General Course Description

This course explores contemporary American theatrical expression as it may be organized around issues of ethnic and cultural identity. This exploration will include the analysis of performances, scripts, and video documentation, as well as the invention of original documents of theatrical expression. Class lectures and discussions will analyze samples of Native American, Chicano, African American, and Asian American theater, taking into consideration the historical and political context for the creation of these works. Performance exercises will help students identify theatrical forms and techniques used by these theaters, and how these techniques contribute to the overall goals of specific theatrical expressions.

Class Requirements

  1. Approximately 25 pages of reading and 1 hour of viewing weekly. Participation in class discussions will account for 15% of the final grade.
  2. We will attend at least two performances of theater in the Boston area. Each student will write a short response paper, of 1-2 pages length, on the topics of the performance. Response papers will account for 10% of the final grade (5% each).
  3. Three performance projects on the topics described below. The performance projects account for 45% of the final grade (15% each).
  4. A final group creative project, that draws on themes of the semester. The final assignment will account for 15% of the final grade.
  5. A final exam, in which students will be asked to synthesize material covered throughout the semester. The final exam will account for 15% of the final grade.

Required Performances on the MIT Campus

Session 10: Kresge Little Theater. Slippage presents "Ennobling Nonna," a world premiere composed by Maria Porter, directed by Thomas DeFrantz. Anna Scott's "Fish Tales, Rivers, and Other Female Parts." UC Riverside Professor of Dance, Anna Scott, presents a solo work about cultural memory, spirituality, gender, and dance.

Between Session 17, and 18: Kresge Little Theater. Joy Harjo in "How we became human". Celebrated poet and performance artist, Joy Harjo will present an original work of storytelling, text, and movement.

Required Performance Off Campus

"Yellowman" by Dael Orlandersmith, New England Premiere: One of the most original and important Black playwrights of today, Dael Orlandersmith explores and exposes the emotional destructiveness of racism in the African-American community. "Yellowman" tells the tale of Alma, a dark-skinned African-American woman, and her childhood friend, Eugene, a light-skinned African-American man, growing up together, yearning to escape the South. They dream about reinventing their lives and their friendship blossoms into love. However, there are painful lessons to be learned about the harsh reality that skin tone divides even the closest of friends, families and communities, and that the racism from within can be almost as destructive as the racism from without. Mature subject matter.

"Last Rites" a play by Letta Neely, directed by Brian Freeman Staring Renita Martin, Naeemah White-Peppers and Abria Smith.