Theatre Arts 274


Professor Mazer

Fall 2006


519 Annenberg Center, 3-2659;

Office Hours:  Tu 1:30-3:00, Th 11:00-11:50, and by appointment


THERE IS NO SYLLABUS, PER SE, FOR THIS COURSE; the course is not organized on a tight schedule of weekly readings and occasional writing assignments.  Rather, there will be regular in-class discussions of ongoing topics through the semester, with some of them cued to specific readings; and there will be regular assignments of succinct oral presentations (since much of the dramaturg’s work in the theatre involves making succinct and persuasive oral presentations).  One of the presentations (weekly) will be individual; other assignments will be team presentations (since virtually all of the dramaturg’s work in the theatre involves collaboration as a team member).  At the end of the semester, there will be a team writing assignment.


I.  Discussion Topics and Readings.


Topics include:  What is a dramaturg?  What is the dramaturg’s function?  What is the dramaturg’s function in relation to certain institutional structures, special tasks, ways of organizing rehearsals, etc.?


Readings will be drawn, for the most part, from Dramaturgy in American Theater:  A Source Book, ed. Susan Jonas, Geoffrey S. Proehl, and Michael Lupu.  Essays to be read include:


Anne Cataneo, “Dramaturgy:  An Overview.”


Joel Schechter, “In the Beginning There Was Lessing ... Then Brecht, Müller and Other Dramaturgs.”


Martin Esslin, “Towards an American Dramaturgy:  Adapting the function of dramaturgy to U.S. conditions.”


Geoffrey S. Proehl, “The Images Before Us:  Metaphors for the Role of the Dramaturg in American Theater.”


and other essays to be announced.  There way be additional readings, for other sources, depending on our other work during the semester.



II.  The Grab Bag (weekly, individual).


Each Tuesday, each student will draw a dramaturgical question at random from a hat.  BEFORE CLASS the following Tuesday, each student will post the answer to the  question on the courseweb.library.upenn web site (see below), and bibliographical references (reference book, web site, etc.) for the sources of the information; in the Tuesday class, each student will make a brief presentation of the answer to the question.



III.  Dramaturging the Season.


Over the course of the semester, we will be working on two plays:  Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, and Stuff Happens, by David Hare.


A)  For Julius Caesar, we will consult with an (imaginary) director and design team on the following:


1)  The play’s structure and dramatic strategies.


2)  The “story”—dramatic, political, character-based, etc.—we may want our production to “tell.”


3)  How, where, and when the director might want to set the play to help “tell” this “story.”


To help the director prepare, the class will be divided into TWO OR THREE dramaturgical teams.  At dates to be determined over the course of the semester, these teams will prepare materials to be presented in class about:


1)  Potential doubling schemes.


2)  Texts and editions.


3)  Cutting and rearranging the script.


4)  The conditions, conventions, and meanings of the play’s original staging.


5)  The play’s production history.


6)  The period in which we are setting the production, and/or images, objects, textures, etc., that will be useful to the director, designers, and actors in telling the story we have chosen to tell.


Readings will be assigned from Andrew James Hartley, The Shakespearean Dramaturg, at dates to be determined.


B)  For Stuff Happens, the class will discuss aspects of the play, and the teams will prepare material, as we will determine, based in part on decisions we make about Julius Caesar.



V.  The final writing assignment (team).


At the end of the semester (at a date to be announced) each team will present a set of written materials for THE ENTIRE SEASON, including some or all of the following:  a) a program note about the playwrights; b) a program note about the plays and the (hypothetical) productions; c) a packet of materials for a program insert or a subscriber bulletin; d) a packet of materials to be sent to the press; and e) a packet of materials to be sent to school groups.  These materials should be posted on the website for comment, and presented in the final class.  Team members can divide the responsibilities as they choose, but ALL team members will be responsible for ALL of the team’s work.


Attendance and participation are mandatory.  Persistent unexcused absences, especially an absence on a day of an individual or team presentation, will be reflected in your semester grade.


The books for the course (Dramaturgy in American Theater:  A Source Book; The Shakespearean Dramaturg:  A Theoretical and Practical Guide; and Stuff Happens) are available for purchase in the Penn Book Center (34th and Sansom).  You should acquire your own copy (of a modern edition) of Julius Caesar; the differences in the editions may be useful for us in class.  There may be a bulkpack for this course later in the semester; if so, it will be available at the Campus Copy Center, 3900 block of Walnut St.


The listserv for this course is  You have been subscribed automatically.  If you do not seem to be on it, or if you drop the course and wish to be unsubscribed, please send a note to  You may wish to create aliases or listservs for your individual teams.


An electronic version of this syllabus, including a hot link to the dramaturgy web site, is available on line at:*cmazer/274f06.html.  Make a bookmark on your web browser for this site.  In addition, we will be using a “Blackboard” web site for this course.  Set your browser to and bookmark the site.  You should be automatically subscribed to the site.  CHECK THIS SITE DAILY.  The web site will include daily announcements (including information about theatregoing assignments), and an electronic copy of the syllabus.  The site also includes a discussion group, with access restricted to members of the course.  We may discover other class and team uses for this web site over the course of the semester.