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Thea 101: Introduction to Theatre

Department of Theatre, Hunter College Spring 2010

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:35 6:50pm
Room: HW 509
Instructor: Dan Venning

Office: HN 520E
Office Hours: Fri. 2:15-3:15pm, or by appt.

Course Description and Objectives: In Introduction to Theatre we will explore the whys and
the hows of theatrical production, paying particular attention to the global nature of theatre and
its status as an art form that crosses multiple cultures both past and present. Over the semester
we will tackle a number of questions, including the following: Why do artists produce theatre,
and why do spectators attend theatrical productions? How do the producers of theatre go about
their work, and how do we think about the relationship between artistic process and final
product? Of particular interest is the way that theatre plays a crucial role in shaping and
transforming identities and cultures; we will examine this topic, through various lenses,
throughout the course of the semester.
My main goal as an instructor is to show you my love of theatre, and to foster your own
enjoyment, critical appreciation, and understanding of this complex art form. Peter Brook writes:
To play needs much work. But when we experience the work as play, then it is not work
any more. A play is play. This fully articulates my philosophy about this class. But that doesnt
mean it will be easy!
Required Texts, Available at Hunter College Bookstore:

Felner and Orenstein, World of Theatre: Tradition and Innovation.

Gainor, Garner, and Pucner, eds., The Norton Anthology of Drama (2 vols.)

Individual Plays for Purchase:

Henrik Ibsen, A Dolls House
Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera
Individual Plays on Blackboard:
Bertolt Brecht, The Measures Taken
Anna Deveare Smith, Fires in the Mirror

Course Requirements:
Regular, prompt attendance:
You are expected to be in attendance for every class and be on time and ready to start. If
you must be absent or late for medical or personal reasons, please speak to me and
provide appropriate documentation. Each student is expected to participate in discussion.
Every unexcused absence after the third will reduce your final grade by 2%. Any lateness
counts as half of an absence.
Engaged and active participation:
Theatre is a hands-on, collaborative art form, and I expect that you will come to class
having carefully prepared the assigned materials, ready to participate with questions and
comments about the readings. Please note that I will evaluate participation on both
quantity and quality. Good participation entails thoughtful and courteous responses to
your colleagues, as well as engaged listening. Participation will count for 5% of your
All readings should be completed before the class meeting for which they are indicated.
Writing and Quizzes:
During the semester, I will post four brief questions related to the reading on Blackboard.
You will be responsible for writing a response to each question of at least 750-1000
words (roughly one-and-a-half to two double-spaced page) and BOTH e-mailing your
response to me AND bringing a hard copy to me in class. These responses are designed to
challenge your thinking about the material covered in class and in the reading, creating a
forum for discussion and debate and a jumping-off point for our next class. There are no
right or wrong answers to these questions. They should offer you an opportunity to
develop your critical thinking skills, hone your opinions into cogent arguments and
formulate your thoughts into structured writing. I will count the best three of your four
I will not accept late reading responses. If you have not e-mailed your response to me
before the beginning of section time when it is due, and fail to bring in a hard copy, you
will receive a zero on that response. Only illness with a doctors note will be accepted as
an excuse. So do them (and print them) in advance!
Reading responses should be your own work, and require little to no research. I
encourage you to do these without any reliance upon secondary sources.
Additionally there will be four in-section, unannounced quizzes (pop quizzes! yay!),
which will be open-note, not open-book. These are not intended to trick you, however
they will be quite challengingthey are intended to help prepare you for the
examinations and questions you might face there. If you are absent without an excuse,
you will get a zero on the quiz. I will count the best three of your four quizzes.

Performance Reviews:
You are required to attend the Theatre Department production of Brechts The
Threepenny Opera and one other performance of your own choosing, and write a 2000word (roughly four double-spaced pages) review and response to each production. The
first production may be anything of your choice. There is a MASSIVE amount of theatre
in New York City, and I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities! This
review is due on Tuesday March 2. For your second review, you will see the Theatre
Department production of The Threepenny Opera, by Bertolt Brecht, directed by
Professor Joel Bassin, which will play in the Kaye Playhouse from April 20-25. All
students in Introduction to Theatre are required to see this production. Please put the
dates on your calendar. The tickets are free, but the theatre is small, so if you wait to the
last minute to get a ticket you may not get in. Your paper on the production of The
Threepenny Opera is due on Tuesday, April 27.
In these papers, you will evaluate the productions. Some of the questions you may
choose to answer include: What were significant choices made by the actors, director,
designers? Which choices did you like, and which did you find unnecessary or illconceived? What were your intellectual, emotional, or visceral responses to the
production? While whether or not you liked the production is of course important, do
not spend more than a sentence or two on this topic. Im far more interested in why you
respond as you do to the production in question.
I will evaluate the papers based both on your ideas and how well you communicate them.
So spelling, grammar, and composition count!
Secondary sources and research are unnecessary for these reviews.
Format: Your papers should be 3-4 pages long, in 12-point Times New Roman font,
double-spaced, with one-inch margins on all sides (this is the standard academic format,
and should be the same for your reading responses). Please number your pages and make
sure your name is on the paper! You must submit your papers both in class and via email before class. Late papers will be reduced in grade by a third of a grade per day (not
class-day) late (So if you were supposed to turn it in on Monday but get it in on
Wednesday, Id reduce a B to a C+).
Creative Projects
All students will participate in a creative project. You must work in small groups of 2-5
students. Each group must turn in a 1-paragraph proposal for their project on Tuesday,
February 23. So you have a month to get cracking and pick your groups! On Thursday
March 11, each group will present a rough, informal preview of their project. The
projects themselves will be presented in full in class on Thursday May 6.
There are many options for how you may approach this project. You may conceive an
original design (lighting, costume, set/scenic, sound) for a production or scene, act a
scene or monologue from a play, select a particular performance tradition that is covered

in the text and prepare a 3-5 minute demonstration, write and perform a scene of your
own, produce a puppet play, direct other students in a scene, or create a directorial
concept and partiture, or many other projects of your choice!
The project does not require that you act or perform in front of the group, although you
will likely have to present. Ideally, each project should be kept to 3-4 minutes per person
in the group, including set-up and clean-up time.
There will be a midterm exam in class on Tuesday, March 16 and a final exam on
DATE AND TIME, in the same room in which class meets. Exams will consist of
multiple choice, short answers, and essay questions. There will be class time set aside to
review for each exam.
Grade Breakdown:
Class participation: 5%
Creative Project: 10%
Reading Responses and Quizzes: 20%
Theatrical Reviews: 20% total (10% each)
Midterm Examination: 20%
Final Examination: 25%
Course Policies:
Electronics, Pets, and Guests: Please turn off all cell phones before class. Do not
answer them, do not leave the classroom to answer them, and do not text while in class.
Similarly, please dont disrupt class with personal conversations. Please do not bring
animals to class with you unless they are guide dogs. Guests (other than infants or small
children) are always welcome in class, but please contact me beforehand to let me know
you have a guest coming.
E-mail and Office Hours: I strongly encourage you to send me any questions about the
reading, assignments, or discussion, or to visit me during my office hours. This will help
me to get to know you, and you will get more out of the class. Additionally, check your
Hunter College e-mail dailyand check Blackboard often. I will send any
communication to your Hunter College e-mail. However, it will usually take me at least
24 hours to respond to your e-mails. I will respond as promptly as possible, but please try
to send important e-mails well in advance. I am happy to meet with you by appointment
if my office hours do not work for you. Students may also leave messages in my mailbox
in the Theatre Department office, HN 522 or by calling the department at 212.772.5149.
Please do not slip assignments under the door of HN 520E; use my department mailbox.

Hunter College regards acts of academic dishonesty (e.g. plagiarism, cheating on
examinations, obtaining unfair advantage and falsification of records and official
documents) as serious offenses against the values of intellectual honesty. The college
is committed to enforcing the CUNY policy on Academic Integrity and will pursue
cases of academic dishonesty according to the Hunter College Academic Integrity
Please be aware that the official definition of plagiarism is the unacknowledged use
of three (3) or more words from another persons writing, or of any of their ideas
without proper attribution. You must cite your sources. Plagiarism is a serious
academic offense and can result in expulsion and/or a permanent record on your
college transcript. If you have any questions about how to cite a source, or if you are
unsure about any material that you have included in an assignment, please contact
me. I will be glad to help you sort it out.
If you want help with citations or writing, you may also contact the Hunter College
Reading and Writing Center for any advice ( I would also
recommend that you purchase The Chicago Manual of Style, 15 th Edition. While
large, it will prove invaluable in your academic career.
it. Its also antithetical to the purpose and meaning of a college education. If youre
desperate and a written assignment is coming due, talk to me, or turn it in late
Please note that ANY copying or quotation without citation is plagiarismeven
from the textbook or plays we read! If you quote, make sure to use quotation marks
and cite your source! Also, please note that the assignments this semester do not
require the use of secondary sources.
In compliance with the American Disability Act of 1990 (ADA) and with Section 504 of
the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Hunter College is committed to ensuring educational
parity and accommodations for all students with documented disabilities and/or medical
conditions. It is recommended that all students with documented disabilities (emotional,
medical, physical, and/or learning) consult the Hunter College Office of AccessABILITY
located in Room E1124 to secure necessary academic accommodations. For further
information and assistance please call 212.772.4857.






Th 1/28

Introduction to Course, What is Theatre?

READ World of Theatre, Chapter 1 (after class)!


Tu 2/2

Theatre and the Audience

READ: World of Theatre, Chapter 2; Bertolt Brecht,
The Measures Taken (Blackboard)
You should start arranging to see a theatrical
production for your first theatre review!

Th 2/4

The Theatre Critic

READ: World of Theatre, Chapter 15
Guest Speaker: Allison Lyman

Tu 2/9

Performance Traditions
READ: World of Theatre, Chapter 5; David Henry Hwang,
M. Butterfly (Norton). Reading Response 1 Due.

Th 2/11

Acting and the ActorThe Stanislavski Technique

READ: World of Theatre, Chapter 7; Henrik Ibsen, A Dolls
Guest Speaker: Jennifer Joan Thompson

Tu 2/16

Acting and the ActorTraditional Forms

REVIEW: World of Theatre, Chapter 5

Th 2/18



Tu 2/23

Acting and the ActorFrom the Outside In

READ: World of Theatre, Chapter 6; Anna Deveare Smith,
Fires in the Mirror (Blackboard).
Creative Project Proposals due.

Th 2/25

Theatrical Spaces
READ: World of Theatre, Chapters 9

Tu 3/2

Designing in Theatre and Performance Traditions

READ: World of Theatre, Chapter 10
First production review due.








Th 3/4


Tu 3/9

The Director
READ: World of Theatre, Chapter 8; Brecht, Threepenny

Th 3/11

Midterm Review, Creative Projects

Reading Response 2 Due.

Tu 3/16:

Midterm exam in class.

Th 3/18:

The Director, continued

Guest Speaker: Prof. Joel Bassin

Tu 3/23:

Set and Costume Design

READ: World of Theatre, Chapters 11 and 12.

Th 3/25:

Lighting Design and Sound Design

READ: World of Theatre, Chapter 13




Tu 4/6:

Design Wrap-Up, Catch up from Spring Break

Group Project Presentations due.

Th 4/8

Dramatic Structure
READ: World of Theatre, Chapter 3

Tu 4/13

Tragedy and Ancient Greece

READ: World of Theatre, Chapter 4;

Th 4/15

READ: Sophocles, Oedipus the King (Norton)

The Theatre Department production of Brechts Threepenny Opera directed by Professor

Joel Bassin will play in the Kaye Playhouse from April 20-25 (4/20 4/24 at 8pm and 4/25
at 3pm). All students in Introduction to Theatre are required to see this production. The
tickets are free with your Hunter College ID, available the day of the performance. The
theatre is small so DO NOT WAIT for the last few days to see the show. If you can only see
the production on a specific day, buy your tickets in advance.

Tu 4/20

Tragedy, continued
READ: Wole Soyinka, Death and the Kings Horseman





Th 4/22

READ: William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (Norton).
Reading Response 3 Due

Tu 4/27

Comedy continued
READ: Molire, Tartuffe (Norton).
Theatrical review of Threepenny Opera due.

Th 4/29

Theatre of the Absurd

READ: Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (Norton).

T 5/4

Making Theatre Happen

READ: World of Theatre, Chapters 14 and 16

Th 5/6

Creative Projects
Creative Project Presentation!

Tu 5/11

Catch-up and Wrap-up, Reading Response 4 Due.

Th 5/13

Final Exam Review


This syllabus and schedule is subject to change during the semester.