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Theatre: Principles, Plays and Performance


Fall Semester Seminar, GenEd area 1

An overview of the principles of drama from the ancient Greeks to contemporary society. The class draws on theatre history and social context, the reading of great literature, critical analyses, and artistic exploration to culminate in the experience which is the essential element of the art itself – performance. 

In this course, students will investigate the principles and practice of theatre over 2500 years, from contemporary theatre to Ancient Greece. Three units will scaffold the course: Contemporary/Modern Theatre, The Renaissance Imagination and The Greek Experience. Students will attend performances in Washington, DC theatres that will anchor each unit. Dramatic literature and basic elements of theatre practice/performance will be investigated as a source of insight, a reflection of society, and as provocateur for change.

Through class discussions, play readings, lectures, writing assignments and exercises, as well as interaction with guest presenters, students will gain an appreciation for theatre and an ability to think receptively, aesthetically, communicatively, and creatively.

From the Professor- Isaiah Wooden

Describe your course. What will the students be studying and learning?

What is theater? Why and how does it capture our attention? This course combines theater history, play analysis, and artistic exploration to offer an overview of the principles of theater. Through critical and creative engagements with a range of historically and culturally diverse plays—from Ancient Greece to contemporary America—students will examine the various elements and art forms that contribute to the practices of theater-making. The course’s three units—the Greek Experience; the Renaissance Imagination; and the Modern/Contemporary Vision—will each integrate lectures, discussions, writing assignments, and performance exercises and will culminate with students attending performances at some of Washington, D.C.’s vibrant theaters. Students in the course can expect to sharpen their theatrical vocabularies while developing a greater appreciation for the significance of theater societally.

Why would a first-year student want to take this course? Discuss its uniqueness as part of the University College, your teaching style, and any special opportunities the students may have.

This course aims to excite in first-year students an enthusiasm for theater and performance. To that end, I cultivate a learning environment in which intellectual insights and artistic contributions are rigorously considered and respected and in which students can activate their imaginations, participate in spirited dialogue, and feel empowered to perform. Students will find the opportunities to move between critical thinking and performance—as well as between the traditional classroom space and the city—that the course promises especially compelling, I think.

What do you like best about teaching first-year students?

The tremendous passion that first-year students have for learning and building community is perhaps what I enjoy most about teaching them. I also appreciate that we get to explore one of the nation’s most fecund theatre communities together.


Get to know Professor Wooden