21M.611 | Fall 2009 | Undergraduate

Foundations of Theater Practice


1 First class/rehearsal

Reading: Fences, by August Wilson. Due Session #3

Writing: Think about your skills, confidence, and background in relation to the five class objectives and goals for our subject, described on the first pages of this syllabus. Then write out those thoughts in a coherent, lucid way, presenting as well your own (prioritized) goals for the class: this is your preliminary self-assessment. 3 pages.


Guest Lecture: Mike Katz, Technical Director.

Production hours. Consider what is or is not theater.


Guest Lecture: Michael Ouellette, director, actor, and master of text analysis.

Play structure: how to understand a play? Discuss Fences by August Wilson.

Writing: Write a scene for the stage without words that has a beginning, middle and an ending. Due Session #4

Guest Lecture: Alan Brody, playwright.

Present scene without words.

5 No class meeting Reading: Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Due Session #7

Guest Lecture: Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, Actor, Director, Producer, Writer.

Rhythm and poetry in Fences.

Reading: Macbeth. Due Session #9

Viewing: Fences at the Huntington Theater, Boston University Theatre.

Writing: A 3-page analytical paper discussing the performance of Fences. You may choose to address a single aspect of the production (acting, directing, lighting, costumes, set) and discuss how the artist created the narrative line through. Or, you may elect to speak about two or three aspects, but you must put them in relation to one another. The thing to avoid is a review! These are critical and analytical essays, and what I will be looking for is how well you observe how the event was made and how well you can analyze and describe it. Cite specifics from the production! Due Session #7

7 Discuss the performance of Fences. Introduction to Stanislavsky, acting. Acting: In groups of two, three, or four, rehearse a scene from Too Much Light to be performed in class. Due Session #8
8 Activity: Too Much Light scene work.  
9 Discuss Macbeth; what research do we need to understand the play better? Research: Macbeth mini-research group presentations. Due Session #10 (PDF)
10 Research Group Presentations; further discussion of Macbeth.  

Guest Lecture: Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, MLK Visiting Artist.

Acting Shakespeare.

Acting: Acting assignment given by Ricardo. Due Session #12

Viewing: Throne of Blood. Due Session #14


Guest Lecture: Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, MLK Visiting Artist.

Acting Shakespeare.


Guest Lecture: Jay Scheib.

Acting; compositions; Macbeth.

Viewing: Sleep No More, performed by UK company Punchdrunk. Due Session #14

Writing: Discuss this devised play, Sleep No More, an interpretation of Macbeth. What was important to the company? What was gained; what was lost? Was it still Macbeth? Why or why not? If it wasn’t Macbeth, what was it? As always, cite specifics from the production. 3 pages. Due Session #14


Guest Lecture: Pete Donaldson.

Discussion of film and theater, Throne of Blood and Sleep No More.

Viewing: Sin Nombre, Cary Fukunaga. Due Session #17

Writing: Discuss the acting in both Sleep No More and Throne of Blood. Not only are these differing interpretations of Macbeth, but they are different media — and styles. You may choose one or two passages to analyze, or a single character, or the specifics of style in each. Address the way the medium shapes the acting. As always cite specific examples. 3 pages. Due Session #17


Guest Lecture: Leslie Held, Costumer.

Costumes; Macbeth.

Costume: Think about one of these three characters: Lady Macbeth, Banquo, Witch 1

The characteristics the class assigned to them are:

Lady M - cunning, ambitious
Banquo - loyal, honest
Witch 1 - eccentric, (un)natural

Add your own descriptors to the list, and create a collage representing this character. For inspiration, you may want to refer to work by Kurt Schwitters, Robert Rauschenberg, and Joseph Cornell, but please do not replicate them closely.
Due Session #16

Student Work Photo


Guest Lecture: Leslie Held, Costumer.

Costumes assignment; Macbeth.

Reading: R.U.R. draft script. Due Session #18
17 Guest Lecture: Cary Fukunaga, director of the film Sin Nombre.

Set Design: R.U.R. scenic design preliminary research. Due Session #18 (PDF)


Guest Lecture: Sara Brown, set designer.

Discuss R.U.R.

Please come with a pencil and something to draw on (unlined is best). 8 1/2x11 or even a bit smaller is just fine.

Set Design: R.U.R. design groundplans and model. Due Session #20 (PDF)

Student Work Photos

19 Holiday — no class Viewing: Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind at Kresge Little Theater, MIT Dramashop. Be prepared to discuss in class.
20 Guest Lecture: Sara Brown. Set Design.

Set Design: R.U.R. final design image. Due Session #22 (PDF)

Reading: R.U.R. again, to prep for Wes Savick in class. Due Session #25

21 Discuss R.U.R., Too Much Light Reading: Waiting for Godot, all. Due Session #24

Guest Lecture: Sara Brown.

Present R.U.R. set collages.

23 Make-up viewing of Throne of Blood.  
24 Finish Macbeth presentations, discuss Waiting for Godot.

After we finish the Macbeth presentations, we will have our first conversation about Waiting for Godot. Please:

a) bring in 3 salient and specific questions/points about the play
b) determine what you want to do for your creative project: act, set design, costume design? We will take some time in class to arrange groups if you want, e.g., 2 actors, a set and costume design team.
c) start to make a written list of “things I have to know” if I am to work on this play.

Writing: Final self-assessment. 3 pages. Due Session #25

25 Guest Lecture: Wes Savick, visiting artist, director and adaptor of R.U.R.

Please be prepared to ask Wes questions about the play, directing and adaptation. Write them down! I expect you to lead the discussion by making all of the opening moves!

Research: Begin to post research topics to the class website. Every person should post a minimum of 3. We will be presenting the research on the last day of class.


Guest Lecture: Diana Henderson.

Discuss Waiting for Godot.

Professor Henderson is a rich resource for information about Godot, its time and its meaning. Please come to class with several excellent questions to initiate and lead the conversation!
27 Final Class, Waiting for Godot research presentations and wrap-up. You will present your Godot research to the class today. No more than 5 minutes each! Please, think about what YOU need to know, but also how to share it with your colleagues. To do the final intelligently and aesthetically, there are bound to be questions that need to be addressed. Refine your presentations so that they are USEFUL! Bring in audio and visual data if you can.

_Macbeth_ Character Study

In Session 15, students discussed three characters from Macbeth: Lady Macbeth, Banquo, and Witch 1. Each student created a collage reflecting their understanding of their chosen character.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2009
Learning Resource Types
Image Gallery
Written Assignments