Options within the Major
All students pursuing the major engage in the range of disciplines sustaining modern performance—acting, design, directing, dramaturgy, playwriting, and critical theatre studies--before taking up culminating work on a senior thesis. An original creative project, the thesis can take several forms: a significant research essay; a new play; or acting, dramaturging, directing, or designing as part of the Department's annual performance season. We understand theatre as a site of cultural innovation, transmission, and contestation, and Barnard/Columbia students excel in seizing performance as an articulate act of artistic and intellectual generation.
Student Learning Objectives:
Upon completion of the major, successful students will be able to:
a. assess critically the artistic ambitions of contemporary theatrical performance, and of literary, critical and theoretical issues involved in the interpretation of dramatic literature and theatrical performance
b. create with proficiency in at least one area of creative work in the field: critical/research writing, acting, directing, design, playwriting
Areas of Concentration:
Drama and Theatre Studies
The emphasis in Drama and Theatre Studies is designed to provide an overview of the major traditions of western and nonwestern performance; it culminates in a written research thesis supervised by a member of the research faculty. Students specializing in Drama and Theatre Studies have often used their thesis work, or essays written in coursework, as part of successful applications to Ph.D. programs in literature or performance studies, or for prestigious international fellowships (Fulbright).
Description: All majors take required courses in theatre history (Western Theatre Traditions: Classic to Romantic and Western Theatre Traditions: Modern); Drama, Theatre, and Theory; Theatre Traditions in a Global Context; Shakespeare; and two elective courses in dramatic literature. These requirements introduce students to broad histories and methods of theatre studies. Students develop a sense of the practices of historical and critical analysis of the various modes of drama, theatre, and performance; they also gain both a sense of the range of critical methods, and the ways those methods differentially construct drama, theatre, and performance as objects of study. Courses are sometimes offered as lectures, and sometimes as research-led discussion seminars, in which students develop an original inquiry working closely with research faculty. This work may become the basis for a senior research thesis, in which the student again works closely with a research-faculty mentor.
Student Learning Objectives:
Students successfully completing drama and theatre studies coursework, or concentrating in drama and theatre studies, should be able
a. to write clearly about dramatic literature, theatre, and performance, including where applicable film and digital-media performance
b. to synthesize and evaluate contemporary criticism and research scholarship in writing
c. to know specific authors, movements, periods, styles, and ideological structures in the history of drama, theatre, and performance (i.e., Shakespeare, American drama, Performative Cultures of the Third Reich, Black Theatre)
d. to use critical, theoretical, and historical concepts in the analysis of drama and performance
Courses: THTR UN 3150, 3153, 3154, 3155, 3156, 3165, 3166, ENTA UN 3701
These objectives are also relevant to courses we do not initiate: ENTH 3136, 3137, 3139, 3140, 3144, 3147, 3186, ENTA 3702, GMTH 3146
The research thesis provides the opportunity to deepen and develop a critical inquiry into a specific problem in the history and theory of drama, theatre, and performance. Students undertaking the thesis are expected to conduct original research and critical writing, and are assessed on the basis of the final thesis' quality in these terms. Theses are read by the director and a second reader chosen by the Chair. A successful thesis will integrate-with varying emphases, depending on the nature of the thesis itself-all of these objectives.
Description: All majors must take one upper-level course in Acting. The Acting program is designed to develop the essential elements for a confident, fluid, and articulate self-presentation in performance, including physical expression, emotional resourcefulness, and a range of practical skills. One set of courses--Acting Workshop, Scene Lab, Movement for Actors, Voice and Speech--develops the actor's physical and expressive instrument, concentrating on the intellectual, physical, and emotional resources essential to effective acting. A second set--the Acting Lab sequence and Advanced Acting--address the critical, conceptual, and embodied demands of a specific range of performance, such as Acting Chekhov, Acting Shakespeare, Acting the Song, Improvisation, Solo Performance, Avant Garde Acting, Suzuki and Viewpoints and so on. Students wishing to specialize in acting, or to propose an acting thesis, are encouraged to work closely with members of the acting faculty in selecting their program of study.
Student Learning Objectives:
Students successfully completing a concentration in acting should be able
a. to analyze dramatic texts and apply the analysis to developing a performable role/character
b. to synthesize external elements with external elements (social mores, environment, historical context, status relationship to others) and internal elements (center of gravity, personal rhythm, speed, tempo) toward the expression of a character's physicality and emotionality
c. to recognize and apply the fundamental concepts of character development: objectives, obstacles, actions, given circumstances
d. to develop vocal, physical and emotional awareness and imagination, and to explore techniques available to aid the actor in applying these elements in a conscious way during rehearsal and performances
Courses: THTR UN 3004, 3005, 3006, 3007
Coursework in Acting
The Department of Theatre recognizes that students have many different reasons for taking an acting class, and that some students—are particularly interested in developing themselves as actors over their years of study. The Department has developed guidelines for students wishing to develop a broad approach to acting. Although students may take these courses in more or less any order, we recommend the following sequence:
1. A course developing a fundamental physical and psychological orientation to acting:
Acting Workshop (in fall limited to first-semester students; in spring, not limited)
Note: this class counts toward graduation credits, but not toward the Theatre/Drama and Theatre Arts major.
2. A course emphasizing the practices of dramatic embodiment through scene work:
Scene Lab. Each section of this class will develop a rigorous approach to systematic physical (Suzuki, Laban, Grotowski) and scenework through selected playwrights. This class counts toward the Theatre/Drama and Theatre Arts major.
3. A course emphasizing the voice as a physical instrument, trained through the physical and conceptual demands of complex texts: Acting Language in Action. This class counts toward the Theatre/Drama and Theatre Arts major.
4. A course in a specialized area, which may gather the previous courses (Advanced Acting), or which may offer significant work in alternative fields: Solo Performance, Acting the Musical Scene, Acting the Song, Advanced Acting: Sondheim, Improvisation, Acting Shakespeare, Acting Chekhov, Acting Brecht, Acting the Avant-Garde.
All acting courses are open to all students.
The Thesis in Acting provides the opportunity for a student who has specialized in Acting to place his/her performance in a critical context, and to have it evaluated as part of a specific production. Students undertaking an acting thesis are expected both to achieve a refined final performance in terms of conception and execution, and to reflect on and conceptualize that performance and its process in a substantial essay. Grades are assessed on the basis of both the performance and the essay; theses are graded by the director of the thesis (the director of the production or a member of the acting faculty) and a second reader chosen by the Chair. A successful thesis will integrate-with varying emphases, depending on the play, the role, the director's orientation-all or most of these objectives.
Some students choose a thesis in Solo Performance, which provides the opportunity both to devise and to perform a new solo work. Students undertaking a Solo Performance thesis are expected to devise an original work of performance, and to execute it with clarity and refinement; they are expected to reflect on and conceptualize on that performance in a substantial essay. They are assessed on the basis of the development of the script, the performance, and the essay, which are graded by the director of the thesis (normally the instructor of Solo Performance) and a second reader chosen by the Chair. A successful thesis will integrate-as is appropriate to the work itself-several of these objectives; in addition, the thesis will also evince the student's ability to write and perform an original solo work.
The emphasis in Design provides a working knowledge of theatrical design, focusing on the role of design in creating meaning in the theatre. Students specializing in Design develop familiarity with the visual, historical, and technical resources of the field, as preparation for an advanced creative collaboration. The Design emphasis often culminates in being assigned to the design team of a faculty-directed stage production in the Department season, working alongside faculty and guest artists and the Department’s professional staff; the thesis also includes a written research casebook, and is supervised by a member of the design faculty. Design students have continued to professional careers in theatre, as well as to MFA and Ph.D. programs in a number of fields.
Description: All majors must take at least one course in Design. The Design program emphasizes a critical engagement with dramatic writing, the development of a coherent and personal response to a text, and the ability to express that response in visual, spatial, or aural terms. The department offers coursework in the principal design fields — scenic, costume, lighting, and sound — and students are encouraged to develop a focus in one or more design fields. Through a process of intensive research, collaborative discussion, and rigorous craftsmanship, students develop clear and coherent design practices, a set of tools that can be applied to a wide range of production styles and media. Students are encouraged to experiment with different design fields and tools, and have the opportunity to apply their skills in fully realized productions.
Student Learning Objectives:
Students successfully completing a concentration in design should be able
a. to analyze dramatic texts and translate that analysis into documents used in the production process (breakdowns, plots, etc.)
b. to research images and texts that provide insight into the developing design idea, and accurately communicate historical and stylistic choices
c. to demonstrate fluency with the craft of a design field - e.g. sketching, model making, drafting, sound and lighting plots, and associated software
d. to perform collaboratively, adapting and informing their designs with ideas generated through conversation with colleagues, classmates, and advisors
Courses: THTR UN 3401, 3402, 3403, 3404, 3405, and 3203 if not counted toward directing.
Students concentrating in design who have been approved (usually in early Feb. of junior year) for a Senior Thesis in Performance: Design, may petition to substitute up to two courses for requirements in the Theatre/Drama and Theatre Arts major. Students may substitute ONE course in history, theory, or criticism from Art History, Visual Arts, Music, Architecture, or another design-related field for ONE of the two required courses in the “dramatic literature, theatre studies, performance studies” area. And/Or students may substitute ONE course in a relevant studio field (figure drawing or music theory and composition, for example) for ONE of the additional two courses in design required of all design thesis students. Core classes such as Art Humanities or Music Humanities are not allowable substitutions, and all such petitions must be approved by the design thesis adviser, and reported to the department Chair and to the student’s Columbia adviser.
Examples of Courses that might be used in place of the "dramatic literature" requirement are:
- Architecture: Program, Performance, Occupation; NYC Crowdscape Cartographies: Drawing the City Beyond Buildings; Curating Architecture
- Art History:
Other courses relevant to the student's design concentration may be proposed and evaluated by the design adviser and the Chair.
The Thesis in Design provides the opportunity for a student who has specialized in Design to work closely with a Student Thesis director or a Faculty director, and to reflect on his/her design in a critical context. Students undertaking a design thesis are expected both to achieve a refined final performance in terms of conception and execution, and to reflect on and conceptualize that performance and its process in a substantial essay. They are assessed on the basis of both the performance and the essay; theses are graded by the thesis advisor (a member of the design faculty), and a second reader chosen by the Chair. A successful thesis will integrate-with varying emphases, depending on the design field of the thesis-most or all of these objectives.
The emphasis in Directing is designed to introduce students to the technical, imaginative, and intellectual demands of directing for the theatre. Directing is conceived as part of an ongoing dialogue with the salient representational traditions of modern culture. Students learn to analyze dramatic texts, considering how circumstances, environment, character and dialogue can be used to develop a structure for defining large and small action in stage time and space; they also learn principles of composition, and how to communicate with actors. The Directing emphasis culminates in directing a production as part of the Senior Thesis Festival: this is a fully funded production, designed and acted by students, in the Department's production season; the thesis also includes a written research casebook, and is supervised by a member of the directing faculty. Directing students have continued to professional careers in theatre, as well as to MFA and Ph.D. programs in a number of fields.
Description: All majors must take one course in Directing. The directing program develops the interpretive and spatializing imagination needed to bring dramatic writing effectively to the stage, in dialogue with both historical and contemporary dimensions of performance. The History and Practice of Directing course provides the fundamental instruction in directing, and is prerequisite to the Directing Lab and Advanced Directing courses; students undertaking a senior thesis in Directing must take the Dramaturgy class, which will count toward the "dramatic literature, theatre studies, performance studies" requirement. Students wishing to specialize in directing, or to undertake a senior thesis in directing, should contact members of the directing faculty early, and be certain to take courses in the sequence as early as possible.
Student Learning Objectives:
Students successfully completing a concentration in directing should be able
a. to recognize the different demands of different configurations of stage space
b. to apply compositional tools
c. to define production style and its influence on performance choices
d. to communicate effectively with actors
e. to analyze the historical, social, and aesthetic elements of a dramatic text as the basis for a directorial conception
Courses: THTR UN 3200, 3201, 3202, and 3203 if not counted toward design.
The Thesis in Directing provides the opportunity for a student who has specialized in Directing to conceive and realize a production in a critical context. Students undertaking a directing thesis are expected to achieve a refined final performance both in terms of artistic conception and execution, and to reflect on that production historically and contextually in a substantial essay. Grades are assigned on the basis of the performance and the essay; theses are graded by the directing thesis adviser and a second reader chosen by the Chair. A successful thesis will integrate-with varying emphases, depending on the nature of the thesis production itself-most or all of these objectives.
The emphasis in Dramaturgy lies on the interface between critical and artistic work. The dramaturg has played a central role in the European theatre of the past two hundred years, and has become increasingly visible in contemporary American theatre as well. The dramaturgy concentration emphasizes a sophisticated grasp both of the literary and formal dimension of plays and the critical work of theatre practice; it encourages close collaborative with directors, and an ambitious attitude toward the development of engaged, critical performances. Instruction in dramaturgy emphasizes the dramaturg's critical role as artistic collaborator, conceptual provocateur, cultural and theatrical historian, and voice for the critical work of performance in stage production. The Dramaturgy emphasis culminates in being assigned as dramaturg to a Departmental production, working closely with the director, designers, and cast to develop the conceptual work of the production, as well as preparing a range of materials; the production work is accompanied by a written casebook, and is supervised by a member of the research faculty. Dramaturgy students have continued to professional careers in theatre, as well as to MFA and Ph.D. programs in a number of fields.
Description: Students may undertake a specialization in dramaturgy as part of their course and thesis work. Students planning to specialize in Dramaturgy must take the Dramaturgy course; beyond that, training is provided on a case-by-case basis through student dramaturgs assigned to individual productions under faculty supervision.
Student Learning Objectives:
Students successfully completing a concentration in dramaturgy should be able
a. to apply important critical and theoretical concepts to the analysis of dramatic writing and theatrical performance
b. to synthesize and evaluate contemporary research scholarship and apply it to a specific production, including biographical, historical, and interpretive information
c. to write clearly and effectively about the goals of a production, its critical contexts and purposes
d. to communicate the critical stakes of a performance to a director and cast; to be able to work with a director in fashioning those stakes
e. to edit dramatic scripts for production
Courses in this area: THTR UN 3167
The Thesis in dramaturgy provides the student with the opportunity to dramaturg a production in the Departmental season. Dramaturgy students are expected to be able to develop a clear rationale for visual, thematic, spatial elements of the production, and to communicate their ideas well and effectively to director and casts, as well as in the program (if applicable), and to reflect on and conceptualize their work in a substantial essay. They are assessed on the basis of the performance, the script, and the final essay; theses are graded by the director of the thesis and a second reader chosen by the Chair. A successful thesis will integrate-with varying emphases, depending on the specific production and the role of the dramaturg relative to other personnel-all or most of these objectives.
The emphasis in Playwriting foregrounds the critical role that writing can play in changing the expectations, aesthetics, and practices of performance. Students take at least three playwriting courses; they also have the opportunity to work with the Playwrights Center Core Apprentice Program, and to be considered for the Dasha Amsterdam Epstein Playwriting Fellowship at the Powerhouse Center. The Playwriting emphasis culminates in a staged reading as part of the Festival of New plays, and is accompanied by a casebook; it is supervised by a member of the playwriting faculty. Playwriting students have continued to professional careers in theatre, as well as to MFA and Ph.D. programs in a number of fields.
Description: Students may specialize in playwriting as part of their course and thesis work; typically, one playwriting course may be counted toward the "dramatic literature" requirement for Theatre/Drama and Theatre Arts majors. Playwriting courses in the major program at once investigate the formal and narrative scope of dramatic writing today, and provide opportunities for experimentation, innovation, and the invention of new languages of the stage. Students undertaking the senior thesis in playwriting work closely with members of the playwriting faculty in formal courses, as well as in developing their work for the Festival of New Plays, a staged reading of thesis plays.
Student Learning Objectives:
Students successfully completing a concentration in playwriting should be able
a. to create an individual theatrical voice in writing
b. to construct dramatic and theatrical events onstage
c. to communicate supportive critique to fellow writers
d. to interpret plot and story, and to employ language and spectacle creatively
e. to recognize dramatic structures, and be able to shape and hold an audience's attention
Courses: THTR UN 3300, 3301
The Playwriting Thesis provides the opportunity for a student who has specialized in Playwriting to develop an original script, to have it presented in a staged reading, and to reflect on the work in a critical context. Students undertaking a playwriting thesis are expected to achieve a conceptually and stylistically refined script, and to reflect on and conceptualize their work in a substantial essay. They are assessed on the basis of the script, and the final essay; theses are graded by the director of the thesis and a second reader chosen by the Chair. A successful thesis will integrate-with varying emphases, depending on the nature of the thesis itself-all of these objectives.