Academic Courses Designed and Taught
University of California, Berkeley
Madness in Performance
How do we represent, contest, and even change our understandings of madness by means of performance? This course explores representations of madness in dramatic texts, film, live theater, and critical writing. Through a lens of disability, we will consider madness not as a stable, essential object, but rather a fluid social construction that is borne out of cultural production.
Introduction to Performance Studies
Although a college football game, a televised gubernatorial debate, performance art, church service, and a dramatic theater production are very different, they share many qualities and dynamics. What are some of these qualities and how can they help us understand both the individual performances and the broad spectrum of which they are part? In this course we will read a variety of critical texts within the field of performance studies and analyze and write about a range of digital and live performances.
Researching Live Theater
Live performance’s fleeting quality can make it difficult to study. But this “liveness,” when combined with theater’s heterogeneous components, can result in powerful, often unexpected results. Along with analyzing dramatic plays in their written form, students will study live productions as complex “texts” from which we can formulate a variety of research problems, questions, and claims. Students attend performances on campus and at local professional theaters, write about their observations, and draw from additional evidence including interviews of artists and audience members, the dramatic texts and other material from which the performances are made, critical essays, performance reviews, program notes, and advertisements.
Performativity of Race, Gender, and Disability in Theater
Cressida Heyes defines identity politics as “a wide range of political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups.” Such thinking and behavior critiques and reconceptualizes ways of understanding these groups’ experiences in order to challenge dominant oppressive perceptions and representations. This course explores how theater might address these concerns by sampling contemporary plays from the U.S. that address gender and feminism, queer politics, race and ethnicity, and disability. In concert with these dramatic texts, we will also read essays that complicate and reformulate identity politics in response to concerns of essentialism, factionalization, depoliticization, and the paradox that those who wish to resist their subjection must use the very same language that oppresses them.
20th Century American Avant-garde Theater
Although the avant-garde burgeoned in Europe by the beginning of the 20th Century, its American counterpart was slower to develop. But from the mid 1950s until the 1980s, an array of non-commercial theater artists burst forth with great passion and fecundity, working specifically outside of and against theater’s bourgeois, conservative tradition, which they felt lulled audiences into inertness and complacency. Drawing from Impressionism, Italian Futurism, Dada, Expressionism, Surrealism, Brecht’s Epic Theatre, and modern American literary and visual artists, they created new types of theater that intended to provoke, surprise, stimulate, reach new depths of emotion and authenticity, and affirm cultural values and identities rejected by post-war mainstream expectations. Through performance, ritual, and a rejection of linear narrative and other aspects of Aristotelian drama, these artists created new communities, blurred the boundaries between art and life, and linked aesthetics to radical culture and new political perspectives. Artists under consideration will include Gertrude Stein, John Cage, the Living Theater, The Performance Group, Jack Smith, Robert Wilson, Karen Finley, and the Wooster Group.
Beginning in the late 1960s, experimental theater has pointedly shifted away from traditional drama with various strategies that Hans-Thies Lehman (1999) terms collectively as the postdramatic. Such iconoclastic performance challenges audience expectations of a single, clear narrative, “realistic” characters, and the authority of the dramatic text. It contrasts expectations of an intact, illusionary world with the immediate materiality of the performance in relation to its spectators. And while the postdramatic appears to give more importance to the live event than the story it is telling, it also simultaneously disrupts theater’s usual claim of being unique and original. This course will explore some of these strategies via various postdramatic texts by Sarah Kane, Susan Lori-Parks, Gertrude Stein, and Martin Crimp and theatrical performances by Forced Entertainment and The Wooster Group. Major questions include: what can be gained from moving away from traditional drama? What might be lost? And, how might the postdramatic address our interest in and demands upon theater today in relation to our daily lives?
Rasaboxes Performance Workshop
In this course students work together in a group-held, voluntary play space where guided, open exploration making extends their power of engagement and sense of agency. Training includes daily yoga and a variety of psychophysical acting techniques, as well as critical readings and discussion on fundamental concepts of performance. Students apply this training and thinking to devised individual and group performances, develop new exercises, and often apply these techniques to other fields beyond aesthetic practice.
Fundamentals of Acting I
Fundamentals of Acting I is the entry level course for the acting sequence and focuses on releasing and cultivating the actor’s inherent creativity. Through exercises, improvisation, scenes, and monologues, the actor begins to develop basic techniques designed to stimulate the imagination, develop vocal and physical ability, increase awareness of self and others, introduce effective ways to analyze texts, think critically about the craft of acting, and enhance self-confidence and communication skills. This class is the essential beginning of the actor’s studies, which will ultimately allow her or him to effectively engage and explore work from a rich diversity of genres, styles, and backgrounds.
Fundamentals of Acting II
Fundamentals of Acting II continues working with and expands upon basic concepts introduced in Fundamentals of Acting I. Through exercises, improvisation, scenes and monologues, the actor works toward the goal of increasing range, depth and flexibility; students work on more complex texts, exploring characters removed from their everyday experience that require more in-depth research and stronger imagination to inhabit.
Theatrical Realization of Dramatic Texts
This course relates dramatic texts or choreography to theatrical presentation. The lectures are based on the analysis of the work being presented. Laboratory hours are spent in attendance at rehearsal, coaching sessions, and the performance of the play or concert. The course will be taught by faculty involved in the major productions.
ITALIC 91, 92, 93: Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture
In this year long, residential-based course, students immerse in the arts across disciplines, including theater, dance, art history, digital media, photography, and music, working intimately with a teaching team of faculty and visiting guest artists to practice aesthetic and interpretive inquiry, engage diversity, and develop creative expression. Students produce weekly written critical responses to a variety of texts, craft expository and argumentative essays, present a variety of oral presentations, and produce a number of artworks. Turning an aesthetic lens on life’s ordinary and exceptional features, the program asks: How do the arts provide new ways of thinking about our world and ourselves?