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Transcript
AMERICAN THEATRE HISTORY
THE 384
Instructor: C.L. Wittwer
Office: H202 Fine Arts Building
Email: [email protected]
Office Hours: 12:30-1:30pm Tuesdays and Thursdays
Class meets: Tuesday, Thursday 9:30 -10:45am in Fine Arts Building room H201
--URI Catalogue
Origins and development of the American Theatre from the wilderness to the contemporary
Broadway and off-broadway stage, including the evolution of the musical play. Analysis of
special contributions made by the grassroots movement, the university theatres, the Federal
Theatre Project and the regional theatre movement.
Welcome to History of the American Theatre. The class is a course of study and discussion. We
read plays, look at pictures, read history, watch performances and read criticism and
commentary. We’ll explore what past plays, performances and performers meant for American
audiences, and also what they might mean for us in our times. During our term of study of
American Theatre History, I hope you will experience and develop a several points of view about
American theatre which are based on the knowledge and exploration undertaken in our class.
General Education Categogories: Objectives and Outcomes
Humanities (Full Coverage):
Upon completion of this course, you should be able to:
 Understand and describe the historical development of theatre in America from its origins
through the Postmodern theatre
 Identify facts, vocabulary, definitions, terms, concepts,and people relevant to the history
of the Theatrein America
 Analyze a playtext (using representative plays) for its relationship to relevant social,
artistic/intellectual and political developments in America
 Identify the key changes in the American theatre’s role and form
 Define and Describe key terms such as ‘tragedy’ and ‘comedy”
 Research and Write argumentively on Theatrical/Historical issues
 Analyze and interpret the significance of theatre artists through historical perspectives
 Identify facts, vocabulary, definitions, terms, concrpts, people relevant to theatre in
America
 Recognize concepts or tools relevant for application to a theatre/historic research task

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Asks questions or frames hypotheses relevant to the task
Analyze: Apply concepts to address rhe task
Writing (Full Coverage)
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Demonstrate consideration of audience and style appropriate to analyses and arguments
about dramatic texts and performances
Construct and present claims ( synthesis, analyses, critiques, explanations, arguments)
with appropriate textual evidence and/or credible sources.
Achive organization and coherence through careful attention to logic, plausibility and
persuasiveness within and among claims, arguments, evidence, and conclusions
Adhere to rules of writing about dramatic texts: for example., correct formal citation.
Adhere to formal and informal rules of syntax, grammar, mechanics, and usage
appropriate to Standard Written English.\
Welcome to Theatre History 384.
CLASS PROCEDURE
In class, our procedure is like this:
Students and instructor give presentations on various American plays, productions, authors,
producers, etc. I encourage you to engage in discussion as a context for these presentations.
Preparation for class will require you to read plays and commentary.
ASSIGNMENTS
A. Participation
Participate in our controversies, discussions, arguments as we explore & experience the history
of theatre of America. PREPARE FOR PARTICIPATION by doing your reading of playsand
handouts; and come to class ready to talk about it and discuss it. Always bring the text of the
play we are currently reading together to class.
Bring the play in printed, NOT electronic form. Here’s why: we will do some readings in class
from these playtexts and we’ll all literally need to be on the same page. This is very hard to
achieve if most of us are simply turning to page 35 as others fumble with tablets, iphones,
ereaders and/or laptops to find page 35 or even the playtext…Another reason to use the required
playtext is that no electronic devices are permitted during tests and quizzes in class; sometimes
thr printed text is needed for open book testing.
Observations and comments and questions are a welcomed form of class participation.
And of course, being there—in class—is naturally a prerequisit for this activity. So: come to
class. All the time. Once you come to class, stay here. Please do not get up and walk out of the
room (and then back in) during class.This is very distracting, if not rude, to anyone presenting in
class.
Food and Drink in the classroom is not permitted. This is a University regulation.
Use of Laptop computers and cell phones during class and tests is not permitted. You
should take notes during all presentations on who, what, why, where, when. If you must get a
computer into the mix, I recommend that after each class, you immediately Google the notes you
have taken in class..
Participation accounts for 25% of your final grade.
B. Tests, Essays and Final Exam
There will be about 6 to 8 short quizzes and essays. These will ask you to do writing about the
plays we read, the handout materials and what you hear in presentations given by me or
students in the class. Often these tests ask you to do research and write critically.
The final exam is like the quizzes and it too emphasizes research and critical writing. It is
graded with "triple" the value of a typical Quiz or Essay. I average all of your Quiz/Essay scores
and the final exam score (x3) to calculate your Test part of your grade.
Here is the grading scale for quizzes:
A 100-90
B 80-89
C 70-79
D 60-69
F 0-59
Listen, take lecture notes, do the reading and you should do well on the tests and essays.
Tests, essays, and the Final account for 50% of your final grade.
C. Dramaturgy Research Project
1. Research an American Theatre History topic from the list included on the calendar included as
part of this syllabus. This is like the theatre research you would do as a theatre Dramaturge.
Research your topic in the library, on the web, and through other appropriate resources. You
may need to buy a book, do an interview…whatever it takes to complete researching your topic
so you can
2. write a brief paper on the topic, and
3.present what you found to the class. Detailed written guidelines are attached to this
syllabus…
In general, you are asked to write about 5-10 pages on an informed, researched level. Your
presentation may take the form of a performance, a lecture, a slide presentaton with your
commentary, or a simple reading of the paper. Presentations in class usually take about ten
minutes.
The written part of the project is in the form of a formal researched paper, which will
- be about 5 pages long (typewritten of course)
-have proper footnotes and quotation marks for material you are quoting
-be written mostly IN YOUR WORDS
-have a bibliography of books and websites you have consulted
-be your own, not some kind of group effort--even if your presentation is (for example) a
group effort
-be presented on the date agreed upon or indicated on the course schedule.
-follow the guidelines given in the Theatre History Dramaturgy Project Guide
-avoid the Spectre of Plagiarism by really being your own work
The Dramaturgy Project accounts for 25% of your final grade.
GRADING SUMMARY
Dramaturgy Project=25%; Participation=25%; Tests and Final Exam=50%
NOTE ON ATTENDANCE, ACADEMIC HONESTY
Attendance to all class sessions is mandatory.
You are responsible for making up any missed work during any absence. Unexcused absences
hurt your grade, especially in participation. Please check your Student Handbook for University
policy regarding unexcused class absences. Excused absences for illness, family crises, religious
observance and University sanctioned events must be properly documented.
Please refer to the Student Handbook section dealing with Academic Honesty. Tests and
written assignments are to be your individual work.
TEXTS
Here is the list of books I have ordered for the course at the bookstore.
Various Early American Drama
Albee: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
O’Neill, The Hairy Ape
Mamet, American Buffalo
Miller, Death of a Salesman
Wilson, Fences
Various Authors, Articles and excerpts to be provided as class handouts
SCHEDULE
AMERICAN THEATRE HISTORY
WE
EK
General Topic in boldface
Subtopics indicated by normal Font
Required Reading
and tests
Dramaturgy topics due dates for them
1-2
Course Introduction
The Indian Princess
by James Nelson
Barker
Consult with instructor choose Dramaturgy Project
Prepare Dramaturgy Project bibliography( show this in
Your meeting with instructor)
TEST
*Aztec Drama of Human Sacrifice: Aztecs..
must consult "Theaters of Human Sacrifice’
*Judicial Community Theatre: Witchcraft prosecutions:
Marion Starkey's Devil in Massachusetts
3-4
5-6
7-9
“Drama” of the “new world”:
American Eden & its
European Roots
Rousseau and Innocence…passion
& sentiment
American Adam
Theatre in the Colonies
The comedy of manners
Earliest American plays
The moral play
The canonical "classics"
Drama of American Identity
Planter,Adventurer,Native, working
Migrant, Slave
The aftermath of Revolution:
National Types: American
Identities on Stage
The resident company system
Melodrama, the theatre of Virtue &
Vice& Sentiment
The Melodramatic formula
Spectacle and Melodrama
Popular and Ethnic Entertainment
Girlie Shows to Burlesque
Ziegfeld's Follies
Vaudeville
Yiddish Theatre
Harrigan and Hart
Belasco
Steele McKaye & the Delsarte
Method
Minstrel Shows
Syndicate
Actors c. 1850 - c. 1920
Modernism comes to America
Little Theatre movement
Theatre Guild
The Contrast by
Royall Tyler
The Gladiator by
J.M. Bird
TEST
Uncle Tom's Cabin
by G. Aiken
TEST
The Hairy Ape by E.
**Disney’s Pocahantas versus the ‘real’ Pocahantas;
Pocahantas as an American National Type…
*Protest Theatre of the ‘Sons of Liberty’
* The Wild West Show
*Smith's The Drunkard...compared to Leaving Las Vegas
*Dramatic Reading:The Death of Little Nell
*Staging the chariot race in Ben Hur…from stage to screen
*The Undercover Brother
*Amos 'n Andy as an extension OR not
of Minstrelsy
*where are we now? Race Standup
*The Black Crook
*Sentimental dramatic parlor songs 19th century
*Most amazing:my three favorite Vaudeville acts
*Houdini
*Trifles by Susan Glaspel
*Theatre Union and Brecht’s The Mother
*Hellman's Scoundrel Time and the Hollywood Hearings
1011
1213
Group Theatre
The Chattaqua
Religion and Theatre:
American Evangelical
Political Theatre
Socialism & Communism
Agit-Prop
Group Theatre
Theatre Union
The Federal Theatre Project
Theatre Guild
The War and After
Postmodern
Experimental Theatre
The Living Theatre
Teatro Campesino
Bread and Puppet Theatre
Performance Garage
Joe Chaikin's Poor Theatre
Identity Theatre
14
EXA
M
O'Neill
*Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan and HUAC
*Showboat
Death of a Salesman
by A. Miller
TEST
Who’s Afraid of
Virginia Woolf?
*Oklahoma!
American Buffalo by
D.Mamet
*Schechner’s Environmental Theatre
*The Living Theatre
*’The Holy Theatre’ from Brooks’ The Empty Space
Fences by August
Wilson
*My Sister in this House: is this Feminist Theatre?
*Fefu and her Friends: is this Feminist Theatre?
Postmodernism
Robert Wilson
Richard Foreman
*Sondheim
*Einstein on the Beach
FINAL