemporary practice. Students investigate how great artists from across the centuries have controlled the experience of theatrical time and space, and explore such topics as the representation of reality on stage, the relationship between performance and audience, and the constantly evolving interplay of theater and democracy.
Introduction to Acting: The Actor and the Moment
This course analyzes how an actor brings truth to the smallest unit of performance. The richness of the moment is created by the imaginative, physical, psychological, intellectual, and emotional qualities that the actor brings to it. Students explore ways to gain access to richly layered authenticity through games, improvisations, individual creations, and exercises in given circumstances. Prerequisite: students must have taken, or be enrolled in, Theater 145.
Introduction to Playwriting: The Theatrical Voice
cross-listed: written arts
Through writing exercises based on dreams, visual images, poetry, social issues, found text, and music, students are encouraged to find their unique language, style, and vision. The class learns elements of playwriting through writing a one-act play and through reading assignments and class discussions. Additionally, a group project explores the nature of collaborative work.
After writing a short play, students focus on developing a full-length play, with sections of the work-in-progress presented in class for discussion. Students grow as playwrights through exposure to diverse dramatic literature and by undertaking a short adaptation of either a class play or a short story. Prerequisite: Theater 207.
This course, for students who have taken one semester of Introduction to Acting, moves from a games-oriented curriculum into work with theatrical texts and the processes of scene study.
Writing Political Theater
cross-listed: human rights
This workshop explores political expression in the theatrical genre. Students read political plays by internationally known authors—including Ken Saro-Wiwa, Yoji Sakate, Caryl Churchill, Emily Mann, Athol Fugard, and Ariel Dorfman—and write several short plays and one longer play on issues of political interest.
Theater 215, 216
By embracing the archetypes of childhood and reclaiming the “internal response” without the diminishing filter of socialization, actors start to lose the inhibitions that block them from being purely expressive. Beginning with exercises in broad physicality, balance, rhythm, discovery, physical mask, and surprise, the class explores what is unique and funny about each individual.
This course is intended for theater majors who wish to explore Shakespeare’s words as actors and are interested in developing their voices to express his complex thoughts and images. Soliloquies and sonnets are investigated with a view to bringing Shakespeare’s language to life.
Basic Vocal Technique
This course is designed to develop an awareness of the importance of physical relaxation, breath capacity and control, and resonance. Also emphasized is clarity of articulation and the use of vocal range and inflection. Intended for moderated and prospective theater majors.
In this introductory course, students consider models of dramatic structure from Aristotle to Shakespeare, and analyze how that structure is useful to directors, playwrights, and actors. Also examined is the role of dramaturgy in historical practice. Weekly scene work and collaborative projects help students develop a coherent point of view. Prerequisite: one semester of theater history or permission of the instructor.
Performance Composition: Movement and Text
A creative practice course in which students develop original movement- and text-based performances, using a series of exercises to locate and deepen self-expression. The semester begins with stretch and placement techniques and core work to develop a neutral and ready body, followed by a sequence of impulse-based improvisation techniques that enable students to find authentic movement and push past their physical limitations. The second half focuses on writing exercises designed to free the creative voice.
Introduction to Theater Making
This course follows Introduction to Theater and Performance (Theater 145) as the second in a sequence of courses exploring the intellectual and creative methods of making theater. All students take turns working collaboratively as performers, directors, writers, dramaturgs, and designers. The work created in this class is presented at the end of the semester and serves as the Moderation project for students intending to major in the program.
Introduction to Theater History: Great Theaters of the World
This course investigates selected periods in world theater, beginning with the massive communal festivals of ancient Greece and culminating in the philosophical upheavals of the Enlightenment. The class pays close attention to connections between drama, stagecraft, and modes of spectatorship; looks at changing notions of classicism; and investigates how the theater has shored up political power and how the stage has served as a scale model for the known world.
Democracy in America: Populist Performance in Theory and Practice
cross-listed: experimental humanities
This course uses the creation of a crowd-sourced performance as a vehicle for exploring crucial trends in contemporary performance: art making as social research; the relation between political activism and artistic production; charges of populism or elitism; and the role of social media in art practice. The class explores theories and moments of democratic art and looks at a wide range of sources to try to understand the potential and problems of crowd-sourced art.
Chance in Performance
cross-listed: experimental humanities
The notion of chance has been used to describe a wide range of artistic practices, including collage, participatory work, and indeterminacy in composition and/or performance. This course covers the major historical, theoretical, and practical issues surrounding the use of chance in artistic production, and surveys its significance in performance. The class explores distinct and overlapping movements in which chance has figured, beginning with Dada and Duchamp, and including Cage/Cunningham, Fluxus artists, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, and Eve Sussman.
This seminar explores the dynamics, mechanics, and fundamental building blocks of drama, as well as how analysis of a play’s structure can be indispensable and revelatory for theater artists and scholars. The class investigates models of dramatic structure from Aristotle through Shakespeare, neoclassicism, modernism, and contemporary experimental and “postdramatic” theater. Also considered are practical methods for putting structural discoveries to use in rehearsal and production.
This course gives performers tools to find the truthful physical expression of their characters. Students first slough off habitual behavior through a warm-up using aspects of Graham, Alexander, and release techniques; once the body has been strengthened, improvisation exercises are used to build kinetic awareness and hone intuitive prowess. Finally, the class explores scene work in order to find a character through movement and to remain present at each moment of a performance.
This course introduces students to fundamental practical and theoretical concepts in directing. The art and craft of the director involves the close analysis of texts, the conceptualizing of a production, the translation of the text into the language of the stage, and work with collaborators, including actors and designers. The class also examines the work and writings of seminal directors.
This is a studio acting class in which students explore scenes from challenging plays of varied styles. Extensive rehearsal time outside of class is required. Prerequisite: Theater 201 and 209, or permission of the instructor.
Advanced Scene Study
Advanced individual exercises, scenes, and monologues—drawn from all dramatic literature. Prerequisite: Theater 201 or permission of the instructor.
Survey of Drama
Survey of Drama courses, which study the major styles and periods in drama from a literary, stylistic, and performance perspective, are at the center of the Theater and Performance Program. They are practical courses, applying text to scene work.
Recent Survey of Drama courses have included African American Theater; American Melodrama, Minstrelsy, and Vaudeville; Beckett; Birth of Tragedy and the Death of Tragedy; Black Comedy; Büchner and Strindberg; Chekhov and His Predecessors; Dangerous Theater; Dissent and Its Performance; Euripides and Nietzsche; Feminist Theater; French Neoclassicism; German Theater; The Greeks; Grotesque in Theater; Jacobean Theater; Japanese Theater; Musical Theater; New Works on Stage; Performance Art in Theory and Practice; Philosophies of Acting: Solo Performance; Stanislavsky, Brecht, and Grotowski; Shakespeare; Tennessee Williams; Theater of the Absurd; and Yiddish Theater.
Visual Imagination for the Modern Stage
cross-listed: studio arts
As taught by leading theatrical designers and directors, this course examines the explosive prominence of visual ideas on the stage in the past 30 years, the emergence of a new form of collaboration between directors and designers, and the inclusion of new media on the stage.
Devised Theater Lab
Through practical exercises, including improvisations, games, and ensemble techniques, students learn how to generate ideas and research, and shape, organize, and create new works for the stage. The course also examines how several contemporary artists and ensembles generate new works. Assignments include experiential essays, a research paper, and active participation in collaborative creations.
Contemporary Practice in Theater and Performance
In this advanced seminar, students explore the work of directors, writers, ensembles, performers, and designers, from this country and abroad, whose practice is advancing the field. The syllabus is informed by the current season in New York City, and research is augmented by several field trips to theaters, museums, and festivals, as well as meetings with leading artists visiting Bard. Discussions and readings stress the cross-disciplinary nature of theater and performance, and incorporate perspectives from visual arts, architecture, dance, music, philosophy, and technology.
Voice in Performance
This course addresses demands on the voice that occur in performance, such as speaking over underscoring and sustaining dialogue in fights or dances. Technical exercises are used to promote coordination of speech and movement.
Contemporary Women Playwrights
Through readings and discussions of plays, criticism, historical texts, and contemporary theater and performance, students examine the roots of theater created by women, its practice today, and its relationship to feminism. Writers studied include Virginia Woolf, Caryl Churchill, Adrienne Kennedy, Maria Irene Fornes, Sarah Kane, Suzan-Lori Parks, Elfriede Jelinek, and Young Jean Lee, as well as works by performance artists such as Laurie Anderson and Karen Finley, and the choreographer Pina Bausch.
Latino Theater and Performance
cross-listed: art history, lais
This course explores the specific aesthetic strategies Latino theater and performance artists have found most useful when wrestling with issues such as immigration, territoriality, exile, human rights, and hybridity. The class culminates with a student-driven creative project that seeks a productive relationship between form and content.
Theater and performance artists interested in upending heteronormative constructions of gender have long used an array of performance strategies such as camp, cross dressing, cabaret, disidentification, and radical reimaginings of both private and public sex acts. After close study of critical readings grounded in feminism, postcolonialism, and queer studies, the class explores how the texts illuminate and complicate the work of artists such as Justin Bond, Split Britches, Taylor Mac, Nao Bustamante, and Charles Ludlam.
Going Viral: Performance, Media, Memes
cross-listed: art history, experimental humanities, film and electronic arts
Going viral has, in the digital age, become an increasingly central strategy for creating culture: it is how new pop stars are anointed, products are advertised, and sometimes even how regimes are toppled. Since the early 20th century, the notion that images and ideas can be contagious has been intertwined with experiments in performance, media, and spectatorship. This seminar examines many incarnations of viral culture, from the Futurists’ radical use of the radio to contemporary digital art.